Make ‘Em Laugh

If you’re familiar with the Harry Potter world, you know that a boggart is the manifestation of your greatest fear and the charm to quell it is “Riddikulus”. And amid a fantastical world of wizards, that’s one thing that is very real in our world:  ridicule is a powerful tool to reduce fear and to strip the powerful of their power.

But don’t take my word for it—I did some research into the topic to see what people have said about this over the years. One of the most interesting things I found was a Public Diplomacy White Paper from The Institute of Politics titled “Ridicule As A Weapon”. Here’s the pertinent excerpt:

Ridicule is an under-appreciated weapon not only against terrorists, but against weapons proliferators, despots, and international undesirables in general.

Ridicule serves several purposes:

    • Ridicule raises morale at home.
    • Ridicule strips the enemy/adversary of his mystique and prestige.
    • Ridicule erodes the enemy’s claim to justice.
    • Ridicule eliminates the enemy’s image of invincibility.
    • Directed properly at an enemy, ridicule can be a fate worse than death.


In nearly every aspect of society and across cultures and time, ridicule works. Ridicule leverages the emotions and simplifies the complicated and takes on the powerful, in politics, business, law, entertainment, literature, culture, sports and romance. Ridicule can tear down faster than the other side can rebuild. One might counter an argument, an image, or even a kinetic force, but one can marshal few defenses against the well-aimed barbs that bleed humiliation and drip contempt.

Politicians fear ridicule…While ridicule can be a healthy part of democracy, it can weaken the tyrant.

I looked up the author, J. Michael Waller, and all you need to know about him is that he also writes for The Federalist. Still, he’s right about ridicule.

One of the biggest highlights of the most recent 1/6 Committee hearing was the footage of Senator FistBump McRunPants shaking his fist in solidarity the insurrectionists and then running away from them once they attacked the building. Remember how utterly satisfying it was to see him sprinting down the hall as fast as he could? That was a pretty solid dose of ridicule. But because McRunPants is so especially toxic, the committee made sure it had a coup de grace:  the slow motion of that same footage.

The only thing better than seeing that and laughing was seeing—and hearing—the reaction of everyone in the hearing room:

Hawley is a serious threat to our democracy. I hope that ridicule was enough to sink his presidential campaign.

Dr. Oz is nowhere nearly as toxic as Hawley is, but he’s possibly more dangerous because he unthinkingly does things other people tell him to do. That’s useful to lobbyists and big donors, but it’s a disaster for the rest of us. He believes in nothing but his own wallet and in some ways that’s as corrosive as having an authoritarian bent. Luckily for us, he’s running against John Fetterman, someone who has no problem seeing through his pathetic Everyman act and ridiculing it.

For some reason, a campaign video that Oz made in April went viral on Monday, and no, I’m not complaining. It’s the perfect distilled essence of Republican populism. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is for reference:

Fetterman didn’t miss a beat:


and neither did Twitter:

Ridicule is a magic weapon against these monsters. Politicians need to use it.

I love Donald O’ Connor and he can sing us out: