A Conversation With The Anti-Political Correctness Satirist Who Is Pissing Off Instagram

A Conversation With The Anti-Political Correctness Satirist Who Is Pissing Off Instagram

A conversation with humorist MADEbyJIMBOB (@madebyjimbob) on content suppression, late-night comedy, and the importance of satire in our political moment.
Liz Wolfe
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Last week, the humorous political meme account @madebyjimbob received a content violation notice from Instagram. The account’s creator, MADEbyJIMBOB, had posted this meme, pictured below, which promptly either got reported or raised a red flag for Instagram. The platform removed the content, giving no reason as to which particular part offended their sensibilities, and put MADEbyJIMBOB on notice that his account could be shut down with subsequent violations.

When asked what he was hoping people would get from the post, MADEbyJIMBOB said: “The purpose of the meme was explore the perhaps unhealthy relationship between terror, trauma and reactionary legislation. The definition of terrorism is the use of violence or threat with political motivation, the inquiry is, is terrorism being exploited for political action and where is the line between responding to terrorism and rewarding violent behavior with legislation.”

This is a valid question, but one Instagram apparently thinks isn’t worth entertaining on their platform. Whether it be due solely to the mention of terrorism or some perhaps more nefarious politically based antagonism, it’s hard to say why Instagram found this so unacceptable. And there’s no appeal process, so MADEbyJIMBOB might never know. (Another image was flagged this past weekend, making fun of presidential contender Robert Francis O’Rourke, but MADEbyJIMBOB’s account has not been taken down.)

I’ve followed this account for a while. It’s a refreshingly contrarian take on dogmatic mainstream liberal beliefs, many of which are becoming increasingly absurd as the fruitless culture war wages on, forcing everyone to get on board with everyone else’s lifestyle in lieu of simple tolerance. MADEbyJIMBOB, who was in the comedy scene in L.A. up until recently, is a seemingly endless font of creative energy, and his account tackles the ills of socialism, the illogical nature of pro-choicers’ justifications for abortion, and our absurd need to get our regular fix of the outrage drug, despite how bad it is for us. His ingenuity isn’t just limited to memes—he’s also a supplier of handy dandy “Resist Stuff” T-shirts and the author of a forthcoming book, “Savage Memes Vol. 1.”

I asked him a bit about his creative process, his interest in ruffling feathers, and the current humor imbalance, where a cadre of boring late-night comedy TV hosts repeat the same tired liberal-pandering screeds.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

  

 

LW: Tell me a bit about your thought process behind these memes. When did your interest in this sort of political satire start? Have you always held these beliefs?

JB: I haven’t always held these beliefs. I was in Los Angeles for 15 years and I would [have] considered myself an unthinking, emotional liberal…just kind of going with the flow. If you’re a compassionate person, you vote left and Democratic and if you’re greedy [you vote for right-leaning candidates]…you know, very baseline thinking. That changed after the election. I didn’t vote for Trump but I saw a lot of hypocrisy and inconsistency with the people around me and my own thinking and I just thought, wow, I’m not being honest with myself.

LW: Was there backlash?

JB: I was in comedy in LA and I got attacked that way. “You’re making Obama look bad,” that kind of thing.

I have to expose some truth and some ridiculousness and do it in a fun way. Drawing cartoons and satire is one of those ways, and one of the best ways for me because it really strips everything else down and reduces issues to principles. And it’s absurd at the same time.

JB: A lot of cartoons are actually conversations that I’ve had or heard. [He will put them in a different situation so it’s not exact.] I think of people in situations and then I apply some of the current thinking to those situations and show how ridiculous that thinking is in another context.

LW: So it was a pretty rapid and recent change of beliefs?

JB: I think having a child can catalyze that for people. And I moved from Los Angeles to Colorado, got a good-paying job, taking on responsibility. I have libertarian-leaning family members who were always crushing my Utopian visions on the internet.

 

JB: I’m in a field of mine bombs and I’m trying to find them all. What can’t you say? How small is the range of acceptable discourse? Being someone who comes from comedy, my cartoons are all about conversations you may not be able to have and showing what the constraints are on those topics.

It really shouldn’t matter what side you’re on because the basics of free speech and being protected from any government influence is what allows us to progress and hear bad ideas and hear good ideas.

LW: Are there any topics you choose to keep off-limits?

JB: Not really. The good thing about my work is that it’s not information-based, it’s principle-based.

Can I reduce the most complex issue to a principle and have people argue within that context? Principles are pretty constant. I mean, there are exceptions to every principle, and I’m infatuated with that topic too. But there’s no particular issue that I purposefully avoid.

 

LW: What’s the role satire can play in our current political moment?

JB: It’s the best time to be a comedian or a satirical expressionist. People are looking for truth, right now [there is a] market for something true and constant. The role of satire and comedy is the ultimate unifier as well. That’s why I’m so against protected classes as an idea, not just in policy, but in the acceptable range of discourse around a certain class of people…the worst thing you can do to someone or a group of people is exclude them from being the subject of comedy.

When you’re in a comedy room, anyone in the audience can be targeted by a comedian. That’s the great unifier. Humor equalizes us. It reduces us all to the same place. That’s the role of the comedian: to expose the commonalities between people. Like, we’re all in a bathroom at some point in the day.

We all blindly believe certain things, we all root for a team. There’s so much ridiculousness about being a human. Comedy can take the most complex, chaotic reality and bring humans back down to the even level—the comedian takes all of our clothes off.

LW: One thing I’ve been thinking about is how are we being dominated by a narrow set of dogmatic beliefs, which are espoused by almost everyone I’ve encountered in large-platform comedy situations. Late night comedy-news TV is the perfect example. I find it boring because it’s predictable and it often feels like jokes are made at our expense, instead of the expense of everyone. I am an equal-opportunity chastiser, ready to sh-t on both the left and the right for their sometimes absurd beliefs (perhaps the left slightly more, given my views on capitalism and abortion, for example). What do you think of this sort of broad humor landscape?

JB: The media and late night comedy are, right now, arms of the political left, the Democratic Party…I don’t think it’s some conspiracy where they’re hired by these companies [or parties]…but they all schmooze together and it’s kinda like an echo chamber; it’s the acceptable expression. It went from the audience laughing to applauding, which is agreeing.

I think that’s the biggest mistake they’ve made, thinking that applause is funny. It’s not, it’s agreement. And the rest of the country doesn’t necessarily agree. They have very narrow viewpoints in what they’re pushing, but the illusion is that that represents the rest of the country. They think they’re still at the cool table. The cool table rotted away and they’re the last ones to know. It’s one-sided.

 

 

JB: It’s fun to be what is counter authority or counterculture at the time. I think that’s another reason why you see such an explosion in the center and in the center-right from creatives because there are people that come from a liberal background, but liberal in principle (like myself). Most people will associate liberal with the current modern progressive viewpoints—that’s not liberal. There’s gonna be a resurgence of liberalism, but in the classical sense…that’ll align more with libertarianism in practice. I think that’s growing, which is really cool. 

Instagram [is] trying to create compliance, basically making rules that are arbitrary and totally subjective. And applying them disproportionately. I’m going to not only post more of that stuff, but I’m gonna get other people to post that stuff too. Obviously if you need to shut down an idea, there’s something about the idea that’s threatening. And I don’t consider ideas threatening. Only actions can be threatening. An idea on its own, in a cartoon [being considered threatening]? That’s a crazy way to have a culture operate.

LW: That’s something I’m baffled by. I’m on the younger side of millennial, and it’s weird how young people used to be interested in rebellion and rebuking authority in all forms, so imagine my surprise that there’s this dynamic on college campuses where people tattle to administrators. I am of the school of thought that you should be trying to do a bunch of drugs in the bathroom, trying to hide stuff from school administrators, so it’s weird that people want to run to them crying now.

JB: It’s so true, and this has been said many times that the progressive left and the whole social justice movement has [become] what used to be the religious right in the ’80s, the moral authority—concerned about free expression, video games, whatever—they’ve taken that role now. Whoever assumes the moral authority…is the parent, the one who wants the babysitter, the nanny state. The counterculture becomes the people who say no, who are like “We’re not going with that.”

The left, they were the last safeguard…they were the ones who would check the government and be like “No, you’re stepping over the line.” Now it’s the opposite, it’s so bizarre. I guess I’ve lived just long enough to notice the Overton Window shift. 

LW: Do we have a political cowardice problem? What backlash have you received, and do you care?

JB: Absolutely. We’ve created a punitive dynamic where if you say something and it doesn’t jive, you can get fired. When you look at it from a really analytical perspective, basically the trade-off right now for speaking your mind isn’t worth the potential penalty against you. But more people are realizing that a lot of people can handle the truth.

People feel like they’re supposed to have figured it all out and if they’re wrong, it’s going to be embarrassing if they say it. But who cares? I’m wrong all the time. If you’re wrong, someone with a better idea can tell you that and you can talk about it. The whole walking on eggshells is not good, but I believe more people are rejecting it, and that’s the good news.

It’s easy to get attached to these things that we’re pointing to and be like it’s not fair, but I’d like to interrupt it and say that’s not where it’s going. People will reject that; more people speaking optimistically about the future and about these things will give some people confidence. 

 

LW: Do you think a comedy paradigm shift is likely? Like, where comedy becomes less homogeneous or less starkly political? Do you think we’ll see a backlash in the arts?

JB: Political correctness is dead already. We’re experiencing the death rattles, the last gasps. I think a lot of the outrage that we’ve seen is based in profit, it’s profitable…it’s profitable for media companies and publications and mainstream media to point to the outrage, report on it, and then there’s a cascade…it has a shelf life and then it dies and then you need a new outrage. People are catching on to that as well, which is good. [In the future] it’s not that people will speak less about politics, it’s that more people will speak freely about their politics. The people who are doing the shutting down are gonna realize that’s not gonna work anymore. The free expression movement is always going to come back in cycles. We’re on the cusp of…a new sort of golden age of free expression. You just can’t shut it down, it’s impossible. That’s why I think it’s always gonna win.

Unless we go into the sort of social credit system that China’s experiencing.

 

 

Liz Wolfe is a contributor at The Federalist, based in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter.

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