If you appreciate the writing and hijinks of Diogenes, Rabelais, Erasmus, Dryden, Swift, John Gay, or more recently Oscar Wilde, you become hyper-sensitive to the reality that all discourse has not only an intended audience, not only a payload of "content" to deliver via "style," vehicle or setup, but that all discourse limns, consciously or unconsciously, a speaker. It is a mercy that we have adopted as a polite convention that as an audience we will not become overly conscious of the speaker's foibles, much less his or her vice or folly. We hope that a like courtesy or free pass be accorded to us. In the tradition above speakers fall into the following categories. The categories are not mutually inclusive, but are exhaustive.
- Knave (Most advertisers, marketers, pollsters, trusted advisors, pundits, publicists, spokesperson's press secretaries, legal professionals on professional duty fall into the Knave category.)
- Rogue (Much like a Knave but playing for another kind of win. Robinhood, Macheath, Mack the Knife, Loki, Hermes, Trickster heroes of all kinds. The Rogue is the white Knight to the Knave's black.)
- Dupe (The reading public, voters of both parties, the intended audience of Knaves and Rogues alike. The Knave be-knaves the Dupe to extract personal advantage. The Rogue be-rouges the Dupe in part as an object lesson.)
- Courtier (The faithful servant, the employee of the month, the kisser up and the kicker down in any hierarchy, the one who pleads that the dot com bubble and the mortgage crises and the antics of Blackwater in Iraq may have happened on this or her watch, but are not his or her fault, since that is how things were in those days, it was how things were done. Courtiers are generally Knaves, but are worth breaking out as a separate category as their ranks have grown with corporate hierarchies. We used to have few Kingdoms. Now we have many companies. So the opportunities to rise as a courtier are vastly increased.)
- Clown (Originally meant a country clown or local yokel, as opposed to the sophisticated Courtier; can also be the funny person who harmlessly amuses people by mugging funny lines with a straight face. Generally a well meaning Dupe.)
- Fool (The complement or counter-party to the Dupe. A Dupe who is not all Dupe who plays the Fool to illuminate what the Dupe does not know, when beknaved by the Knave. A counter-party to the Clown, as a clown for a higher purpose. The Fool is surrounded by Courtiers, but while they speak foolish things with a wise face, and vicious things with a face of piety, the Fool speaks bitter truth with a jest, and reminds us of spiritual matters with a ribald prank. The Fool is a special case of the Rogue, a Rogue who is loyal to what matters most, even when it imperils the Fool's own self-interest.)
Now, given that this matrix is, within the satiric genre, inclusive, comprehensive and airtight, where would you place a bit of discourse that is plain-spoken, earnest, and impeccably truthful-sounding? Well, it could fall into any of the categories. Earnest prose from a Dupe - we see that all the time. The best example might be a blue collar worker arguing against the Death Tax. Earnest prose from a Knave, just go through the news channels. Earnest prose from a Courtier? That would be the panel of experts; the work of Frank Luntz; the public service announcement from Wealth Bondage: Brands and Beatings For Better Life in a Better World. The Clown? Good for a laugh, as with Sitcoms, standup comedians, or late night talk show hosts doing their introductory patter. Has an editor or producer who vets the material with an eye to limits of accetable taste and the needs of the advertisers. The Fool? Vastly under-represented in our public discourse. I say this, of course, like a good Knave, in my own defense. Your Honor, I wish to plead innocent plus extenuating circumstances. I am not nor have I ever been a critic of Wealth Bondage, and if I was I was just drunk, crazy or joking. The Happy Tutor? I do not know the man. I have never partied naked in a Dumpster with my fellow peons to celebrate Philanthropy. My tongue may be black, but I do not drink Thunderbird; I was born with a black tongue. I am what I appear to be, a Happy Dupe, a Faithful Servant, a man more sinned against than sinning, your Honor, though none of us, if it please your Honor, are entirely blameless for the shape this country is in, present company, your Honor, excluded, of course.