It’s sheer intellectual laziness, in my opinion - this tendency to believe that only your brand of satire is the real deal. Maybe it’s just a narrow view of the world; maybe it’s ignorance; maybe it’s downright solipsism. It’s getting tired.
Columbia Journalism Review published an article last week entitled, “How fake news sites frequently trick big-time journalists” in which Jack Murtha criticized newsrooms that were fooled into parroting satire news stories for their lax journalism standards.
Murtha makes several good points, including his jab at news orgs that cut a few corners to get the story first and, in doing so, fail to get it right.
Where he falls short is in his stunted sense of what satire is. Maybe that's a tangential point in his article, but it's one of my pet peeves.
“For what felt like the millionth time, fake news sites—the kind that say they’re satirical but are nothing like The Onion—had duped journalists into buying a bogus story,” Murtha writes.
The Onion is a fine publication and it’s been doing what it does for years. I have nothing against The Onion, but it’s not the world’s standard for satire. It’s topical, humorous, and occasionally satirical but The Onion is more lampoon and parody than satire. It rarely makes a thoughtful point or starts a discussion - which is really what satire is meant to do.
Satire ridicules ignorance and foolishness – especially in government and society; it points out fault in ideology, logic, and policy.
And by the way, enjoy them as I do – or did – neither Jon Stewart nor The Daily Show are the be-all-end-all of satire, either.
Satire shows many faces, some humorous, others not so much. It is an art form that has existed for thousands of years and only recently been marginalized by short attention spans and the meme generation. Murtha is by no means alone in his notions.
Read Gulliver’s Travels or Animal Farm. They’re both wonderful examples of wicked, biting satire, neither written by the staff of The Onion. In fact, I encourage you to read 1984 - George Orwell was a brilliant satirist.
Murtha is spot-on with his critique of cut-and-paste journalists, laying blame squarely at their feet and the feet of their editors and publishers. The article’s main point is well-taken.
I just think he would have been safer without the misguided “Onion litmus test.” At least that's how I see it.