Sending up the clowns

A character* in one of Mark Twain’s novels observes that only laughter can defeat a “colossal humbug.” Against the assault of scathing wit, he says, “nothing can stand.”

Whether the character underestimates the fortitude of corruption and stupidity is an open question.

But I argue in a column for the current American Prospect that there’s no more effective weapon against the colossal humbug that is the current administration than the kind of satire Twain practiced — and that there’s still no better practitioner of it than Twain.

If you’d like to sample his wares, try Was the World Made for Man?, King Leopold’s Soliloquy, and The War Prayer. Up next on my own Twain reading list: The Gilded Age.

To bungle one of his own expressions: it is old satire, but there is nothing else the matter with it.

* Satan.


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