Lies and propaganda aren’t “fake” news. This is:
ELWOOD, ILLINOIS – The Illinois chapter of the Nazi Party announced this week that they are officially endorsing billionaire professional bankruptcy artist and reality-TV star Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. “We just fell in love with Donald the minute he retweeted that murder rate statistic,” Grant Ryan told reporters at a press conference outside the Illinois Nazi Party’s headquarters, adding, “talk about having balls!
And so’s this:
GLEN OAKS, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Speaking to a large crowd at Fast Fish, a local fried seafood eatery beloved by the citizens of Glen Oaks, New Hampshire, billionaire Donald J. Trump said that if he were president, he’d push to have the Second Amendment revised so it does not apply to people who call Islam their religion.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Presumptive Republican presidential nominee, D-List reality-TV star, alleged billionaire, and bankruptcy court veteran Donald J. Trump will be opening a law school under his Trump University banner, and no Muslims or Mexicans will be admitted, according to leaked documents.
I wrote all of those stories. I am a satirist, though thanks to the inimitable and truly amazing Paul Provenza — and his book “Satiristas!” — I prefer that term instead.
As someone who makes his bones writing satirical “fake” news stories, all this discussion of “fake news” is hilarious and alarming to me. I’ve written articles that went so viral some poor schmucks at Snopes had to fact-check them. My work can be found fairly regularly on The Huffington Post. So, I feel like I’m a pretty well-qualified person to speak about “fake news” because I openly peddle it every chance I get. But what disturbs me is that big list of fake news sites that’s growing includes sites like The Onion and a couple of outlets I actually syndicate my work on, and we Satiristas are getting lumped in with pure propagandists.
That needs to stop. Now.
Satire is a beautiful art form. Yes, it relies heavily on verbal chicanery and the hope that at least some people will believe it at first, at least enough to read past the headline. But if you read a satirical piece, a truly satirical work of fiction, and come away believing it’s propaganda, chances are you just simply don’t like the point the piece is making. Because there is a world of difference between spreading false information about Trump winning the popular vote and sharing a story about Trump being endorsed by the Illinois Nazi Party.
I used to think that Americans were smart enough to divine the difference, but the more I’m lumped in with actual purveyors of lies like Dinesh D’Souza and Laura Ingraham, the more I realize how fucking naive I was about that. So let me just do you all a favor, while I do a major disservice to the noble medium of satire, and explain very simply what the differences between lies and satire are.
Satire can be, but is certainly not limited to false or misleading information written for the purpose of expressing a feeling or thought that otherwise might not be as easily accepted. Simply put, it’s a message wrapped in snark, sarcasm, or humorous fiction. A lot of times I take a real news story and either embellish it, or flip the characters’ ideological viewpoints on their heads so the hypocrisy of the moment is best exposed. I have not written a single piece of “fake news” that was done so with the intent of spreading my fiction as truth, and that right there is the most blatant and obvious line of demarcation between satire and propaganda — intent.
If you want to Make America Even Dumber (again) you’ll all continue your nonsensical crusade against “fake news” instead of attacking propaganda and lies. I’m a comedian. I may be a very biased comedian, and I make no bones about that, but I’m not a propagandist. I don’t create my false headlines and satirical, most often completely farcical situations in order to truly convince someone that Pat Robertson really is unsure whether he can blame a flood on the gays anymore or not. I’m not actually trying to convince people that Hollywood has green lit a reboot of “The Jerk” starring Trump and renamed “The Asshole.”
What I am doing is giving readers what I believe to be the truth about a situation while couching it in satire. It’s really that simple. I’m a clown, not a crusader. I have and will continue to write pieces that skewer the left as much as the right. Like, say, for example, this one. I wrote it a few months ago, and it kind of seems prescient now.
HORIZON, NEW HAMPSHIRE – The 2016 Democratic primary race is heating up. This week, one poll in New Hampshire found Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) taking a commanding 30 point lead over presumed front runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But people like D’Souza, Ingraham, Alex Jones, and Allen West really are pushing falsehoods as fact. They really are trying to convince people every single day that their outright bullshit isn’t complete fiction or intentionally distorted news. They do it to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. These are the people that should be castigated. These are the so-called professionals that should be called on the carpet for lying to the American people day in and day out, not those of us who craft silly and stupid news articles as a way to cope with the fact that we are clearly living in truly satirical times.
Maybe that’s the problem, at the end of the day — that so many politicians, especially right-wingers, have become caricatures of themselves.
Perhaps people are freaked out by “fake news” so much because it’s getting harder to tell the difference between something I write, like say this:
RATCHET COUNTY, ARKANSAS – In every presidential election, candidates seek out endorsements from influential people and organizations in an effort to sway their party’s base to their side. The theory is that the more endorsements from people that voters identify with, the more they’ll be convinced of the candidate’s own bonafides.
Among the small number of American newspapers that have embraced Donald Trump’s campaign, there is one, in particular, that stands out. It is called the Crusader – and it is one of the most prominent newspapers of the Ku Klux Klan.
Check the dates on the articles. I wrote my fake one well before the Washington Post piece was published. This is why I keep telling people we’re truly living in satirical times. I’ve gone from satirist to soothsayer far more than I’m comfortable with.
But just because I happen to be practicing an art form that seems to have been recently imbued with fortune-telling properties, that isn’t my fault. Nor is it a reason for Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform to further censor me. Instead of throttling my reach, or inanely labeling my stuff as “fake news” and therefore ruining the surprise element of my chosen craft, they should be cracking down on and calling out the sources of bullshit on both sides of the aisle that are actual propagandists and bullshit mongers.
Satire has had a longstanding place at the table in political discourse. It’s one of the only true weapons the people have to use against those in power. It allows us to hack away at their ankles and topple them, exposing them as the naked and nakedly stupid emperors they truly are. It’s done for comedic effect, not for the purposes of propagandizing. You don’t have to agree with me, or even think I’m funny.
Just don’t put me in the same boat as Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. Unless that boat is going over Niagara Falls. Now that’s a sacrifice worth making, if you ask me.
Follow James on Twitter @JamboSchlarmbo.