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Culture Friday: Rationality and reality under attack

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Rationality and reality under attack

The Babylon Bee’s Seth Dillon on how satire can advance a Biblical worldview


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MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s the 18th day of November, 2022.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday!

Today, a special guest: the CEO of the Babylon Bee, Seth Dillon. He needs no introduction.

I’m glad you could be with us. Morning, Seth.

SETH DILLON, GUEST: Great to be with you.

REICHARD: Great to have you. Listen, we’re a newsy program, so I want to start with the big news of the week‚ where I think there’s a real intersection of news and satire, the most colorful political candidate of my lifetime—Donald Trump has tossed his hat in the ring. You’ve got to love that.

DILLON: I mean, we love it either way. I think Trump is actually a difficult one for us. Just in a sense that he’s, you know, he’s kind of like a caricature of a person. He’s got such a big personality already. And he says so many outlandish things that it honestly can be challenging to satirize him when he’s already a character like that. Same with Biden, you know; it’s hard to write jokes that are funnier than Biden’s speeches. It’s a challenge for us to create satire when we have these caricatures of individuals in these positions of power.

EICHER: That’s one of the things I appreciate about the Bee, Seth, I mean, you’re consciously conservative and make no apologies for that. But even Christian conservatives aren’t safe from being lampooned in the Bee, all in good fun.

DILLON: Yep. I think it’s one of the refreshing things about the Bee is that no target is truly off limits. I think it’s a healthy thing to engage in introspective, comedic humor where you’re self-deprecating and examining your own actions and motives to see where your own hypocrisy and shortcomings lie. I think that’s a healthy thing.

I think, it’s good if we are willing to take ourselves less seriously. So yeah, poking at all sides is kind of the goal we do strive for as Christian conservatives. Writing from that perspective, we’re obviously going to see certain things that are much more deserving of our attention than others, especially the things that are really important from a cultural standpoint that have real-world impact and are causing serious harm on a wide scale. Those are the kinds of things that are going to attract the majority of our attention.

REICHARD: We know that Babylon Bee humor involves mockery. Some people aren’t comfortable with mocking others because they think it’s mean. But you’ve said that you think mockery is a moral imperative. How so?

DILLON: Yes. I think that the way that I put it is that the absurd has only become sacred because it hasn’t been sufficiently mocked. The reason I say that is because we’re living a time where up is down, left is right, black is white. Everything has been kind of inverted—especially from a moral standpoint— so the most lewd and indecent behavior is praised and valued, and traditional values are vilified.

In an environment like that, I think there is a moral imperative to ridicule bad ideas before they take root, before they become popular: Especially for the sake of younger people. And it’s important to confront these ideas before they become off limits. We’ve already reached a point where we’re not even allowed to joke about a lot of these things without being seen as crossing a line, without it being considered hate speech. Because we’ve now built these progressive far-left values into the terms of service of our social networks and into our cultural mores and our language, you can’t even touch these things, They’re off limits, if you touch them, you’re bad. And so that’s a bad place to be in. I think that we wouldn’t have necessarily gotten here if people had been more quick to laugh at these things instead of laud them.

EICHER: Seth, I read your essay for the December 3rd issue of WORLD and I’ll link to it in today’s transcript—brand-new piece—it’s on the website this morning at WNG.org. But it was really good, big, substantial piece, 2,500 words, really appreciated it.

DILLON: Thank you.

EICHER: Oh, absolutely. You told a story I didn’t know about your purchase of the Bee, your relationship with the founder, Adam Ford.

Seth, you’re too young to remember the businessman Victor Kiam, who bought Remington, the electric-shaver company in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s. He became the pitchman for the product with a famous tagline, “I loved the Remington shaver so much, I bought the company.”

So that image flashed through my mind as I read your WORLD piece and I thought, here’s Seth Dillon, the Babylon Bee made me laugh so much, I bought the company. That’s what happened, isn’t it?

DILLON: It is. Like I say in the essay, it wasn’t my design. It wasn’t my initial motivation for reaching out to Adam, who founded The Bee. I was really just looking for any way to get involved, and with him looking to sell it, I really didn’t feel like I could pass up the opportunity to try to do something with it. It was kind of a fledgling thing that was taking off and getting a lot of attention, but it hadn’t really been turned into a business yet. I thought maybe I’d be able to do something with that.

And I thought it would be a lot of fun and potentially very impactful along the way. I had no idea the heights we’d get to so quickly, and the kind of controversy we’d find ourselves in the middle of, and the kind of impact we’d be having on the public discourse. So I think it was a great investment from a business standpoint, but perhaps an even greater one from the perspective of advancing a biblical worldview and speaking truth to culture through humor.

REICHARD: I’ll change the subject a tad here. I’m always interested in the parenting styles of people who bring up a kid like you, who grows up to be the CEO of the Babylon Bee. What can you tell us about your mom and dad?

DILLON: My parents are both still with us, thankfully. And they are the most loving, sweet people. They were in ministry throughout their career. My dad was a pastor and he’s retired now. But I grew up in the church, and I grew up in a Christian home. We had good values, they had a good marriage, and we had a very healthy upbringing. We weren’t a family that was extremely legalistic or anything like that. There was a lot of freedom to make mistakes, but also a lot of grace. And a lot of really good instruction given and examples set for us. So I think they really shaped who I am.

They also really cultivated in me a desire to read and to learn and grow personally. And so I did a lot of reading, both as a student when I was a kid, and then as I went off into college, and from there on I kept reading a lot of theology and philosophy and the Bible to give myself a firm philosophical and theological foundation to deal with and ward off bad ideas. I think reading is an extremely valuable tool to equip your kids with. And they gave me that: They gave me a love for the truth and for learning, and I can’t thank them enough for that.

EICHER: I’ve got to ask you about going on Joe Rogan—that must’ve been an experience. We talked about it here back in August when it happened. I remember John Stonestreet offering his plaudits and then just making the point that everyone who’s pro-life really needs to be able to give an answer and not just leave it to the pros—especially in a post-Roe environment, when pro-lifers are getting their hats handed to them, at least at the ballot box.

But I just thought you really showed the way there, in front of a big audience, with an intimidating interlocutor like Rogan. So, great job.

Here’s what I want to know. How prepared were you for the question? Did you anticipate it and come up with something beforehand or did this just happen?

DILLON: Yeah. It’s just happened. I mean, there was preparation, but preparation in the sense that I had been discussing and studying and debating these kinds of issues for years leading up to that conversation. I’ve talked about abortion and the pro-life stance and the reasons to be pro-life online all the time and engage on those issues out in the public square. So I was equipped in that sense where I knew what I believed, and I was able to articulate it.

I was not prepared to have that conversation at that time. Because there’s no telling where your conversation is gonna go with Rogan. All that we talked about beforehand was, here’s the place and the time and, and that’s it. And so there were no show notes you’re running through, you’re not handing them any talking points, you’re not discussing what subjects you’re going to be touching on. It’s just whatever’s on Joe’s mind, that’s where you go.

So I did not expect to hit that topic at all but I was prepared for it—at least in the sense that I had things to say about that topic—and so fortunately, I was able to avoid getting too nervous and articulate my thoughts pretty well, and I think it generally was thought provoking for him. He stopped for a moment and had to think and consider where I was coming from, and that that’s really all you can ask for in a situation like that.

EICHER: I mentioned your WORLD Magazine piece. I want to quote some of your words and ask you a question here as we wrap up.

“Somehow,” you write, “we’ve found ourselves on the front lines of a battle for the preservation of freedom and the restoration of sanity. I’m not sure how that happened. But I do know that satire is never more necessary than when reality and rationality are under attack.”

Seth, has there ever a time when it wasn’t? And what makes it unique now?

DILLON: Has there ever been a time where rationality and reality weren’t under attack? Is that what you’re asking? Probably not. I mean, nothing’s new under the sun. That’s a biblical idea. But it’s repeated so much to the point where is it even meaningful? I don’t know. But I do think that there are times where things become a little bit more exaggerated and pronounced, the pendulum kind of swings back and forth to these extremes. And we happen, we just so happen to be living in a time. You know, I quote Chesterton all the time, he said, the world has become too absurd to be satirized. And he said that back in 1911. And then he and then in 1926, he said something like, you know, we’ll soon be living in a world where where you are, you can’t say that the grass is green, or the sky is blue, or that two and two make four, you’ll be, you know, shouted down as a lunatic for doing so. You know, we’re in that world. Now. I think we’ve arrived in that mad world. And we happen to be living in one of these times where things are particularly pronounced. I mean, if you go back just 10, 15, 20 years ago, a lot of the really crazy ideas like you can, in fact, be a boy trapped in a girl’s body. And you can know that when you’re three years old. And the correct answer to that is drugs and mutilation. I mean, like these types of things would have been absolutely insane to people, even on the left 10, 15, 20 years ago, and now they’re very commonplace. And so, you know, the extremes can become more pronounced and I hope the pendulum swings back the other way, and I hope comedy plays a role in making that happen.

REICHARD: All right, what a treat. Seth Dillon our special guest on Culture Friday. Seth is CEO of The Babylon Bee. He has a terrific article in the newest WORLD Magazine that released just this morning. I hope you’ll check that out at WNG.org. Seth, again, thanks for being with us today!

DILLON: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me on. It was a great discussion. Appreciate it.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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