How to Understand Satire
There’s been a great deal of confusion lately around what is true or false in the news. This puts satire in the awkward position of being deliberately false (and also truly funny). People have begun confusing satire for reality for a number of reasons:
- They only read headlines
- They share news without bothering to read it first
- They were scrolling too fast on Facebook
- The actual news is crazy enough to be confused with satire
- They’ve never heard of the Onion
- They’re not very bright
There’s even a website called Literally Unbelievable that’s dedicated solely to mocking people’s mistaken overreactions and confusion toward satirical articles. Luckily enough for you, I’ve created this simple guide for how to recognize and deal with satire.
A Brief (And Untrue) History of Satire
Satire was invented by Dave Barry in 1963 when he started writing for the Miami Herald Newspaper. Barry was supposed to be on the crime beat, but was so hilariously bad at his job that the editors pretended that his articles were supposed to be in a humor column.
Since then, satire has been used to mock or ridicule by a number of great writers, such as Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift, Edgar Allen Poe and Eleanor Roosevelt. Satire has been occasionally banned in a number of countries, including Egypt, and Canada.
Most recently, Stephen Colbert used a satirical characterisation of himself on the Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report. Colbert pretended to be a conservative television host as a tongue-in-cheek way to ridicule conservative television hosts. In real life, Colbert is a 67-year-old female who lives in Queens with six cats.
How do distinguish between something that is satire and something that is sincere? What’s the difference between parody and purity? Separating lampoon from legitimate can be a tricky skill to master, but here are a few helpful tips:
- Check to see if the word satire is mentioned anywhere on the page
- Paste the link into the helpful Real or Satire tool
- Check to see if the article is on something called The Onion
- Has the main story image been obviously Photoshopped?
- Does the same story appear anywhere on any other news sites?
- Was it written by Andy Borowitz?
- Does the headline seem to be “too good to be true” or “logically implausible”?
- Have you forgotten to take your medication again today?
Go over each of these steps (perhaps a few times, slowly) in order to detect any possible satire. If you’ve determined that you are indeed consuming satire, proceed directly to the next section of this article to figure out what to do next. If you’re still not sure whether you’re reading satire, perhaps you should go take a nap.
How to Handle Satire
Congratulations—you’ve properly identified satire! You may be feeling a rush of different emotions—joy, confusion, hunger. That’s perfectly natural. Here are a few potential next steps for how to deal with the satire you’ve encountered.
- Read the article carefully, pointing out the parts that are humorous
- Share the article with your friends on social media, making sure to alert them to the satire
- Print out the article and place it under your pillow to get money from the tooth fairy
- Carefully try to locate another piece of satire on the internet
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed, back away from the satire slowly and take deep breaths
- Donate large sums of money to a charity of your choice
Those are just a few of your best options when it comes to navigating the rough waters of satirical news. After a little practice, you’ll be able to view and share satire without being told how to do it by a so-called expert.
Examples of Satire
If you think you’re ready to handle more satire, feel free to browse some of these well-known satirical website for more joy and laughter. Below are some examples of widely recognized sources of satirical news and information.
In a world filled with fake news and conspiracy theories, we need humor and satire more than ever. In the words of respected philosopher Jimmy Buffet, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”
Do you feel prepared to handle a world filled with fake news? Do you think that satire is a threat to our existence?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert is one of our regular contributors. He is a communications professional and freelance writer. After serving as communications director at two Atlanta churches, he now works in marketing for Make-A-Wish Georgia. Carnes also volunteers as the social media lead at Vinings Church and contributes to a number of church communications blogs.