Dark Triad Archetypes: The Jester

Machiavellian Archetypes - The Court Jester

“The court jester had the right to say the most outrageous things to the king. Everything was permitted during carnival, even the songs that the Roman legionnaires would sing, calling Julius Caesar ‘queen,’ alluding, in a very transparent way, to his real, or presumed, homosexual escapades.” – Umberto Eco

1.) Introduction
2.) Leadership Destabilisation Through Character Assassination
3.) How To Handle Jesters
4.) In Closing / Relevant Reading

1.) Introduction:

The jester’s humour can take on either an attack or defence posture, with humiliation acting as his weapon, and plausible deniability his shield. And I say ‘he’, for of the few jesters I have encountered, not one has been female. Likewise if I am to put my personal experiences to one side and observe the wider culture, I remain at a loss in the attempt to identify a female jester.

The wit inherent to the mechanisms of the jester are intrinsically masculine in their nature, for the jester employs a type of verbal gladiatorship of which I have little doubt is fuelled in great part by the male need to prove his genetic fitness to the female. As the dearly departed Christopher Hitchens stated in simpler terms, women aren’t funny because they don’t need to be; and such a truism does not find any particular exception within the expression of one’s Machiavellian interpersonal style either.

Of course a high functioning dark triad woman is wittier than her neurotypical counterpart by affect of her reduced emotional sensitivity, but this does not lend itself to becoming the dominant function which underpins and subsequently characterises her interpersonal style. The feminine Machiavellian archetype is almost always that of the seductress, favouring the weaponisation of sex and all the attendant traits this implies, she presupposes the virginity of enemy men and the promiscuity of enemy women whilst overtly oozing innuendo and sensualism in her bid to entrance allies.

Think of a Machiavellian archetype as a flavour of cunning, all Machiavellians are cunning, but the way in which that cunning is expressed differs vastly in its style and execution. Different archetypes use different stylistic mediums to exert their influence. Be it to charm or humiliate, jesters use humour and seducers employ sexuality whereas fault finders prefer the obsessive pedantry of rigid and inflexible bureaucratic protocol and a penchant for malicious compliance. Cunning may be universal, but the way in which it is employed, expressed and personified differs vastly. The jester’s power stems from an aggressive exuberance, quick wit and the ability to employ said wit mercilessly, savagely and without mercy – for it is their ability to verbally destroy an enemy to a chorus of laughter that makes their otherwise unacceptable displays permissible.

The jester is a master of reframing perception through humour, and so of all the various styles of cunning found manifest, his persuasion goes unmatched. His ability to sway group opinion is second to none, for hilarity always brings great popularity, and seductiveness cannot target as large an audience as hilarity. Irrespective of environment, be it the royal courts of Europe or a television talk show, the jester’s subtle albeit inextricable control of public perception goes indomitably unchallenged.

When people on the internet say “trolling is a skill”, they unknowingly nod gently to this Machiavellian interpersonal style. To give an example of what a jester looks like, Milo Yiannopoulos epitomically embodies the form of a jester. Stylish, cunning, witty and highly narcissistic, the jester’s ability to theatrically employ wit and word to persuade, entertain and humiliate is incontestable.

2.) Leadership Destabilisation Through Character Assassination:

The jester is as facetious as he is daring, incredibly individualist, he views himself as an underdog possessing an innate albeit under-recognised superiority. He is not usually of noble birth or high social rank, but owing to his bold and fearless employment of humour he is given to finding himself brush shoulders with those connected and of means.

Humour aside, he is scornful of authority and extremely power hungry. In much the way he seeks to inconsequentially violate people’s boundaries via ruthless and humiliating utilisations of comedy, he seeks to remove all boundaries and expectations imposed on himself. He is a freedom loving man, so much so that he not only shuns the leadership, but shuns the role for himself, as the responsibilities that come with it impose on his carnal desire for a freedom so absolute that tolerance for even a slither of responsibility is amiss.

And yet the poetic irony in the jester’s loathing of authority lies in how his employ of humour sets him up as an informal authority. Due to his aversion to responsibility the jester is rarely an official leader in any meaningful capacity, and yet due to the affinity he earns from grandiosely entertaining the people, he is looked to as one. And it is because of this the jester has a propensity to outshine the formal leadership, unbeheld to the responsibilities that they are, whilst enjoying an equal if not superior level of influence to them. Alas the jester is not the squad captain, but rather the private that makes jokes at the captain’s expense and gets away with it; he is the one people look to despite a lack of formalised institutional rank, he is a leader absent the acknowledgement of title.

One of the jester’s seemingly counterintuitive strategies is to delegitimise the leadership by ruthlessly mocking their method of rule. This gambit serves two purposes, firstly, it brings him acclaim, fans and followers – people who will line his pockets and defend his reputation from his enemies.

Secondly, it serves as a warning shot to the leadership that subtextually communicates “If I wanted to, I could turn your people against you; I don’t answer to you and shall not ever. But you need me. So you should officially endorse me as an ally for as long as it benefits me, and you should not attempt to control me, for I am uncontrollable. If you try, I will see to it you lose favour with the people, and in making your rule that much more difficult I will single-handedly hasten your downfall, and I’ll do it with the blessing of the people to a chorus of hearty and mocking laughter – much to your chagrin.”

Intuitively this sounds dangerous; but emblazoned with a flair for the bold and dangerous, loyal to nothing but his own self-interest, the jester knows he need not win the master because he owns the crowd, and so by having control of the crowd it is the master who needs him more than the inverse. Drawing his power from the crowd is what makes the jester independent from the master, for by drawing his power from the people, he draws it of his own volition on the condition he can perform, rather than because the master’s whim proves favourable. It is the sheer terror of this subtext that will cause many a leader to buckle, to seek to befriend and ally with the jester, with the jester in turn feigning loyalty, only for his mocking of the leader to continue under a veneer of well-intentioned banter.

A jester is only as good as his last performance, but a leader loses effectiveness when the people love his funny man more than they do him. As such, a leader is given to the idea he might have his kingdom’s most cunning clown harmed, for intuitively it seems the best way to deal with a problem is to remove it. The flaw with such a measure is the jester is too well known and too well loved by the people to be removed quietly.

The people’s love acts as an armour for the jester, and should he be harmed, said love will transmute into a hate seeking the destruction of his destroyer. And so the leader finds himself in a bind, is he to tolerate the undermining of his leadership and lose respect, or is he to eradicate the upstart and risk the people’s ire?

The clever leader has him removed by mercenaries untraceable to himself, frames a common enemy for the crime, and feigns upset at news of the jester’s peril. The untameable jester should always be dealt with in this manner, the exception to this being the cooperative jester. A jester willing to show overt deference to the leadership can prove useful for morale as an entertainer, but even more importantly, he doubles as an effective character assassin for delegitimising the leadership’s enemies.

3.) How To Handle Jesters:

Engaging in battle with a jester requires an inordinate amount of energy, if one can avoid the affair altogether, such a thing is strategically preferable. However, I am inclined to think any soul reading this who does so in resonance with what they hear is probably beyond the point of evasion, and instead seeks practical tips to help them neutralise such a troublesome individual. In light of this, I will now speak a little on the ways in which one should best handle a jester.

In my essay Machiavellian Thinking vs. Conventional Thinking, I coined the maxim “justification is a Machiavellian fallacy”This can be simplified and distilled as “justifying yourself is anti-cunning and weakens one’s social power” – internalising this idea deeply is key to effectively battling a jester. Never take a jester’s questions seriously, assume every question to be nought but an insincere trap, and you will do well to avoid the pitfalls the jester so effortlessly and ravenously sets.

So what is one to do specifically in order to avoid said pitfalls? Answer questions with questions, use pressure flips, question the sincerity of his questions, and reframe even the slightest twinge of insincerity as immaturity. Whoever answers the most questions loses, for questioning is not utilised here to gain information, but rather to overwhelm the individual targeted by the questions. The jester has no interest in receiving straightforward answers to any of the questions he may posit, but rather, he uses them as nothing more than psychological pressure points to dominate and humiliate his target into disorientation and self-flagellating submission.

The jester is dependent on humour to draw his social power, and thus by establishing his humour as immature you may nullify the essence of his social dominance. To do this effectively however, the way in which you deliver your criticism of his lack of maturity is key. If you sound offended or upset, the tactic will have no effect and will only serve as fuel for his ridicule, whereas if you sound aggressive and candidly passionate about the core topic, it will. One should sound like a narcissistic man putting someone down for a lack of sophistication, not a whiny woman passing judgement on a thing that annoys her. The key with this tactic is to use the jester’s inappropriate flippancy as a way to frame him as unimportant and lacking in credibility.

If you are bold, you should consider insulting the jester before he can invariably self-deprecate. Jesters are prone to self-deprecating as a means of pre-emptively blocking you from hitting their vulnerabilities. If all else fails, seek to intimidate the jester until he loses his blase frame and becomes fearful. You can achieve this by bombarding them with insult upon insult delivered in an animated and aggressive manner. The objective here is to make the jester uncomfortable, for if they are uncomfortable, they can be dominated.

This is easier said than done as the jester has supreme social confidence and possesses a certain “anti-social anxiety” about them, however, and this is the key to circumventing this supreme social confidence, they are usually ill-equipped to physically defend themselves. Having wielded wit and words as weapons all their lives, they have not learned to fight, and are not confident in their ability to do so. The jester will almost always try to keep the conflict mental rather than physical because of this, and will quickly lose frame if they believe they cannot prevent the conflict from escalating to fisticuffs.

If the jester believes there is a credible threat of violence, their frame will fall like the Berlin wall. They may not fear psychological violence, but they have dedicated themselves to it so much so that they have become wholly incompetent in violence that is physical. Of course, one need not actually escalate things to physical violence, they only need cause the jester to believe that physical violence is imminent. When the jester loses frame and their fear becomes evident, you may poetically question why they appear scared. For of course you were only joking in much the way they do, and you thought them to be an individual of sophisticated humour, their newfound timidity serving as no more than a testament to your strong disappointment in them.

As stated at the beginning of this passage, conquering a jester requires a ridiculous amount of energy. It is thus preferable to avoid conflict if possible, but should it not be, then the tips and tactics presented here are your blueprint for fighting an undesirable war. Effectively, you will play the game as the jester plays, only with greater intensity and more pointed technique. This is a game of energy, and you will need lots of it to win.

4.) In Closing / Relevant Reading:

Never trust the court jester, for he is the least trustworthy funny man. He wields humour as a weapon of self-aggrandisement, and as a ruthless self-promoter he is eager to boost his profile at the expense of others. There is no comedy too cold nor too ruthless for him, for the fires of chaos gleam brightly in his anarchistic eyes in their lust for the next conflict. He needs conflict so that he may humiliate, he must humiliate to feel powerful, such is his nature, unchangeable, irredeemable.

Extremity is typical and expected of the jester, the norms of social conduct imposed on the majority do not apply to him, which in turn frees him to act with further impropriety simply because scandalousness has come to be expected.

Jesters love bringing down sensible authority figures (the very antithesis of what they are) because they know that should such a person dignify their provocations their credibility will go up whilst the sensible target’s will go down. The sensible cannot fight the jester with his own weaponry, for in doing so they lose power by appearing uncontrolled to their fans. The jester on the other hand is free to continue in such an outrageous and belligerent manner, for indecency is his reputational essence, in turn giving him an unfair advantage over those who do not possess the same antifragile reputational foundation.

There is an insidiousness to the humour symbolic of the jester, for he concurrently amuses and destroys in a display of the most theatrical and perverse sadomasochism, bringing greater and greater pleasure to his audience as he proceeds to strip layer upon layer of dignity from the unfortunate soul he has designated ripe for ridicule.

And because humour is entertaining irrespective of the person paying its expense, it always retains the favour and endorsement of the crowd in the absence of appropriateness or moral integrity. The naive presume humour is innocent and incorruptible due to its superficial nonthreatening pleasantry, “a bit of fun never hurt anybody” they say, au contraire, it has and it can.


The Book of the Courtier