It’s my birthday! Yey! So, I thought I’d write about something near and dear to my heart: Satire.
So let’s get to the party!
Isaac Marion, author of WARM BODIES, posted this Tweet about a month ago. (There’s actually a series. Check ’em out if you’re interested).
For the rest of the article, I want you, my fellow reader, to consider this question I’ve been asking myself for years, now–
How do we create satire when we’re living it?
When the events of real life are more surreal, ridiculous, frighteningly hilarious, to the point that the same events realistically portrayed in fiction would be slapstick, how do we pick up the pen to create humor?
I mean, for the most part, if we want to laugh ourselves into a sobbing mass of tears, all we have to do is turn on a camera and hit record.
Here’s the key to Isaac Marion’s Tweet. It’s not real. He made it up.
…Here’s where you pause to realign your reality with your preconceived notions…
I find the Tweet hilarious.
I also hear Trump’s voice echoing my head about, “Fake News.” And yes, I understand Isaac Marion is not a news organization or source. And I very much understand this is parody. I have no problems with it.
My only real concern, and it is one of inquiry and curiosity, is that most people can’t tell the difference. Or maybe they just don’t care to.
Remember that question, I asked earlier? How do we create satire when we’re living it?
It’s genuinely rhetorical. I don’t know. I’m asking because it’s a puzzle I’ve been unable to solve.
While you’re chewing on that thought tidbit–Here’s a CNN news story. All about Trump’s hair.
Let that sink in for a minute…
–We’re a nation actively involved in bombing no fewer than 7 sovereign nations.
–Our news media is calling President Trump a fascist.
–Trump says they print “Fake News.”
–He claims the news media borders on libel and slander and wishes there was more accountability for gross inaccuracy.
–The news media says Trump is trying to stifle freedom of the press.
Meanwhile, here’s a CNN news report on Trump’s hair.
Is reality the new satire?
I mean seriously, I think my wit and humor is pretty on point. Yet, I feel like I’m not in on the joke. Are we all getting massively trolled?
If so… Wow, guys. Good job.
(P.S. Posting the video twice wasn’t a mistake. It’s an example of what our news feeds tend to look like).
I can picture the response from the editors at The Onion after watching this video. “GD it! CNN aired their version of our Trump’s hair news spectacular. Guess, we gotta pull that bit.”
Again, let that sink in. Our news media is producing higher level satire by accident than sites actually dedicated to producing such material.
A lot of people forget, but the first year or so of Trump’s campaign featured our mainstream news media mocking his hair. That was the bulk of coverage on Trump. It was less about politics and more pointing a finger in a communal, “Haha, look at this clown. He thinks he can be president.”
And as funny as I did or did not find these reports, it doesn’t matter. Because none of it is news.
So, part of me thinks Trump has a point when he talks about Fake News. And about there being no consequences for, what is quite frankly, piss poor journalism. (That is, if you’re so bold as to call factless speculation and fluff pieces “journalism”–which it seems 99% of mainstream news media is perfectly happy doing).
TRUMP REMOVES MLK’S BUST FROM THE WHITE HOUSE!
“Oh, my bad. A cameraman was just standing in front of it.”
I think it says a lot about the state of modern journalism, when the amount of fact checking needed to check facts amounts to, uh… all you had to do was take one step to your right.
What are we, the public supposed to believe? For a mainstream news media source to publish a story that was so inherently false and flawed in concept that it could have been disproved if the journalist had simply taken a step to his left or right, can we ever take anything the news media says as truth?
I’m not trying to be hyperbolic. I’m sincerely curious. I hesitate to bring ‘journalistic integrity’ into question because this is so far below anything I’d consider rising to the merits of having to have some ethical debate. This is just simple common sense. Basic simple stuff that you need to be able to do to fulfill your job. And our news media acts like it is a janitor that simply forgot to take out the trash one night, when the reality is, he seems to have forgotten how to operate a broom entirely.
The story above was fact checked by one guy calling another guy in the oval office about the bust and getting the response, “Nah, it’s still here,” AFTER the story was reported.
That’s not bad journalism. That’s comedy.
Which brings us to another issue. A separate, weird issue.
Intentionally Fake News sites. Hrm, maybe I should clarify that. I don’t mean intentionally deceptive Fake News. I mean, SATIRE… it’s a slippery slope, mainly because parody is protected by law. The fictitious citing of false information in given circumstances is the whole point of parody. It’s also the basis of libel and slander laws.
(ASIDE: I would like to point out that there are a glut of Onion clones that are utter crap. They’re trying to do what The Onion does, failing miserably, and for the most part committing slander and libel, not realizing that there’s a vast amount of skill that goes behind what makes The Onion ride that line between making a point and salacious assault. I don’t want to discuss that here, as this topic is big enough for about a dozen articles. Let’s just look at the pinnacle of satire news, the ideal, The Onion, because I am not arguing that these sites shouldn’t exist (although the cheap knocks-offs can certainly piss off), rather I am pointing out the difficulty for these satire news sites to come up with poignant witty satire, especially when reality is doing the job for them).
I think The Onion is great. It’s hilarious and takes jabs at modern life and politics, much like a jester does the king.
But this is exactly where our mainstream news media gets into serious trouble. They aren’t jesters. Their role is not entertainment.
However, in order to not libel or slander, but to be able to print sensationalist speculative crap, they have to ride this line of parody. To make half statements and issue speculation over fact. “Might be” and “May have” have become staples of modern journalistic language. The practices aren’t rooted in journalism. They’re principles rooted in tabloids.
When you ride this line, you fork over credibility.
And that’s the backlash the news media is seeing. It has nothing to do with Trump. It literally could have been anybody. Even Obama was starting to point out these problems. He never took them head on because he cared about his public image. It’s pretty clear Trump doesn’t. And that’s really the only reason the news media is having problems with him. Because he’s pointing out their song and dance.
And people are tired of it.
They’re tired of news organizations reporting editorial opinion as fact.
So let’s talk about Isaac Marion…
I mean, once you’re in on the joke, once you know he crafted the Tweet, it has a decidedly different tone.
The focus isn’t really about Trump. The Tweet is a self aware, self deprecating joke about a writer who is called out by the President of the United States for being particularly bad. He’s externalizing a writer’s biggest fear, being caught as a fraud. Even his response comes off as a half hearted shrug. “But I tried. Ho hum.”
(There’s also a bit of meta humor that the denouncement of his writing ability is so poorly written itself–and that it is simply parroting the speech patterns of our current Commander-in-Chief… Yeah, that question again… is reality the new satire? There’s a certain level of inspired genius here).
What elevates the Tweet from being the cliche downer-poor-me is it has a hell of a punchline. It’s timely, funny, and poignant.
A well crafted joke about being a bad writer. That’s all the Tweet was.
Was it in poor taste?
I don’t know. Maybe. But most satire is. Parody is always going to be heavily criticized by who it is portraying because the whole point of parody is to criticize what you’re portraying (the parody paradox :p). Most jokes are effective because they’re reflecting the truth back at us in a humorous manner.
For me, the only problem is that it is not readily apparent that the Tweet is satire. (And honestly, it would lose its punch if we knew ahead of time that it was). And that’s really the difficulty with parody and satire.
If you don’t find Dr. Strangelove funny, it’s one of the shittiest war movies ever made. You have to understand that it is satire to find enjoyment. If you’re looking for a war film, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.
I think that’s what has happened with Marion’s Tweet. People who wanted it to be true, to point fingers and ridicule Trump, are disappointed when they find out it’s a joke. And those that get the joke, see too much reality in it to laugh.
Then there’s sick bastards like me, who find it both hilarious, and want to go cry myself to sleep at the state of the world.
Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
P.S. If you haven’t read WARM BODIES you should check it out. It’s a breezy, heart filled romp through a zombie apocalypse. Parts of it reminded me of DEAD LIKE ME (a show I love). There’s a sort of quiet detachment the protagonist has from his world. And the novel is basically an exploration of this. (Anyway, there’s probably better reviews out there, as zombies and YA isn’t exactly my thing. But I did enjoy the book).
I went and bought his followup, THE BURNING WORLD. If it wasn’t for the Tweet, I likely would not have. So, mission accomplished.