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The Advantages of Political Buffoonery

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2021

From a short piece riffing on Idi Amin and the political utility of being a buffoon by Mark Leopold, author of an Amin biography:

What, then, are the advantages of political buffoonery? Off-hand, considering Amin’s career, I can think of at least five:

1) It leads opponents to underestimate the ability and intelligence of the buffoon.

2) It provides deniability — “it was only a joke.”

3) It appeals to core supporters (many Africans loved Amin’s teasing of the former colonial masters).

4) It serves as a distraction from the more serious, perhaps frightening or incompetent, actions of the leader, what we now call the “dead cat” tactic.

5) It leads to ambiguity (was it a joke or not?), producing confusion and uncertainty about how to respond.

Behind all this is clearly what Freud recognized as the aggressive nature of joking. I suggest that buffoonery is, at root, a quintessentially masculine characteristic.

If you’ve lived though recent UK and US politics, I expect you’re furiously nodding your head at all this right now. (via sam potts)