Back in the 1960s Malcolm Muggeridge, after publishing what he thought was a ridiculous joke and then discovering that it was actually true, made an observation on parody/satire:

There is nothing you can imagine, no matter how ludicrous, that will not promptly be enacted before your very eyes, probably by someone well known.

This observation became known as “Muggeridge’s Law”

A half century later and the truth of this observation has become so apparent that searches for “Life imitates the Onion” produces thousands of results and it becomes increasingly hard to tell whether an article is joking or serious. Here are a couple of examples from the last day or two.

The first is from the Babylon Bee, which is a Christian satirical site:

Senate Democrats Demand Supreme Court Nominee Not Be Unduly Influenced By U.S. Constitution

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Still reeling from Trump’s previous Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, Democrats plan to scrutinize any new nominee to ensure that he or she isn’t yet another crony of something called “The Constitution,” Senate Democrats announced Friday.

“Time and time again, we find progressive laws getting struck down,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Senate address. “And it’s always — always — the ones the Constitution is against. These right-wing judges don’t think for themselves, they just do whatever the Constitution says. And it’s time for that to end.”

This one suffers from the fact that it is in large part true. The Democrats and US Left in general don’t seem to like the limits that the US Consitution places on them and hate the way originalist justices look at the constitution and the laws as written down and make judgments based on their understanding of what the laws/constitution actually says.

The Babylon Bee (and other satirical sites such as the military one Duffelblog and of course “the Onion”) frequently make their jokes by saying things that are indeed true but which people won’t say seriously out of a sense of decency, political correctness, or the desire not to be fired/lose an election. Given that in the last few years Twitter & co have led to a general coarsening of public discourse, the number of things people won’t say out of a sense of decency, political correctness, or the desire not to be fired/lose an election has dropped to almost zero hence one has to read the link source carefully to detect whether it is satire or not.

Looking at the link’s source doesn’t always help, however. Take this from the National Review, which is non-satirical news/commentary magazine:

A Welfare State without Borders: A Modest Proposal

As more than a few observers have noted, leading figures in the Democratic party have increasingly embraced a maximalist case for immigration, which opposes even minor efforts at enforcement and rejects any refusal to increase legal immigration and guest-worker programs. Barack Obama circa 2008 — let alone Harry Reid circa 1993 — would be denounced as a nativist bigot by today’s “woker” Left. Keith Ellison, the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, embodied this new conventional wisdom among Beltway Democrats when he wore a T-shirt that read, “Yo no creo en fronteras” (I don’t believe in borders).

“Egalitarianism . . . for everyone” might mean not just “a presumption in favor of open immigration.” A rigorous application of this principle also probably encourages the internationalization of the welfare state, which means no longer confining redistributive government programs to American citizens or even current residents. If it is unethical to prioritize the people of one nation over another, it becomes much harder to support the current system of national redistribution.

Internationalizing the welfare state would allow U.S. government spending to transform the lives of millions across the globe. It’s likely that a dollar spent in the poorest parts of the world would go farther than a dollar spent in the United States. While there certainly is poverty in the United States, many of the American poor have far greater material wealth than the poor of other nations.

As my friend Joel noted, a “swift” reading of the title should make clear that this story is satire.

Yet various people of my acquaintance missed the significance of “a modest proposal” and thought it was serious – or at least, if not being seriously proposed by the National Review, that it was at least something that the more internationalist left would actually propose. Sadly I fear that they have some kind of point as both the left and some kinds of “conservative” might indeed propose something like this – sort of.

Certainly it is possible to imagine that the internationalists and no-borders sorts could articulate the requirement for a “welfare globe”, after all part of the premise of the Paris Climate Change Agreement was that rich CO2 belching countries should pay for their privilege by transferring large sums of money to Swiss bank accounts of dictators the governments of poorer countries. Indeed one can see all sorts of NGOs and the like from Oxfam and the Clinton foundation on down licking their fingers at the chance to get their hands on such a large amount of dosh be able to assist in the distribution of such global welfare payments to deserving recipients. Plus, as Sarah Hoyt pointed out, many on the left subscribe to fixed size pie economic theories the state the fact that party A is rich and party B isn’t can only be because A took stuff from B. One could also see a GWB “Compassionate conservative” make that case too because it is certainly true that money in poorer countries does indeed go a lot further. In that case there would undoubtedly be a hint of “if we pay them to stay there then they won’t come here” as well and that too might contain a germ of truth. Indeed one can look at some EU policies and see that some of their motivations for aid to Africa is explicitly to stop Africans migrating to Europe.

However the fact that a satirist may not be the first to suggest a stupid idea doesn’t mean we should not be aware of satire and expect it. It is, IMHO, far better to assume that idiotic ideas and statements are the result of failed attempts at satire/sarcasm than to assume that the person making them is sincere. There is nothing more disheartening to the serious proposer of queer marxist intersectionalism than a response of laughter and “wow, good one! for a moment I thought you were serious!”. Of course they usually go all trigglypuff when you do so but that’s a good thing. It gets their circulation working and probably gives them some exercise so it benefits them, plus it lets any observers see just how weak their ideas and arguments are. All in all it’s a win-win.