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Death of Irony

Posted by Smokey Stover on November 14, 2008 at 13:02

In Reply to: Death of Irony posted by Nicholas on November 14, 2008 at 09:48:

: "Death of Irony" Any information about it at all would be helpful. I don't know where it's from or what exactly it means.

I can't tell you who first used it, but it has become a fairly popular catch phrase, particularly among the more literate bloggers. Those using it don't all mean the same thing, but I think primarily it means that irony has been killed when those engaging in ironic acts don't recognize them as ironic. At least that's the case in one example.

"The Death of Irony

Irony, considered one of the chief qualities distinguishing mankind from the lower orders, died yesterday on the National Mall following a long, long illness."

The occasion was the breaking of ground for a new Institute of Peace. The irony is that the Institute is sponsored by the government, as represented by the Bush administration, notorious for its doctrine of pre-emptive warfare, and only the latest in a series of administrations which have waged a series of war almost as an occupation. With Bush at his side, "George P. Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, said Bush will be remembered kindly for promoting the idea that wars must sometimes be launched to address potential threats before they are realized."

The irony here is obvious: a government perpetually at war celebrates its bellicosity by building an Institute for Peace. But it sees no irony at all in this. Thus the author's contention that irony is dead. (One does not have to concur, even if the point is taken.) See:

An example on the literary or artistic side is found in a discussion with the title:

'Andrew W.K. and "The Death of Irony"
An In-Depth Roundtable Discussion and Debate
Social commentary by Christopher R. Weingarten, M. David Hornbuckle, and Ned Davis
Andrew W.K. as Model for Post-Irony and the Demise of Cultural Contextualization.'

Andrew W.K. is AndreW Wilkes-Krier, a rocker, and the leader of the discussion was "Christopher R. Weingarten, cultural eviscerist." .

In the "Encyclopedia Dramatica," which parodies the style of the Wikipedia, the unnamed author has these comments about the subject:

'The "Death" of Irony

Irony has existed for at least a hundred years, but only came to be understood in its coincidental and hipster forms during the '90s. Indeed, the '90s were widely regarded by the intellectual set as the "Decade of Irony," largely because the intellectual set feels the needs to classify every decade as something or other.

Following 9/11, irony was declared "dead," the argument being that it was no longer funny to point out the irony of a situation (i.e., an occurrence which is unexpected given the circumstances). This notion never really made much sense, however, since it is impossible for a concept as powerful and pervasive as irony to die. Still, the catchphrase "irony is dead" sounded pretty cool, so people started bandying it around as if they knew what it meant (or even what "irony" meant, for that matter). The fact that said people could declare irony dead without knowing what it meant was itself somewhat ironic.'

The author appears to associate the death of irony with the events of 9/ll, and the notion that irony, since it can no longer be looked at humorously, has lost its irony. "If the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?" You don't have to accept the author's view of history and spelling to grant him some points. See:

The real Wikipedia says the Encyclopedia Dramatica has been characterized as a "snarky Wikipedia anti-fansite" (by Jonathan Dee, 2007-07-01), "All the News That's Fit to Print Out", The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved on 17 May 2008.)

An Internet search turns up many more uses of the phrase that I haven't mentioned. I think the political even ts of this century, particularly of 9/11, have propelled the phrase into something approaching popularity.