The Dangers of Satire

Posted on 20th November 2008 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior

In his essay A Modest Proposal Jonathan Swift suggests that the Irish could pull themselves out of poverty by selling their babies off to British dinner plates:

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.

This was satire. Swift was using this extreme example to make a point about the way the English perceived the Irish. The problem was that many people didn’t get the joke, and mistakenly took Swift’s essay at face value (some even agreeing with it).

A few years ago, I forwarded this article from the Jonathan Swift blog (not the same guy, a pen name) to a number of friends, where the blogger playing Swift appears to side with Rush Limbaugh in the idea that the handicapped lord over us. I received several responses condemning the essay and chastising me for finding it clever. I had to send a follow-up e-mail explaining satire and how this modern Swift was not actually agreeing with Limbaugh.

I’ve run a lot of satire on this blog in the past, and it’s bitten me in the keezer with several readers both pro and con. One of my most popular posts, More Global Cooling Evidence Embarrasses the IPCC Orthodoxy, gets cited in numerous Dittohead comment threads in support of global-warming denial!!! This despite the fact that I argue for the legitimacy of a commercial for the “Pussy Patch” as genuine science.

In fact, my article Sun Spot Cycle Prompts Fears of Global Cooling has found it’s way into articles like this one as well as numerous comment threads as well, despite the evidence being presented in the article dramatically contradicting my parody of dittohead talking points. I even got a couple of responses from Global Warming proponents:

there is no such thing as conservative science so i stopped reading at that point….but skimmed to the bottom and saw the word vegisexual and tree hugging and gay in the same sentence and realized you need help figuring out where the sun goes at night

I have to confess though… I get a perverse thrill from these misunderstandings. : )


Note:

The Jonswift blog is still going great and pumping out awesome posts to this day. Highly recommended.

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