Is Online Satire Too Confusing for the Average Juan?

I’ve been a fan of satire for as long as I can remember.

As a kid, I subscribed to Mad Magazine for a glorious two whole years, perhaps permanently warping my sense of humor. I dug humor as defined by the cohorts of Bill Gaines: Don Martin, Al Jaffee, Sergio Aragones, Larry Siegel, Mort Drucker, Dick de Bartolo, and even the mysterious Cuban emigre, Prohias, who did Spy vs. Spy.

I also grew up with satirical TV news shows: Not Necessarily the News, SNL’s Weekend Update (from Dennis Miller to Seth Myers), and of course today’s The Daily Show, which gave us Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert (and unfortunately, Steve Carrell).

Locally, I dig Lourd De Veyra’s “Word of the Lourd” segments for their biting take on contemporary Filipino life, with commentary delivered by De Veyra in an utterly straight face. I don’t watch much TV anymore, but I catch the segments on YouTube, always guaranteed to give you major ROTFLS and LOLS.

For online humor, I prefer The Onion to Funny Or Die, mainly because of the “fake news” aspect of it all.

I love satire and its absurdity. It makes the complexity of modern life bearable by exposing the ridiculousness that lies beneath the surface. Unfortunately, I also realize it is something of an acquired taste.

Two current Internet rumors are the direct result of blogs that satirize the news, in some attempt to match The Onion. Coincidentally, both of them are hosted on WordPress.com.

The most obvious satirical news site carries the monicker of SoWhatNews (i.e. SWN) on sowhatsnews.wordpress.com. SWN recently published a post satirizing the proposed anti-planking law by claiming that an Anti-Angry Birds law was in the works.

The story, “After Anti-Planking, Lawmaker Proposes Anti-Angry Birds Bill, has been endlessly retweeted. And in a twist of the old saying, if you retweet anything often enough, people tend to believe it as the gospel truth.

MANILA, Philippines – Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo did not rest on his laurels. After proposing House Bill 5316 or the anti-planking bill, the lawmaker is proposing House Bill 5379 or the anti-angry birds bill.

The distinguished gentleman from Quezon City explained that he got the idea for the bill when he went shopping for Christmas gifts the other day at a mall. “Everywhere I looked, Angry Birds this, Angry Birds that! Where is the product diversity? Shouldn’t the DTI be monitoring this?” said Castelo. He added “…this is why this bill is even more important than my own anti-planking bill. I hope that my colleagues here at Batasan will support this bill.”

Rep. Castelo denied allegations that his proposal is similar to House Bill 4509 or anti-dildo bill, filed last May by Buhay partylist. “It’s a different kind of bird, very different from mine!”

Frankly I think it’s really funny. But for some reason the average online Juan can’t fathom satire. Because the story plays it straight, without smileys or LOLs that would have identified the punchlines, it is being accepted as real news.

A search for “Anti Angry Birds Law” on Twitter will bring up all sorts of protests and epithets hurled at Philippine law makers for even thinking of such a thing.

@rex_ezra: lawmakers are stupid..!!why make a law against angry birds..!!help the country instead.!!it’s useless damn..!!!

@IvaanEvangelsta: So an anti-angry birds law is being passed.. Uhm, hello?!! Not everyone in the country owns an apple or android product for you to ban it.

@me_ellesse: Anti-Angry Birds Bill? Rep. Winnie Castelo #youneedtoshutup #lol ~bebs! after ng anti-planking law, Inembento nmn yan?? gosh

And then there’s the story about the supposed lawsuit that the DPWH is filing against Adobe Software in retaliation for the highly embarrassing DPWH Photoshop Meme that has shown no sign of abating.

In a post on a strange little WordPress blog called La Solidaridad Post (lasolidaridadpost.wordpress.com, the sole article on the site shouts “DPWH sues Adobe Inc. for Photoshop disaster.”

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has filed a case against Adobe Incorporated, claiming that its defective software product was the reason the digitally-altered image of three DPWH officials obviously looked fake.

DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said in an interview that after an investigation consisting of top DPWH officials, they have successfully pinpointed out that the software used by the photographer was the culprit in why the photo, now dubbed as the “DPWHere” looked fake.

“We cannot let (Adobe Inc) get away with selling defective products” Rogelio said in an interview. “We gave them good money, and we expect their products to deliver what they advertise”.

The DPWH secretary also said that filing a case was the only way to restore the lost pride of the agency.

“Make no mistake, this is not a public relations stint. This is about restoring the honor of the DPWH” he said. “Before (Typhoon)Pedring, we were one of the most trusted agencies in government. Now we have been reduced to an internet meme”.

Ok, “public relations stint” (sic) huh? This is the only source you are ever going to find about a landbreaking case of a Philippine government body suing an American software company! Adobe Systems Incorporated has been reduced to a mere “Adobe Inc.” All this on a WordPress blog with exactly one entry.

The resulting tweets have just piled it on further on the already beleaguered department. It’s obviously a joke, eh?

@chokoreitodisco: WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE PHILIPPINES? OUR GOVERNMENT’S GONE INSANE. :))))

@whypat: Photoshopping yourselves shouldn’t even have been done in the first place. Law suit against Adobe? Just BRILLIANT, DPWH.

@littlemissval: DPWH sues Adobe for “photoshop” disaster. #WTF. Why are our public officials so fucking retarded?!?

Someday I will wake up in a society that understands how people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert earn their living, and knows that Dr. Strangelove was not a medical thriller by Stanley Kubrick from the 60s. But that day is not yet here.

Or maybe if we turn off Twitter for a few days, sanity will eventually prevail.

———————

Update: Ryan Parenno over at Google+ just reminded me that columnist Carmen Pedrosa once famously fell for a satirical piece in the Mosquito Press about a fake Harvard study  ironically called “Why Filipinos Are So Gullible:  Here is Spot.PH’s report on that outing.  

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16 thoughts on “Is Online Satire Too Confusing for the Average Juan?

  1. Great post.

    Also in the lasolaridadpost satire: “pinpointed out” (sic). For some, the errors distract from the humor, but it’s still funny that so many would believe it and react so vehemently =)

  2. Ah, technology. The double bladed-sword. Helpful if one knows how to wield it, dangerous to those (and those around them) who don’t.

    TxtSpk, anyone?

  3. Well-written Jim – echoes my exact sentiments. I’ve been posting cryptic “patama” messages on FB and Twitter all week out of frustration.

  4. f you were reading a MAD magazine or watching the Daily Show or saturday night live or if it was april first, you KNEW it was a joke… but this is the freaking internet… a heads up is appreciated.. this is why everyone has to say “honestly” everytime… which is stupid… honestly..

  5. But Filipino politicians make such imbecilic stands that it is difficult to distinguish what is real and what is satire.

    1. Agree with Fay. First of all, who could’ve thought the ANTI-PLANKING law was real? Then it was. Then who would think that a govt office would photoshop themselves on a disaster-stricken scene?

      But it was also real. How can you fault people for thinking all the satire is real when it oftentimes is.

  6. The Onion works because everyone already knows what the site is about. But if some website or blog just came out of the blue to ridicule others, then it can be libel.

    Filipinos *get* satire. We are experts in sarcasm. Its practically in our culture. Aspiring satirists should just be more responsible and careful.

    1. The entire site (So What News) *is* an aspiring satire site (see http://sowhatsnews.wordpress.com/) – the trouble is people who were forwarded the URL never bothered to look up at the masthead or explore the site to see other satirical articles posted. Or even the obvious clues about the “anti-dildo bill”. That should have been disclaimer enough.

      Satire pops up in social media and people accept it unquestioningly. Having to explain a joke to someone “now this is *why* it’s funny” takes all the fun out of it – but now it looks like a more explicit disclaimer is needed. So back to my theory about why this absurd ironic “Onion-type” humor doesn’t translate well over here.

  7. Unfortunately, most people believe all the things that they read on the internet. They easily believe, react vehemently and quickly repost things without even analyzing if it is a satiric article. One day it’s not surprising if they will rely their safety by believing a satiric weather report from a blogsite and would run out of their house and telling all their neighbors that it will rain sharks, crocodiles and piranhas.

    There is too much data and unfortunately most people take time to repost chain messages, overused jokes from text messages, bogus medical information & scams without even analyzing or doing a quick search to verify the validity of the data. They always have time to react violently and repost but they are too lazy to analyze if data is real or not.

    With the current events (the filing of anti-planking bill, dpwh photoshop fiasco), you cannot avoid people to actually believe satiric articles. But still, it’s not an excuse for people to repost and convince everyone that a satiric article is real because they failed to verify the validity of the article.

  8. Satire is literature’s way of applying Darwinism to evolve humans into a higher politico-intellectual, emotional and artistic animal. In tagalog “huwag tatanga-tanga…”

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