A Paradox of Irony

How can the following both be true:

* Irony is a method of expressing yourself in which the surface meaning of what you have to say differs from your actual meaning. When you communicate ironically it lets members of the audience who “get” your communication feel superior to those who do not.

*Some sincere truths are best expressed using irony.

How can irony be the province of the snobbish flaneur hipster and also of the sincere and earnest?


The answer is that one of the best ways of criticizing mismatches between what we profess to believe and who we actually are is through irony. So one way to criticize any kind of inauthenticity is ironic communication. This works because it makes the audience aware of the mismatch between what they have to say and who they are.

So for example if you think people who are members of the church are too complacent you can say, ironically, “It’s great that we don’t need to worry about our souls any more because we have the church to take care of that for you.”

Ironically, this also applies to criticizing the ironic attitude itself. If you have a friend who never says what movies he really likes and just takes an ironic attitude towards them, you can say “It’s great that you don’t need to worry about what you really think because you have your ironic attitude to take care of that for you.”

Nobody, unless they are being ironic, should say “I mean this remark ironically”.

Similarly, nobody, unless they are being ironic, should say “I am naive.”


2 thoughts on “A Paradox of Irony

  1. I’m writing my response before reading on, as instructed: Hey! What’s wrong with being a flaneur? Or a hipster? I love irony! Ok, I see what’s wrong with being snobbish, but how is that snobbish? I’m just talking the language of my pals. That’s no more snobbish than being French!

  2. Oh. Right. I’ve read the rest now. Yeah, I don’t think you literally wanted me to write my answer down, did you? I probably would have got that if I was a real hipster. Anyway, no one would admit to being a hipster unless they were being ironic.

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