I do love you all so much, but no, we will not quit running satire on our pages, and no, it is not fake news. So please allow me a few moments to explain this to you as best I can.

First, allow me to explain the difference, because there is a HUGE one.

Merriam-Webster defines “satire” as:

  1.   a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn

  2.   trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly (MW)

Satire is not fake news.

Fake news is completely made up, manipulated to resemble credible journalism and attract maximum attention and, with it, advertising revenue. Hosted on websites that often followed design conventions of online news media, with anodyne titles such as “Civic Tribune” and “Life Event Web” to give the semblance of legitimacy, the stories are geared to travel on social media. (The Guardian)

Just because you do not agree with someone, or it does not follow conventional biases, also does not mean something is “fake”. It could be an opinion piece, designed to answer a question or discuss a current subject and give the author’s point of view on a subject. Flagging every piece of content with which you disagree as “fake” is just as bad as not doing anything at all. An overreaction to fake news is equivalent to an under-reaction to fake news.

Satire is “a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc.” It is a form of “humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.” It is also intended to surprise the reader. This is why most websites do not label satire with a huge red SATIRE warning label all over the article. Instead, you might see one small denotation acknowledging the work is comedic like on the Borowitz Report, “SATIRE FROM THE BOROWITZ REPORT“, at the very top, or in our case two or three “humor/satire” labels under “category”. Another large site that runs satire, The Huffington Post, generally only includes “satire” labels at the very bottom, once and in small letters. It is up to the publication, but one thing they have in common is their unwillingness to go overboard in labeling. At the top of every article we publish, there is a listed category like “Commentary” or “Humor/Satire” and it isn’t too hard for someone to see it, especially if they read the story, instead of just the headline.

This is not something on which we are planning to compromise. Reading the news requires a basic level of intelligence and discernment on the part of the reader. Satire is intended to be fun and amusing, and the vast majority of its consumers find it to be exactly that. To ruin it for most in order to appease a few, who do not have issue themselves but instead are merely concerned that a few nebulous others might, is nonsensical. Then add to that this final piece: “But 23 percent admitted to sharing fake news, and 14 percent said they shared a story they knew was fake.” (538) There is nothing anyone can do to prevent a subset of people from intentionally sharing fake news, for whatever reason, and however you define it.

Politics makes up the majority of our news and our social media feeds today. We do not laugh enough; we are not entertained enough. Let’s not take away from ourselves the small rays of sunshine that manage to peek through. And for crying out loud, please read beyond a headline before pitching a hissy fit.



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