And Now For Something Completely Stupid: The Unethical Satire Of Joe Matthews

Joe Mathews is co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy. He has written an op-ed piece arguing that California should “abolish parenthood.” The usually astute people at Legal Insurrection (if someone can explain why  all of those annoying breaks are in the title, please do) apparently think he’s serious; I don’t, but it doesn’t matter. If your satire is so inept that nobody can tell it’s a joke, then it is more hoax than satire, a deliberate lie to make people feel dumb who believe it so you can mock them afterward for being gullible.

This thing by “California Joe,” as he calls himself on-line, is worse than that: in this environment of near-complete progressive derangement, his absurdist piece is like a flaming match tossed into a dry forest. That’s wildly irresponsible.

Joe will doubtlessly defend his satire as “Swiftian,” but there was never any danger that the English would start eating children to solve poverty, over-population and hunger. That’s because Jonathan Swift’s satire was funny, as competent satire is supposed to be, and because the British of his era were not insane. “California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity” is not funny, and it is not far enough removed from other truly terrible, totalitarian ideas being advanced by Woke World that the author can be confident that his gag won’t find its way into a movement. Remember too, that the state taking children from parents has been a totalitarian strategy in the Third Reich, Soviet Russia, and Red China.

The essay purports to argue for an elimination of parenthood, or, in the alternative, for wealthy, “privileged”  parents to “trade children” with poorer ones in the interests of “equity.” After all, Matthews writes,

Today’s Californians often hold up equity — the goal of a just society completely free from bias — as our greatest value. Gov. Gavin Newsom makes decisions through “an equity lens.” Institutions from dance ensembles to tech companies have publicly pledged themselves to equity.
But their promises are no match for the power of parents.
Fathers and mothers with greater wealth and education are more likely to transfer these advantages to their children, compounding privilege over generations. As a result, children of less advantaged parents face an uphill struggle, social mobility has stalled, and democracy has been corrupted. More Californians are abandoning the dream; a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll found declining belief in the notion that you can get ahead through hard work. My solution — making raising your own children illegal — is simple, and while we wait for the legislation to pass, we can act now: the rich and poor should trade kids, and homeowners might swap children with their homeless neighbors.
For those paying close attention, the author’s tell is at the end, as he extols “universal orphanhood.” In the process, he attacks both conservatives—
Republicans are happy to jettison parents’ rights in pursuit of their greatest passions, like violating migrant rights. Once you’ve gone so far as to take immigrant children from their parents and put them in border concentration camps, it’s a short walk to separating all Americans from their progeny.
Universal orphanhood also dovetails nicely with the pro-life campaign to end abortion rights. In fact, a suggestion from Justice Amy Coney Barrett, during a recent case that could overturn Roe, inspired this column. She posited that abortion rights are no longer necessary because all 50 states now have “safe haven” laws allowing women to turn their babies over to authorities after birth. My proposal would merely make mandatory such handovers of babies to the state.
and progressives…
The left’s introduction of anti-racism and gender identity in schools faces a bitter backlash from parents. Ending parenthood would end the backlash, helping dismantle white supremacy and outdated gender norms. Democrats also would have the opportunity to build a new pillar of the safety net — a child-raising system called “Foster Care for All.”
…while never making it clear what constructive ideas the satirist has that are superior. It’s an “A pox on all your houses” piece. That doesn’t help. If it were at least funny, that would be something. But it’s not.
The op-ed also runs up against Poe’s Law. Not too long ago, the idea that the United States should just let citizens from other nations sneak across our borders and let them stay would have been almost unanimously pronounced as bats. How far back in our history do we have to go to reach the time when the idea of same sex marriage was universally regarded as hilarious? 50 years? Less? Other now popular ideas that once were seen as equally ridiculous as “trading children”:
  • …that a biological male could compete in women’s sports by just announcing that he “identified as female.”
  • … that public schools should teach that the U.S. systemically furthers white supremacy, requiring permanent mandated advancement of black Americans regardless of merit and demonstrated ability
  • …that the government can and should require citizens to wear masks inside, perhaps forever, including while having sex
  • …that requiring voters to produce reliable identification before voting is racist.
  • …that parents should not have any say regarding what the public schools teach their children.
  • …that defunding police departments was anything but an invitation to disaster.
  • ….that  shoplifting and other “minor crimes” shouldn’t be prosecuted.

And don’t get me started on “the Green New Deal.”

The one argument I have read on the side claiming that Matthews isn’t kidding cites that fact that his own organization is serious about direct democracy, making laws and public policy by majority votes in referendums. That’s almost as bad an idea as “universal orphanhood”—not quite, but close. California has just about adopted that one.

No, I’m sure that the op-ed is satire.

Incompetent, irresponsible, unfunny satire.

I think.


8 thoughts on “And Now For Something Completely Stupid: The Unethical Satire Of Joe Matthews

  1. I wonder if he is serious and only uses the excuse that he was writing satire (joking or it was tongue in cheek) to deflect criticism.

    What he has forgotten is that people are not commodities that live for a period, learn to work to support the state, and then die off to make room for the next worker bee. Children are the links between the past present and future of familial histories. They are the ones that carry on the ideas and traditions of the family. His ideas would not result in a diverse democracy it would only become a place in which the workers vote is a mere proxy for government decree. The shallowness of his thinking poses a significant danger to the concept of inalienable rights.

  2. Yes, it is 100% satire. The piece even includes the line: “…my proposal is quite modest…”, and ends with “…a brave new world”. I also agree with you that it isn’t funny and that there will be those, both who support it and are outrage by it, that take it seriously.

    It is useful in that it highlights, by the fact that some will take it seriously, just how insane things have gotten (not that anyone here needs extra reminders).

    Regarding direct democracy, I haven’t considered its flaws, but, living in California, I thank Prop. 13 (which limits property tax increases to a max of 2%) every year.

    • An additional thought: I wonder just how extreme one would have to make an argument before it was regarded as obviously satire? My first thought was that an essay along the lines of:

      “We must ban same-race couples from reproducing”

      would do the trick, but on second thought, I fear it too would be taken seriously. Or, how about:

      “In order to save life on this planet, we must eradicate the plague that is the human species”

      Nope, that would also be taken seriously.

      • “A growing cadre of eminent Professors of Vertebrate Biology question why, in these times of increased environmental awareness, humans continue to slaughter the buffalo for their wings?”

        “Have we learned nothing?” (protest on Sat.- bring your own sign)

  3. Joe Matthews interesting “satire” leaves much to be desired. When he and his relatives start and prove they are doing what he wants everyone in the country, if not the world, i.e., giving his children or grandchildren to homeless migrants, then I’ll see what transpires. Otherwise shut the hell up

  4. I don’t think Matthews’ piece is as satirical as you hope or as he claims.

    There has been a definite push to minimize the role of parents for years – decades, probably. Last night, I was thinking about this piece as I lay in bed and I realized that nearly all the goofy shows (cartoon and otherwise) our grandkids grew up watching lack two things: an intelligent father and mother. Think about it (especially if you have kids that watch Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon): many of the shows are young kids – pre-teen or young teens – with absolutely no parental supervision. And for the few shows with parents present, dads and/or moms are usually portrayed as bumbling, ignorant, and completely out-of-touch with “kid ways and norms.”

    In the shows, it’s often the kids that rescue themselves – and those infrequent parents – from a mess. It’s the kids that teach the parents the life lessons. It’s the kids that give the orders and direct the house. Does this sound right to parents? Is this real life? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

    From a very early age, children are subtly conditioned to see their parents as superfluous to their upbringing and out-of-sync with reality, as little more than bottomless bank accounts from which they draw at a whim, and at worst, a hindrance to their growth and maturation.

    Maybe Matthews is more than unethical…maybe he’s a product of his own upbringing.

  5. There is one teensy problem with the idea of switching kids.
    Assume, for a moment that you found 50,000 upper class families willing to swap their kids for those of lower class families.
    Where the heck are you then going to find 50,000 lower class families willing to give up their children?
    Loving one’s children is not an upper class phenomenon, it is universal.

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