by Ed West
Friday, 8
January 2021

Why funny men are the most dangerous

What starts as comedy often ends in tragedy
by Ed West
Figures like the QAnon “shaman” are intrinsically amusing figures — until people start dying

When the film Four Lions came out I remember a friend saying how much more effective it would have been if, rather than ending on the farcical note it did, the movie showed one of the hapless, comical jihadis stumbling into a crowded place — and the next thing, muffled screams, alarms, the shrieks of agony as innocent people died. End credits.

Hapless jihadis are often very funny in real life, too, such as the Birmingham gang nicknamed “the real Four Lions” who were caught after buying bomb-making materials on eBay under the username “terrorshop”. The leader of the gang, the 23-stone Irfan Naseer aka “Chubbs”, wrote on his Friends Reunited Page, “Oh yah i’m also a terrorist hahahaha”. His co-conspirator Ashik Ali was caught on tape telling his wife that they were like the comedy figures from the film. And so it turned out — no one was hurt.

(There are so many similar cases I toyed with pitching a toilet book called The World’s Stupidest Jihadis but, as so many self-censoring artists have explained in not so many words, I rather prefer having my head on my shoulders.)

There was something similarly funny about the men who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday, the most prominent being QAnon “shaman” and actor Jake Angeli.

They are all intrinsically amusing figures. It is funny — until people start getting killed, that is.

The online Right in particular aim to be funny because their beliefs are disguised under layers of irony; this is partly because in some cases it starts off as a joke, until ironically-held Right-wing views become unironically held (I think this is the case with some of my opinions, too). But it’s partly because in a society in which conservatism is so stigmatised and liable to lead to professional and social sanction, irony works as a form of taqiya.

But it’s also the case that frustrated, unfulfilled men are both the funniest and the most dangerous members of society.

Most of the best comedy, certainly British comedy, centres on frustrated, bitter men who think they should be higher up in society, including Basil Fawlty, Albert Steptoe, Tony Hancock’s persona and David Brent. These are also the men who are the most politically dangerous.

With the caveat that almost all comparisons between today’s politics and Nazism are absurd, young Hitler was the original “incel”, as they’d call him today. A frustrated, failed man, who made grandiose plans for rebuilding Linz and putting on absurd operas while ranting in his bedroom, he was an inherently funny figure — until he wasn’t.

The danger, perhaps, is that it is now far easier to feel frustrated and trapped. Meritocracy and economic freedom increase the penalties of failure, and not just emotionally. There is reduced prestige for those outside the top; as a society we haven’t despised the unsuccessful and poor this much for a long time.

The emotional safety nets that used to protect against failure — religion, family and to some extent the class system itself — no longer exist. All that’s left is laughter. And irony.

Join the discussion

  • ah yes, hitler also ate meals. and put slacks on. I find it curious how many conservatives also do these things…

  • The modern ‘Woke Liberal’ humor is really anti-humor. A person is set up with award lines, dress, and wishes, he gives his shallow lines, and we laugh at him, as there is no wit, joke, just mocking the person by making them embarrassing. This is Saturday Night Live, it is unwatchable as you have to be taught the code to think it funny. Mean spirited anti-humor.

  • Need to agree with Peter Kreff: the soviet reality is far from the CNN and Hollywood type banal scripts you seem to take as a source of inspiration. Most of the thought control was executed by media “teaching ” the masses much like CNN or The Guardian what is the right way to think. The second tool was the orchestrated “groupthink”, the grandma of the current social media and social shaming. As to the comedy in the SU? Man, it never stopped… ever read Ilf&petroff? That is your 20s in the SU. The motion picture called “Volga Volga”, that’s your 30s, the times when a good part of my family rotted in prisons. Tell u what: mind control is much like Covid, needs vaccinations. Ask the post- Soviets, we are vaccinated and can see the West getting the very first shot yet. We do have much to share with you.

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