Some jokes aren’t funny

By | 2013/04/20


Published as satire, the Menzies House website has posted an article recently called Kill the Poor. If you’re not aware of the Menzies House, it bills itself as:

Australia’s leading online community for conservative, centre-right and libertarian thinkers.

As The SMH points out, in Kill poor to fix budget:

Menzies House was founded by Liberal senator Cory Bernadi, recently sent to the backbench over his comments on same-sex marriage leading to legalised bestiality.

Heath Aston, April 17, 2013.

Between its founder, and prominent links on the website to the “Support [Andrew]” campaign, Menzies House clearly has substantial credibility when it comes to being a bit of a joke.

Back to the article at hand, in Kill the poor, Toby Ralph speaks of how the economy might be rapidly fixed:

In contrast to the fabulously rich, the enormously poor make little useful contribution to society. They consume more than they contribute, putting tremendous strain on the national budget.

A modest cull would strike at the root of our fiscal dilemma. If the least productive 20% of citizens were decommissioned it would directly release a recurrent $25bn, which would almost cover overspending by the Gillard Government between now and September 14th, assuming Mr Swan maintains his long-term average rate of profligacy.

As Toby goes on to speak about incidental benefits, such as new jobs for processing camps, etc., he’s clearly trying to be satirical. And if this were an article appearing on The Onion, it might be a little less repugnant. Might.

The problem is, it’s hard to actually be funny about the economic equivalent of eugenics. Especially when, in places like Brazil, where what Toby proposes does indeed happen … albeit on a smaller scale, and without official sanction. Yet, the widely known fact that rogue police and other gangs have been responsible for murdering street orphans as part of a profitable ‘culling programme’ is inescapable.

When the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, criticised the publication of the essay, Tim Andrews, the editor-in-chief of Menzies House defended it by saying:

It’s a satire in the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’, and as such, I do not see any cause for persons to be offended.

The Age, Kill poor to fix budget, Heath Aston.

As Heath goes on to point out, Jonathan Swift’s essay was written in 1729, suggesting poor Irish could sell their children as poor for the rich.

Citing an essay written over 280 years ago as precedent for a repugnant joke is a pretty big leap. After all, 280 years ago, slavery was still quite common in the United States. Perhaps Toby might have engendered a bigger joke by suggesting all people of a non-european origin in Australia should be sold off as slaves? Women’s suffrage certainly didn’t exist then – perhaps Toby instead should have suggested that all women should be removed from the workforce to tend homes, freeing up more jobs for men? 1729 was only a few decades before the industrial revolution was branded as such, where child labour was quite popular. We could have got some real chuckles if Toby had suggested that all children aged 5-12 should be sent to work, thereby saving on school education funds instead.

Ethics have changed – considerably for the better – since Jonathan Swift published his essay in 1729. That Menzies House, and writers for it, could cling to an essay written in 1729 as defence of a ‘joke’ essay advocating financial eugenics, proves just how out of touch the extreme right conservatives are with reality.

It also goes to show just how much of a joke they are. A very, very bad one.