Oh Irony, Where Art Thy Sting?

I can’t be the only one a wee bit put off by the much-lauded Banksy-directed opening to the Simpsons last night [embedded video apparently no longer works] can I?

I know the token reaction today is “I can’t believe Fox aired it!” But, aired it they did, and we’re left to pick up the pieces of what that decision means for telling the truth. In this instance, we’re dutifully rewarded for being “in on the joke” that we’re all a part of the process of commodity production & consumption. And yet, of course, as has become customary by now to point out, the joke is itself now a part of that same process, leaving us  mostly with either a feeling of smugness or despair. Either way, you’re still dutifully treated to a reasonably funny episode of the show you intended to watch. It seems to me the better way forward, albeit a way that would not have been aired at all, would’ve been, following the opening credits, to cut to random bits of Married With Children instead, or perhaps an old Maoist cartoon.

“Princeton declined to forward it to Lockheed.”

Ever since I first read the research proposal on “weaponized irony”  in Harpers I’ve wanted to post a link.  Sadly, it’s been behind their pay-for-play wall for months.  This morning, I randomly checked to see if this was still the case.  I was pleased to find that it was not.

Here’s my favorite part:

The first step toward addressing this situation is a multilingual, collaborative, and collative initiative that will generate an encyclopedic global inventory of ironic modalities and strategies. More than a handbook or field guide, the work product of this effort will take the shape of a vast, searchable, networked database of all known ironies. Making use of a sophisticated analytic markup language, this “Ironic Cloud” will be navigable by means of specific ironic tropes (e.g., litotes, hyperbole, innuendo, etc.), by geographical region or language field (e.g., Iran, North Korea, Mandarin Chinese, Davos, etc.), as well as by specific keywords (e.g., nose, jet ski, liberal arts, Hermès, night soil, etc.) By means of constantly reweighted nodal linkages, the Ironic Cloud will be to some extent self-organizing in real time and thus capable of signaling large-scale realignments in the “weather” of global irony as well as providing early warnings concerning the irruption of idiosyncratic ironic microclimates in particular locations—potential indications of geopolitical, economic, or cultural hot spots.