Satire, or Some Gun Control, Please!


I’m largely away from the internet this week, and I’m running a series of guest posts to introduce you to other bloggers and give some people without a blog home some space to be heard. Ariel has only recently started commenting but has provided an interesting perspective.

From Wikipedia: satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.

Flag gun with "Satire!" on the flag.Let me add: satire can be a formidable weapon, effective in achieving its aims, but also deadly.

When I was young, we were using it constantly. The communist regime in my country, although economically bankrupt, was still in power. On official TV (there was no other one, and no internet, mind you) the serious-looking party leaders threw thunderbolts against the “imperialist West”, while promising us a brilliant socialist future … after solving some temporary problems of course, “blown out of proportions by counterrevolutionary propaganda”. Apart from the Catholic Church, there were no officially recognized forces or organizations to counteract this dreadful tide.

There was, however, an unofficial weapon: informal everyday joking and laughter, not exactly satire as a genre of literature, not an art perhaps, but to a large degree playing a similar social role. It permitted us to see the regime as not only economically, but also morally bankrupt. It helped us to view the communists not just as dangerous oppressors (which they were, to be sure), but at the same time as ridiculous figures, as parrots whose official mumbo-jumbo was not worth taking seriously. It promoted change. It gave us fresh air, so much needed and desired!

Not only ideas were ridiculed. No, we laughed at people as well. In many jokes the party dignitaries were mentioned by names. In effect the concrete persons were made looking grotesque, inadequate and silly. Yeah, I guess it could hurt them a lot. But it brought also a lot of relief to us, who had to watch and hear these very people without being able to do anything to oppose them. (For balance I should add perhaps that we laughed at ourselves as well. One of my favorite examples from this category is: “Q. Why does the cat have four legs? A. To be able to reach the garbage heap quicker than you, asshole!”)

My aim in the above remarks was to give you an idea of where I come from. In short: my background predisposes me to see humor and satire as old friends. I have an instinctive sympathy for satire and laughter. I’m not in principle opposed to satirizing real people. And let me stress that this goes beyond politics and public affairs. Imagine a kid who feels deeply in his soul that he has been mistreated by a stern teacher. Imagine (not a far stretch of imagination, I hope) that the kid is not the teacher’s intellectual equal and he is unable to produce good, convincing arguments favoring his position. So … with the tongue stuck out, he spends a lot of time meticulously drawing a caricature of the teacher on a school desk. My instincts tell me to defend the kid, to rush with arguments supporting him. Hell, it’s not only politicians and public figures that can be satirized! I have a lot of sympathy and understanding for this schoolboy. Too many times the kid was me.

This said, the time has come for “yes, but”, dear Greta Christina, hasn’t it? Er … right. What I’m going to say below is not intended as prescriptivism. It’s probably too personal for that, too deeply rooted in my background. Perhaps it disqualifies me also for the role of a real activist, which – by the way – is nothing to be proud of, because activism is needed (and I mean it). Anyway, here it goes.

Satire can be a deadly weapon. It’s not just that the satirized person will not like it (obviously she will not). The point is rather that it may bring a lot of humiliation, confusion, pain and demeaning of the person’s very identity. I’ve already said that in principle I’m not against satirizing concrete people. I’m also not convinced that satire should be restricted to high profile public figures (sometimes we use it successfully in more restricted contexts and I can see no reason to reject such applications). But there is a price to be paid, and only too often I’m not ready to pay it.

Consider a politician, a priest, a blogger, a teacher (make your choice) who in your opinion deserves some ridicule. Let the scales be put in your favor: assume that your satire (directed explicitly against the person in question) is valid, i.e. it indicates and ridicules real, not imaginary vices or follies. It stresses for example the priest’s hypocrisy, the politician’s dishonesty, or the blogger’s authoritarian style (in the last case please find concrete examples for yourself). So you make your LOLs, you propagate the satires, and holy shit, it works! The person is question becomes confused, nervous, she starts making mistakes, plunges deeper and deeper while doubling down or trying to escape, suffers, reveals herself as a weak link in a chain, all of this so funny and so deserving another satire … right?

What I want to say is that if you answer “yeah, right!” to the last question, you lost me and I’m not with you any longer, all my sympathy to satire notwithstanding. Or better put: you would need a very strong argument not to lose me. At this stage a mere indication of some “vices or follies”- even a valid one – is not enough; you need far more to justify the person’s continuing humiliation and degradation. That’s at least how I see it. Without such strong arguments, I would opt for taking this person off the hook; otherwise I would be ready to turn not against her, but against you, even if I share a lot of your initial misgivings.

I’m ready to admit that my approach is problematic: one could claim that I insist on backing off exactly when the satire starts being really effective. So you are free to say that it is simply my weakness, not strength. You can argue that in such situations the default reaction should be to press the “kill” button and eliminate the weak link. You could also argue that an efficient activist should be able to take such decisions. If this is so, the only conclusion will be that I do not qualify for an activist. Interview failure, thank you very much, we will keep your name in our database. And the only answer available to me will be: thank you as well, I will think twice before buying your products.

Anyway, I’m curious about your thoughts on this.

Image modified from “WWII USGI M1911 pistol” by simonov.

Comments

  1. LeftSidePositive says

    I have to say I wasn’t impressed with this post at all. I find it confused, vague, and very badly argued.

    Firstly, the author never seems to actually articulate what she interprets satire to be, and this is a crucial failing in the context of the whole atheosphere discussion of what is satire, and when harmful behavior is incorrectly labelled satire to pretend it has political or intellectual value when instead its only point is to hurt others. Even in the author’s discussion of communist dictators, she fails to make this distinction between satire and plain old mockery (and, in failing to do that, she also fails to address the critical differences in mocking a dictator and a private individual with a blog and comparatively much less social power than the one doing the mocking!).

    Secondly, she gives a grossly inadequate description of what it means to satirize people versus ideas. What does she mean by “satirizing people”? Does she mean making fun of them for immutable characteristics that are irrelevant to any moral judgment? Does she mean making fun of them for character flaws that do real harm in the world? For example, I’ll satirize Ted Haggart as a person because I believe his hypocrisy is so vast and self-serving that it really does define his very being (I don’t know where exactly the line is to make hypocrisy a central character trait, but I’m more than adequately sure Ted Haggart has crossed it!). But in this case, am I really satirizing a person or an idea? Isn’t it rather that Ted Haggart has actually made himself the personification of “I get to preach against sexual behavior that I engage in myself” and I’m satirizing that idea? Is this relevant to what people generally mean when they say “attack ideas and behavior, not people”? (and anyway, what are people other than the sum of their ideas and behaviors?)

    The example with the teacher is also similarly weak. For one thing, it is vague. The author never describes what the student is *saying* with this cartoon, and without actually addressing this, we have no means to assess whether or not it fits in to the category of satire. If the student’s cartoon implicates some aspect of the teacher’s policies or behavior or hypocrisy, then it could be a satirical work. If it just aims to heap negative judgements on the teacher, especially for things that are not themselves moral wrongs (race, gender, body size, appearance, sexual orientation, class, whether any of these traditionally-coded “negative” attributes actually apply to the teacher or not), then it is not. The author fails to make this critical distinction (and, she has some tells elsewhere in the piece–namely her focus on satire as humiliating the person, that she just plain doesn’t know what satire is), thus rendering the whole example useless for her point. Furthermore, if the student in this example fails to actually have a defensible argument in zir cartoon against the teacher, BY DEFINITION it is not satire, because communicating an argument is the sine qua non of satire. Satire without an argument is like a vegan veal chop.

    The author’s refusal to actually present a blogger she believes to be authoritarian is simply cowardly. It feeds into the “both sides do it!” mentality, it fails to make any cogent point on the validity of running one’s own space and how, what are acceptable or necessary reactions to campaigns of trolls, what issues we may consider settled and no longer feel compelled to debate, etc. etc. There is no understanding or elucidation of what happens when a would-be “satirist” is wrong or self-serving in considering a blogger “authoritarian,” much less of what is actually intellectually valid and valuable satire, versus harassment.

    The whole description of how the person reacts when satirized is a fatal flaw in the piece, and strongly indicates to me this author is confusing satire with harassment. The point of satire is not to make someone panic and flail. That is what harassment is for (and that’s why it’s unacceptable). The point of satire is to make people rethink their positions (a possibility this author gives no indication she ever even considered!), or to instruct others not to give accolades to people who are doing harmful things. This author seems to think that the position (or state of being? She’s not clear) for which a person is being satirized is immutable, on for which ze is “killed” or a “weak link” that is “eliminated,” rather than something ze could reflect on and learn from. I also don’t understand where this hyperbolic “kill” language comes from–how about people start an interesting conversation about intellectual shortcomings in our movement, learn from those who pointed them out and focus on those who are saying intelligent things about the issue of the day, and people maybe just stop reading the satire-deserving blogger until ze realizes the error in zir ways and starts producing some intellectually worthwhile content again?!

    Moreover, the author is extremely misguided to think that the issue with doubling down is “making mistakes.” In my experience, people don’t say offensive, privilege-denying, marginalizing things *by accident.* They say them because that’s what they really think. They might say them in blunt ways when cornered (see Akin, Todd, and Mourdock, Richard… and “Dear Muslima/zero bad”) which may be a tactical “mistake”–but the moral blameworthiness is still there wether a marginalizing thing is said bluntly or with focus-group-optimized-weasel-words. If someone actually panicked and said something mangled they did not truly mean, ze could simply rephrase and apologize and there would be no need or glory in “satirizing” that.

    I also have some serious questions about this author’s ethical state and her understanding of what satire means if she thinks someone showing weakness, suffering, or trying to escape is deserving of “satire.” I think this refers exclusively to abuse, and as such the author is actively contributing to the confusion in the discussion of these many months as to whether the claiming of satire may be a front for abuse. Worse, with this author’s inept and slippery definitions of satirizing people and unclear examples as to what she supports as “satire,” she runs very near actively condoning abuse-masquerading-as-satire, whether she realizes it or not.

    So, all in all a very muddled, inadequate, and disappointing piece.

  2. LeftSidePositive says

    I forgot to include in the previous comment, the author also fails to adhere to the definition of satire set out in the Wikipedia quote in the beginning of the piece! There, it clearly states that the idea of satire is to shame and ridicule INTO IMPROVEMENT. Yet, the example with the student vandalizing a desk and incapably expressing zirself has no other purpose but to vent rage NOT to communicate how and why the teacher needs to improve. Furthermore, the author’s later scenario that a satire “works” is that the target founders and panics and becomes humiliated–NOT that the target learns from her mistakes, or that the community as a whole develops better standards (whether or not the initial target ever adopts them herself), which was the point defined in the Wikipedia article quoted in this piece and yet the author doesn’t even apply that simple definition to her piece, and persistently describes behavior that is much more reminiscent of abuse and just adds to the confusion.

  3. Ulysses says

    Satire, like other forms of humor, should be directed up, to those in authority, those in power, those with privilege. Satire should not be directed down to those who are powerless and without privilege. I can understand the author’s enjoyment of satire directed at the Communist hierarchy because satire was one of the few things which could touch those in power. But satire directed at those below is just another form of bullying.

  4. Ariel says

    To all who read this: the first thing to remember is that it was a piece of dialogue, not of war. It was not written for the hawks (on both sides). And in fact quite a lot follows from this.

    Now down to business.

    LeftSidePositive, I understand that you didn’t like it. I would be quite surprised if you did. It was not meant for you. Nevertheless, here are some details.

    1. Wikipedia definition is standardly invoked in these discussions. I quoted it … to repudiate it almost at the start of my piece (“not a genre of literature, not an art” – both definitional traits). In the context of the dialogue, this definition is a red herring (wanna have endless discussions on what art is? Good luck.) How did I use the term “satire” then? I used it for mockery with a social role, but I didn’t treat the list of social roles in Wikipedia as exhaustive. In particular, one of the functions consists in bringing relief to a group of people, by permitting them to see their opponents (especially strong ones) as ridiculous and not worth taking seriously. It permits you to breath. Mockery can have this role even if there is no real chance of changing the larger society.
    I decided though to retain the term “satire”. The principal reason was that the pitters seem very attached to it. Since it’s not a piece of war, let it be. Nothing of substance depends on it; it’s just a word. You can still say (if you want) that some uses of satire in this sense should be treated as harassment. It doesn’t block you in anything.

    2. “Satirizing people” meant in my text depicting real, recognizable, living people. “Jesus and Mo” doesn’t satirize people. The pit version does. You can attach concrete names to these faces. In terms of hurt brought to individuals (that’s what my piece was largely about), it’s a hell of a difference.

    3. An example of a teacher was given to stress that I don’t mind (in principle) mocking concrete people. The second aim was to say in effect that the validity of such an action doesn’t depend on the author’s ability to give arguments. I don’t really care whether we call it “satire” or not. If you build the ability to rationalize into your definition of satire, fine. If you don’t, that’s also fine with me. “Satire” here is a term of courtesy to the other side. All that’s really important is that even if the author can’t rationalize it, the action can still be legitimate.

    4. This one deserves a quote:

    The author’s refusal to actually present a blogger she believes to be authoritarian is simply cowardly. It feeds into the “both sides do it!” mentality”.

    Yes, I would expect such a remark from a hawk :) You conveniently omitted the “assume” part, didn’t you? If you took it into consideration, you would get a real meaning: assume that your initial misgivings are correct. Even then, I’m not with you. That’s what is stated here.
    Apart from that, even if I had concrete examples in mind, I would have serious misgivings about naming people. The fragment concerns humiliation, shame and pain. It would be inconsiderate for me to name such a person. Thank you for your concern, dear hawk, but you can find your own examples.

    5. Next nice quote:

    I also have some serious questions about this author’s ethical state and her understanding of what satire means if she thinks someone showing weakness, suffering, or trying to escape is deserving of “satire.”

    I have some serious questions about LeftSidePositive’s reading skills. The words s/he quotes end with the question mark. It’s a question, for God’s sake! And the next sentence states: if your answer is “yes”, you lost me. Lack of reading skills or ill will?

    6. A quote again.

    the author’s later scenario that a satire “works” is that the target founders and panics and becomes humiliated–NOT that the target learns from her mistakes, or that the community as a whole develops better standards (whether or not the initial target ever adopts them herself), which was the point defined in the Wikipedia article quoted in this piece

    Exactly so. But you failed to appreciate that the whole fragment, together with what follows, was a repudiation of this idea of satire doing its “work”. I demanded (quite explicitly) very strong reasons for continuing ridicule in such situation. In particular, I questioned validity of the satire as a sufficient reason for continuation. What is it that you don’t understand?

    Last remarks. First, I’m “he”, not “she”. It’s very sexist (?) of you to decide the spirit’s gender. But since on full moon I turn into a mermaid, I forgive you.

    The second remark is to all of you. You might have noticed (or not) that this particular fence sitter is leaning (a bit) towards your side, both in the piece above and in the discussions with the pit. After this (and some earlier) exchanges with LeftSide, I’m almost losing the reason why. To be sure, there are things which I don’t like about the pit. There is also the fact that I’ve spent some time on FtB, talking to people which I like and respect. But there is also this other side of the coin, threatening to make me a “professional fence sitter” forever. Well, so be it.

  5. LeftSidePositive says

    To all who read this:

    Well, someone’s pretty damn full of himself, isn’t he?! Look, dude…ALL comments are by definition addressed to all who read them, unless stated otherwise. To say so explicitly makes you look like a pompous douche.

    the first thing to remember is that it was a piece of dialogue, not of war.

    When my principal objection to your piece is that it is badly communicated and confused, saying it is a piece of dialogue is not a defense. If anything, if such a muddled word salad is your attempt at “dialogue,” that makes it WORSE.

    1. Wikipedia definition is standardly invoked in these discussions. I quoted it … to repudiate it almost at the start of my piece (“not a genre of literature, not an art” – both definitional traits).

    
No you didn’t. And, if you think you did, you are a spectacularly bad writer. Look, an offhand clarification of a definition is not going to be taken as a repudiation, especially not of other, unrelated points of the definition. This is ESPECIALLY true when said clarification is so uncontroversial and pointless: I can’t think of a single person who actually thinks artistry is the defining characteristic of satire. People are more than capable of understanding that the Onion is satire, even if few would call it literature! Even the Wikipedia article you quoted goes on to include “commentary” as a form of artistic expression, which would in fact cover the criticism of political figures in the USSR.

    Moreover, what you DID NOT repudiate, but then which you continue to misuse and misunderstand throughout your piece is the critical aspect of satire that it must serve an intellectually valid purpose: it must address moral, personal, or intellectual failings, and it must be aimed to improve the individual or society. You fail to meet this definition AND you don’t say why you disagree with it, which makes your writing mealy-mouthed and vacuous.

    In the context of the dialogue, this definition is a red herring (wanna have endless discussions on what art is? Good luck.)

    NO ONE CARES. This is a pathetic strawman. No one is arguing that people claiming to use “satire” are insufficiently artistic. You are making that up (and, I might add, making it up solely on the basis of the weakness of phrasing of the Wikipedia definition exclusively. Other definitions refer more broadly to “the use of humor exaggeration” etc., and there is a sub-definition for “a satire” as a work of art that uses satire). What IS actually the topic of discussion is that people are claiming to use “satire” when there is no valid point being criticized, when people are lying to make up some hypocrisy that they then try to criticize people about, that they are using hateful slurs, etc. Not that it is insufficiently artistic.

    As originally written, this seems like a rather pointless clarification that no one really needed, but to use a quibble with one phrasing to claim you can throw out the entire definition of satire is incredibly intellectually dishonest. Moreover, the part of the definition that is actually, you know, DEFINING, is that humor and/or exaggeration or used to expose vices for education or improvement. You never directly address this, and that makes your whole argument useless.

    How did I use the term “satire” then? I used it for mockery with a social role,

    No you didn’t. Or, at least, you don’t seem to understand what “social role” means. It should mean: “aiming to improve society” NOT “bringing people together socially.”

    In particular, one of the functions consists in bringing relief to a group of people, by permitting them to see their opponents (especially strong ones) as ridiculous and not worth taking seriously. It permits you to breath.

    You’re committing the logical fallacy of Affirming the Consequent. Just because satire brings relief to people and ridicules opponents, it does not follow it does not then follow that all things that ridicules opponents or improve group cohesion are satire. This is really basic, and I’m dumbfounded that you could get this so wrong and still think we ought to take you seriously.

    Mockery can have this role even if there is no real chance of changing the larger society.

    That is what it makes it mockery, AND NOT SATIRE. The whole discussion about satire that you are presuming to contribute to (and failing badly, I might add) is about mockery masquerading as satire and why that is dishonest. Your solution to this is to waste hundreds of words actively confusing the difference between mockery and satire. This contributes NOTHING to the discussion, and is really, REALLY bad writing.

    I decided though to retain the term “satire”. The principal reason was that the pitters seem very attached to it.

    This is one of the stupidest things I’ve read on this site in a very long time. The discussion is that people are misusing a word to excuse poor behavior, and your solution is to enable their dishonest use of it?! How many other words are you willing to redefine this way? Why should we even bother using words with you at all, then? Kkghfdtnf vcg hjkrrcn mnbvhg fruhskdf bvm ncvksdfgsh reuf dhcjn mbvr.

    On top of which, WORDS MEAN THINGS. There is a reason that people refer to “forced birthers” rather than “pro-lifers” no matter how “attached” people who believe in forcing women to be pregnant against their will (up to and including causing their deaths) are to the term “pro life.” And that is because the fact that people who claim to be “pro life” are not actually in favor of what the vast majority of people tend to mean when they say “life” IS A MAJOR ISSUE and needs to be criticized and corrected. Just redefining a term for the sake of the dishonest person buys into their framework and validates their dishonesty.

    Since it’s not a piece of war, let it be.

    What the fuck? Who the fuck are you to decide this?! People are using this misrepresentation of satire AS A JUSTIFICATION for their ongoing campaign of harassment. They are claiming “satire” to assert that their contribution is intellectually valuable and that we are wrong to silence them for it, BECAUSE of the noble history of satire. Therefore, “what you’re doing is not satire” is the critical distinction here, NOT “you’re making people sad but go ahead claiming what you’re doing is noble and I just happen to think you should stop making people sad whether it’s noble or not.”

    And what the fuck does “of war” mean, anyway?! You’ve used it twice, so apparently you think it’s really persuasive. Well, no. War is not, in fact, the only time when people should actually use words properly.

    Nothing of substance depends on it; it’s just a word.

    Okay, you’re a pedophile. And by that, I mean that you are fond of children and volunteer to read at daycare centers. But don’t worry, nothing of substance depends on it; it’s just a word.

    Also, your mother is a war criminal. By which I mean she’s an accountant. “War criminal” and “accountant” are just words, and nothing depends on them.

    And in closing, I would just like to say, verisimilitude thatch renegade snap quilted fry gerbil!

    You can still say (if you want) that some uses of satire in this sense should be treated as harassment.

    And I could also say that some uses of cherry pie could be treated as cannibalism, because I’ve defined “cherry pie” so broadly because someone likes to refer to the human victims they devour as “cherry pie” and nothing of substance depends on it because it’s just a word. Maude, you’re a fucking dishonest little weasel!

    It doesn’t block you in anything.

    No, it just obviates the entire point of communicating with your fellow human beings. I can’t see how that could ever lead to problems!?

  6. LeftSidePositive says

    2. “Satirizing people” meant in my text depicting real, recognizable, living people. […] 3. An example of a teacher was given to stress that I don’t mind (in principle) mocking concrete people.

    This is all in your head, and totally irrelevant to this discussion. No one objects to criticizing or satirizing real, recognizable, living people. The issue is not naming people. Rebecca Watson named Stef McGraw. PZ Myers named Thunderf00t (as did Greta Christina and just about everyone else). Jason Thiebault named DJ Grothe. Stephanie Zvan named Justin Vacula. Naming someone IS NOT AND NEVER HAS BEEN the issue. What the term “ridicule ideas and not people” actually means (and I’m amazed that you’re apparently too ignorant to already know this!) is that one should say “Joe’s position on issue X is shitty” rather than “Joe is a shitty person” (in most cases–in the Ted Haggart example I explain how enough shittiness can in fact make you a shitty person). The point of that dictum is not to refuse to name Joe. This is not difficult.

    The second aim was to say in effect that the validity of such an action doesn’t depend on the author’s ability to give arguments.

    Yes it does. That is vital to the validity of what the protest is about. It is also dependent on whether or not the reasons for criticizing someone are true and valid, more so than whether or not they articulate them particularly well. Your example of the kid mocking the teacher fails to draw any distinction if the kid has a valid point at all, or if the kid is just being a little snot. It also fails to address whether or not the kid is trying (and maybe failing) to make a substantive point about why the teacher is wrong, or is just flinging slurs at the teacher. Again, this is why your writing is totally ineffective at actually communicating a useful point.

    I don’t really care whether we call it “satire” or not.

    Then why did you include “satire” in the title of your piece?!

    Moreover, as has already been explained to you, calling abuse “satire” has distinct strategic implications. If you don’t see that whether or not it’s called “satire” (in a piece where you quote the definition of satire, laud the social value of satire in corrupt governments, etc., etc) is important, then you are being willfully obtuse.

    “Satire” here is a term of courtesy to the other side.

    Bullshit. Conceding a major point (or ignoring what a point actually MEANS) is not a “courtesy.” It is a capitulation, and it is bad writing. Moreover, the other side wants to use “satire” PRECISELY BECAUSE it conveys social importance. To just define away that social importance means that you are giving them license to invoke the social importance that is conveyed by the word “satire” to the vast majority of English speakers, without ever having to live up to that social importance.

    All that’s really important is that even if the author can’t rationalize it, the action can still be legitimate.

    One, you don’t understand what the word “rationalize” means. It means “attempt to explain or justify (one’s own or another’s behavior or attitude) with logical, plausible reasons, even if these are not true or appropriate” (Mac dictionary). It does NOT mean “to make something rationally valid.” The words for that are “justify” or “support.” “Rationalize” exclusively means PRETENDING to justify something when it is not in fact actually possible to do so.

    Two, the issue is not whether or not the author can very well articulate zir justification for an action (although, by definition, to be satire, it actually has to have a thesis and communicate a point!). The question is: IS THERE a justification for the action?! When we say the pitters are invoking “satire” and even mockery wrongfully, we are saying there is no justification for what they are doing.

    Three, this is a reflection of you being an utterly incompetent writer. If you wish to write about the value of mockery that does not make any valid point, then say that’s what you’re talking about and defend it on the merits. Don’t drag in a deeply confused and misleading use of “satire” if what you’re actually saying is “here is when I think it is okay or not okay to engage in substance-free mockery and invective.”

    You conveniently omitted the “assume” part, didn’t you? If you took it into consideration, you would get a real meaning: assume that your initial misgivings are correct.

    What does this accomplish? You are just giving license for people to entrench their own opinions, and you are not being clear on what yours are. An article on the appropriateness of satire cannot possibly be useful just assuming that it is justified. Your job as the writer is to spell out what is appropriate and what is not. Furthermore, if you actually had any understanding of this debate (I can’t decide whether you are just mind-bogglingly thick or if you are actively trying to misrepresent the debate!) you would understand that the appropriateness IS the very matter in question, not something we can assume. “Be nice even if someone is being a shithead” is not something the atheist community is going to take kindly to. We are not nice to Ray Comfort. We are not nice to the Pope. We are not nice to Rick Santorum. And the REASON we are not nice to them is that their behavior warrants extremely strong criticism. The pit thinks that our behavior warrants extremely strong criticism. Just telling them not to doesn’t solve anything.

    Even then, I’m not with you. That’s what is stated here.

    With me on WHAT?! On criticizing? On accurately pointing out flaws in an argument? On using laughter to diffuse marginalizing or harmful rhetoric? Or on engaging in threats, slurs, hateful and prejudiced bullying based on physical or personal characteristics on which no one should be judged? If you don’t say what you’re with or against, you’re communicating nothing.

    Apart from that, even if I had concrete examples in mind, I would have serious misgivings about naming people. The fragment concerns humiliation, shame and pain. It would be inconsiderate for me to name such a person.

    This is complete and utter bullshit. Saying you disagree with someone and why is not in ANY way the same as causing “humiliation, shame, and pain.” Skeptics should be able to have a disagreement on merits and not fall to pieces. Furthermore, your disingenuous pretense of taking the high ground in the face of vicious harassment is not to call harassment what it is, it’s just to stifle ALL debate and criticism, even those that have merits!

    I also suggest you read “Someone is Vague on the Internet” to learn why failing to actually name people doesn’t teach anyone, it doesn’t improve anything, it just lets people see what they want to see, and is all around immature and useless.

    Frankly your conflation of naming people when you have substantive disagreements and those who willfully undertake a sustained harassment campaign in order to humiliate and silence others is eerily similar to theists who define “sin” so absurdly broadly that they can use the fact that some people swear to say “Well, we’re all sinners” to minimize the actions of child rapists.

  7. LeftSidePositive says

    I have some serious questions about LeftSidePositive’s reading skills. The words s/he quotes end with the question mark. It’s a question, for God’s sake! And the next sentence states: if your answer is “yes”, you lost me. Lack of reading skills or ill will?

    No, you’re the one who doesn’t understand. The point is that your definition of satire is so absurdly faulty. The fact that you wouldn’t actually badger someone into hiding isn’t the point. The point is that you define deserving of satire as being weak, being hurt or trying to escape. That you take the high ground is not relevant. The point is that you have spoken favorably of satire and its social value and then apparently think vicious and intentional harassment is satire. Your understanding of satire and the ethics thereof is so flawed that you include in it mocking everything it is possible to mock, not just mocking those things it is necessary and good to mock. This means, even if you find it distasteful sometimes, that you are appropriating the social value of satire and applying it to antisocial behavior, which is in fact unethical.

    Exactly so. But you failed to appreciate that the whole fragment, together with what follows, was a repudiation of this idea of satire doing its “work”.

    No, you willfully obtuse twit, you did not repudiate the idea that this satire worked. You validated this incredibly misguided idea that satire “works” by causing humiliation and incapacitation, which you FURTHER validated by saying “one could claim that I insist on backing off exactly when the satire starts being really effective.” You said you weren’t in favor of satirizing when it’s working too well, failing to understand that you have no idea that what you’re describing isn’t satire working at all, it’s HARASSMENT working as harassment is intended to do. My point is that you are MISUNDERSTANDING the goal of satire, even as you object to what you erroneously believe the goal to be.

    I demanded (quite explicitly) very strong reasons for continuing ridicule in such situation. In particular, I questioned validity of the satire as a sufficient reason for continuation. What is it that you don’t understand?

    Well, your utter failure to define or understand what “satire” means, for a start! Furthermore, you DID NOT question the validity of the satire. You validated it by saying “deserving.” You said satire would apply but it would be too mean. That’s not questioning the validity of the “satire,” it’s questioning the mercy of it. It’s letting harassing behavior that has no business claiming the noble and historically valuable role of satire justify itself as such, and then trying to tamp it down with a tone argument.

    Last remarks. First, I’m “he”, not “she”. It’s very sexist (?)

    No, sorry, not sexist. When you choose a name that is identified as female to the vast majority of the culture you’re talking to, it’s not sexist that they make a reasonable guess as to how you identify. Similarly, commenter Brian E is often assumed to be female, because his user name is “briane” and people read it as “Brianne.” That’s not “sexism;” it’s faulty inference. More importantly, women being assumed to be male on the internet and having their contributions rendered invisible because of it actually IS a serious issue, and actually harms them and others’ awareness of women’s contributions online. Don’t appropriate their experiences to whine about a trivial misunderstanding.

    After this (and some earlier) exchanges with LeftSide, I’m almost losing the reason why.

    So you’re willing to throw out your central values about how human beings deserve to be free of harassment because I gave a thoughtful, thorough, and substantive critique of your writing?! Wow, that doesn’t reflect very well on how you arrive at major decisions!

    And, now learning that you are male, it is even more inexcusable to take this cavalier attitude that you will withhold your support for people who are being harassed for their gender–a risk you do not share!–just because they don’t act nicely enough for your taste. This is privilege at its most pseudointellectual and pompous!

    But there is also this other side of the coin, threatening to make me a “professional fence sitter” forever. Well, so be it.

    You are making YOURSELF a “professional fence sitter.” You are not content to simply sit on the fence and observe, but rather you must waste hundreds of words demanding to have your fence-sitting validated. You are straining the bounds of the English language to redefine words out of existence to pretend one side has an idea worth entertaining–in other words desperately trying to preserve your ability to sit on the fence when it is not in fact reasonable or defensible to do so!


  8. Ariel says

    Last message before I leave you. Our conversation clearly makes no sense.

    (1) The whole discussion about satire that you are presuming to contribute to (and failing badly, I might add) is about mockery masquerading as satire and why that is dishonest. (2) Your solution to this is to waste hundreds of words actively confusing the difference between mockery and satire. (3) This contributes NOTHING to the discussion, and (4) is really, REALLY bad writing.

    (1) is incorrect. I’m not presuming to contribute anything to a discussion about “mockery masquerading as satire”. It was not my topic. Engaging in such a discussion has never been my aim. Period. If according to you it deserves to become the main topic, it’s of course your choice (and waste of time in my opinion).
    (2) is incorrect, since not being engaged in such a topic at all, I couldn’t have provided any solution (in particular, composing of hundreds of words).
    (3) is correct. Of course I didn’t contribute anything to the discussion about “mockery masquerading as satire”. I didn’t even try.
    (4) may well be true and I’m certainly not going to quarrel.

    One more very confused quote:

    This is one of the stupidest things I’ve read on this site in a very long time. The discussion is that people are misusing a word to excuse poor behavior, and your solution is to enable their dishonest use of it?!

    I’m only mildly (to put it delicately) interested in your discussion about misusing a word. It was not my intention to provide any solution to it. Scout’s honor. But please don’t interrupt yourself and have such a discussion if you want. If possible, not with me.

    And last explanation (not directed really to you). On the slymepit you can find tons of graphic and verbal material ridiculing various people. From my point of view, the primary question is whether producing and propagating this material was justified, or harmful, or ill willed, or desirable – that sort of issues. The question how we name this material is secondary. The pitters are saying that the material should be called “satire”; they are adding that satire is human traditional activity, that it is noble, just, … whatever. What do you do? Basically, there are two options.

    First: Check the dictionaries and textbooks! Let’s see whether what they do is really Satire™, as defined!
    Second: let’s look at what they are actually doing and let’s try to assess it, under whatever name. It may be even shmatire or ghrhfhehre if it suits us.

    You chose the first way. That’s the real discussion in your opinion. Browsing through the dictionaries … right. You know, let’s assume for simplicity that Dear Lord has just sent us his Holy Dictionary right now! Suddenly we know what real Satire is! So … what? How does it help us to answer the question whether their actions were justified, or ill willed, or harmful? Maybe their products are not Satire™ after all, but still what they do is justified? You want to go this way? Please be my guest.

    I prefer the second option. Instead of checking the dictionaries, I will want to know the effects, intentions and motives of their actions. If these effects, intentions and motives turn out to be wrong (or right), that’s the end of my search. On this second way dictionaries are of no help. If they said that it’s justified because it’s a satire, I would simply ask them “you mean, because of what exactly?”; and then I would start considering the detailed justifications they provided, thinking whether they justify their actions. That’s it.

    The reason I wrote the OP was because of discussions I saw – discussions in which they stressed validity of their cartoons and photoshops. The main point of the piece is: validity is not enough. You may call it small, unoriginal, unimportant, that’s your right. But please do not construct a strawman. We are not participating in the same discussion.

    Also:

    Don’t appropriate their experiences to whine about a trivial misunderstanding.

    It was a joke. If you don’t know the meaning of this word, please consult a dictionary.

    And one last quote:

    What the fuck? Who the fuck are you to decide this?

    A person like you. Do it your way, I will do it mine. Separately if possible.

    Good night.

  9. LeftSidePositive says

    Last message before I leave you.

    So you’re pre-flouncing?! If you’re not actually interested in what people are saying and what people think of you, why are you replying? Why are you even here? What the hell is the point.

    Our conversation clearly makes no sense.

    Only because you refuse to understand what commonly-defined words mean!

    (1) is incorrect. I’m not presuming to contribute anything to a discussion about “mockery masquerading as satire”. It was not my topic. Engaging in such a discussion has never been my aim. Period. If according to you it deserves to become the main topic, it’s of course your choice (and waste of time in my opinion).

    This is so disingenuous I could throw up. You’re seriously telling me that you’ve I) swanned in on a blog about an ongoing campaign of harassment and loudly proclaimed the virtue of your own neutrality in the issue of said harassment, II) where the harassers have specifically defended their harassment as “satire” and invoked its historical significance (and explicitly associated it with “critical commentary” not “mockery”), III) where YOU YOURSELF replied on that very thread specifically addressed the issue of satire as your one and only comment (where you failed miserably to understand the concept of satire even then!), and then IV) you get yourself a guest post on the blog that is a major player in this debate about the appropriateness of certain behaviors and boundaries, and V) where the other side’s invocation of “satire” was dissected and debunked at GREAT length, and VI) you post something entirely about satire and use the term so inaccurately that it allows the slymepitters to call what they’re doing “satire” under your definition, VII) repeatedly use examples of “satire” that only make sense if you replace the word with “mockery” or “harassment,” VIII) continue to do so after your error has been pointed out, and then IX) state that you used the term EXPLICITLY as a “courtesy” because they are using it to describe their behavior (and use it for the purpose of justifying their mockery)…and then you say that engaging in this discussion about mockery masquerading as satire has never been your aim?! WHAT THE FUCK?!

    Do you seriously expect us to believe you just wrote an elaborate dissertation about satire on Stephanie’s blog just for funsies?! Do you seriously think we’ll buy it that this is not related to how satire is being used IN DISCUSSIONS IN WHICH YOU ARE A PARTICIPANT?! Do you seriously think you can claim to write about satire and fail to distinguish between mockery and satire repeatedly and think mockery masquerading as satire is not your topic when you are ENGAGING in that very failing yourself?! Do you seriously think you can shy away from the distinction between mockery and satire when your arguments are only valid for satire and NOT for mockery?!

    While we’re on the subject of your investment in the concept of “satire” AS IT RELATES TO THIS DEBATE, here is how hilariously badly you’ve misunderstood it in your comment on the slymepitters’ opening statement:

    Ariel says:
    March 31, 2013 at 10:07 pm
    5(f). On a charitable reading, I’m inclined to agree with most of the points. My main problem is their vagueness. An extreme example is 5(f): “Satire, caricature and critical commentary are a valid human response to any issue”. Here the formulation is in fact so vague, that it’s not possible for me to agree (or to disagree) with such a statement. E.g. does it follow that satire or caricature is a valid human response to the sight of someone dying of hunger? Some serious qualifications are needed here and until they are provided, I don’t think 5(f) can be treated as an uncontroversial prerequisite for effectiveness (see 5).

    This is total nonsense. It is NOT POSSIBLE to satirize someone for dying of hunger. You clearly have no idea what the fuck “satire” even MEANS. Dying of hunger is not a vice or a moral failing, so any making fun of it cannot be satire, only cruelty. You AGAIN fail to distinguish between “don’t be too mean when you satirize” and “that thing you’re doing is not satire.” Asking “is it valid to satirize someone dying of hunger?” is about as malformed a question as “is it valid to squarify a circle?” It simply cannot be done, so why are you going on about the morality of it?!

    Your (2) and (3) fail simply because of your spectacular dishonesty in pretending you are not involved in a discussion that you quite plainly are. But, just to emphasize on #3, I didn’t just mean that you are not contributing to the discussion about mockery masquerading as satire, you are not contributing to ANY discussion of ANYTHING, because your entire premise depends on misusing and mangling words beyond all recognition.

  10. LeftSidePositive says

    I’m only mildly (to put it delicately) interested in your discussion about misusing a word. It was not my intention to provide any solution to it.

    Then why the fuck did you say you were using “satire” because the slymepit does?! What issue is there with satire EXCEPT that it is being misused to refer to things that do not deserve the term? Why are you addressing appropriateness of “satire” in contexts that could only possibly mean “mockery” or “harassment” if not to solve the issue that people are defending their behavior by calling it “satire”?!

    First: Check the dictionaries and textbooks! Let’s see whether what they do is really Satire™, as defined!

    I already know what satire means. I already know what their argument that their behavior is satire entails. You’re the only one who doesn’t. And, if someone is using a word and you don’t know what it means, I suggest you do in fact go to the dictionary and look it up.

    Moreover, as I already explained in the “pro-life” example, words mean things and meanings matter. Allowing someone to use their terms incorrectly allows them to hijack the connotations of those terms and use that to their advantage with their audience, when the connotations don’t actually hold up for what they’re saying.

    Second: let’s look at what they are actually doing and let’s try to assess it, under whatever name. It may be even shmatire or ghrhfhehre if it suits us.

    It is not possible to assess what they are doing without addressing whether or not their behavior is providing valuable cultural commentary, exposing injustices, ridiculing hypocrisy, criticizing real faults and arguing for needed improvements in persons or society. In other words, DOES THEIR BEHAVIOR MEET THE DEFINITION OF SATIRE? If it does meet this definition, then they are communicating important issues and our discomfort with what they say is from guilt and highlights our obligation to heed their admonishments. If it does not meet the definition of satire, then the discomfort they are causing has no intellectual or moral content, and they are just causing hurt without justification. The definition of the word satire ENTAILS the critical moral question involved in how to assess their behavior.

    Suddenly we know what real Satire is! So … what? How does it help us to answer the question whether their actions were justified, or ill willed, or harmful?

    God, you are a fucking idiot. I don’t know how else to say that. You are a personification of the Dunning-Kruger effect at its very worst. You are missing some basic facts of junior-high level rhetoric and yet you preen like you’re some great enlightened mind and fail to listen when we’ve corrected your knowledge deficits repeatedly.

    Satire is justifiable; mockery is usually not (and when it is, there is usually an element of satire to it!); harassment never is. This is not difficult. The same aspects of identifying and arguing against real faults that make something satire are what make it justified. Again, this would not be difficult if you had the faintest fucking idea what satire means.

    Whether or not something is ill-willed is rarely of value as to whether or not its justifiable. I assure you Ophelia has a lot of ill will towards Stanislaw Burzynski (and who wouldn’t!), but that does not make her criticism wrong. It just so happens she developed her ill will for a very justifiable reason (if getting rich off lying to the terrified parents of grieving children doesn’t engender ill will, I don’t know what’s wrong with you!).

    “Harmful” is also a complicated word, and given your utter failure with “satire” this far, I don’t trust you to use it properly. It does not just mean making someone feel bad. It refers to visiting injustices upon people, whether by entrenching power structures and disenfranchising the marginalized, violating boundaries, causing unnecessary pain, depriving others of property, etc., etc. Yeah, a lot of Catholics felt bad when PZ impaled that damn communion wafer. Does that meet any reasonable definition of “harmful”? Well, coddling fee-fees is not the be all and end-all. PZ and those who brought him the wafers had a very good point that it is nonsense to feel so emotionally attached to a cracker. The fact that Catholics feel bad for the insulted cracker is inextricably linked to their irrationality about said cracker–it is not possible to object to their beliefs about the cracker without running up against their beliefs about the cracker. PZ et al had a further point that the emotional attachment to irrational things was causing a great deal of suffering in the world (the cracker-smuggler’s particular beef was with those dying of AIDS in Africa due to the Catholic Church’s stance against condoms). In other words, the hurt feelings of Catholics are acceptable because they needed to be confronted on their irrationality, willingness to resort to physical force for the sake of A CRACKER, and complicity in needless worldwide suffering. It would not be acceptable to cause someone hurt feelings or to mock someone’s culture without such a substantive criticism. In other words, what made this act justifiable was the fact that it was satire.

    If they said that it’s justified because it’s a satire, I would simply ask them “you mean, because of what exactly?”; and then I would start considering the detailed justifications they provided, thinking whether they justify their actions. That’s it.

    What you fail to understand is that satire IS a justification if it is true, and so considering the justifications provided MUST INCLUDE the validity of the claim of “satire.”

    You also fail to consider that someone may be deserving of satire, but NOT harassment. Calling both of these things satire just confuses the issue. Saying the “satire works” when the person is responding to the harassment further confuses these very distinct issues. One can have a valid point but it’s not acceptable to call someone at zir home and read one’s satire to zem and insist ze listens. These are two separate issues, and the calling at home is not “satire.” The satire can still be valid but other attendant actions may not be–the answer to this is not to stop satirizing, it is to post that satire in a socially acceptable forum. The issue is not that “satire can go too far” since one can still ethically write about/discuss the moral failings of the person as long as they are engaging in them, but rather that “even if someone is a bad person they don’t deserve threats, violence, or harassment.”

    The main point of the piece is: validity is not enough.

    Firstly, when you say this, you inadvertently buy into the frame that it IS valid. Sorry, but continuing to hold invalid, sexist views but saying them more nicely is not enough. Thinking you will improve the hateful tone while you validate the attitudes that cause the hateful tone is just plain fucking stupid.

    Secondly, as skeptics and as members of a larger society, we need to understand that necessary changes to our world will not be comfortable for a lot of people with vested interests in the status quo. Saying valid criticisms need to be tamped down because some people will not like them and will get sad basically means we need to give up on all of skeptical advocacy and just stay silent because someone somewhere will be sad to learn that they weren’t really talking to their dead grandchild through that psychic.

    Thirdly, validity OF WHAT is not enough? Validity of a criticism is a perfectly adequate reason to make a criticism. To be satire, something must be based in valid criticism. Are you talking about making a criticism, or of harassing someone and dragging unrelated characteristics into a stream of mockery? Your writing us willfully ambiguous. Harassing someone (violating their privacy and rights to their own personal boundaries) and using sexist/racist/ageist/homophobic/ableist slurs are never valid, so it’s utterly pointless to say “validity is not enough.”

    It was a joke. If you don’t know the meaning of this word, please consult a dictionary.

    Using “it was a joke” to excuse privilege-denying douchebaggery and minimizing someone else’s marginalization is absolutely NEVER acceptable.

    Do it your way, I will do it mine.

    Oh, yay! The last bastion of the idiot who refuses to concede he has no valid argument!

  11. LeftSidePositive says

    Do you seriously think you can shy away from the distinction between mockery and satire when your arguments are only valid for satire and NOT for mockery?!

    Shit, I typed that exactly backwards. It should read “only valid for mockery and NOT for satire” if I’m referring to the arguments you’re making about things being too mean and the scenarios you’re describing. As currently typed, it would refer to the slymepitters defenses of their behavior, which would be valid if they were actually satire, but aren’t for mockery.

    Somehow those two ideas infested the same sentence and conspired to create total nonsense. That’s embarrassing.

  12. Ariel says

    Ok LeftSide, as long as you are trying to make arguments, I’m with you. As long as you don’t … meh.

    It is not possible to assess what they are doing without addressing whether or not their behavior is providing valuable cultural commentary, exposing injustices, ridiculing hypocrisy, criticizing real faults and arguing for needed improvements in persons or society.

    Agreed. Obviously these questions should be addressed.

    In other words, DOES THEIR BEHAVIOR MEET THE DEFINITION OF SATIRE?

    No. Satire is just a genre; the concrete specimen can be good or bad. It’s like “literature” in this respect: some of it is successful, some of it pretty awful (while still belonging to the category of literature).

    If it does meet this definition, then they are communicating important issues and our discomfort with what they say is from guilt and highlights our obligation to heed their admonishments.

    No. They may be producing bad, unfair satire. I understand that you are trying to use “satire” as a success word, but I don’t think that’s how it’s really used. I don’t think also that a detailed discussion on how the word is used is worth having (even if it could be interesting for its own sake).* It’s a side issue and if you go for it, the discussion (imo) goes astray. The real questions are contained in the first quote from you above.

    *One of the curiosities I found: satirists formed a separate category of professionals in old Ireland, but they could be punished by law if their satire was unjust!

    If it does not meet the definition of satire, then the discomfort they are causing has no intellectual or moral content, and they are just causing hurt without justification.

    This is more tricky and it would require formulating the definition explicitly in its full, final version (only then one could start looking for traps). Again it looks to me like a side issue and I would prefer instead to ask directly about the justification of their behavior.

    Have a good day.

  13. mythbri says

    @Ariel

    I had to read the comments to figure out exactly what your post was about. You were not communicating your points effectively in the original post, and your conversation with LSP has only slightly clarified them.

    Wikipedia definition is standardly invoked in these discussions. I quoted it … to repudiate it almost at the start of my piece

    You did not “repudiate” the Wiki definition of satire anywhere in your post. You presented it almost as a non sequitur and then continued your post about….harassment? Also, what’s the meaning behind the “Or Some Gun Control Please?” I don’t get it.

    No. They may be producing bad, unfair satire. I understand that you are trying to use “satire” as a success word, but I don’t think that’s how it’s really used. I don’t think also that a detailed discussion on how the word is used is worth having (even if it could be interesting for its own sake).* It’s a side issue and if you go for it, the discussion (imo) goes astray.

    What is the point of a discussion when communication is undervalued by not bothering to define the terms used in the discussion? How is clear communication irrelevant to effective communication?

    In my opinion, implicit in the definition of satire is that it’s a genre based on incisive truth-telling. If it is not true, then it is merely propaganda.

    The second remark is to all of you. You might have noticed (or not) that this particular fence sitter is leaning (a bit) towards your side, both in the piece above and in the discussions with the pit. After this (and some earlier) exchanges with LeftSide, I’m almost losing the reason why. To be sure, there are things which I don’t like about the pit. There is also the fact that I’ve spent some time on FtB, talking to people which I like and respect. But there is also this other side of the coin, threatening to make me a “professional fence sitter” forever. Well, so be it.

    I really don’t care if you want to be a “professional fence sitter.” But I can’t have respect for someone who basically threatens “I’ll not like you anymore!” I’m not going to couch my words to win you over to a particular “side”, or pretend that I don’t disagree with you. I have no idea of your value as an ally, so why would I bother?

  14. Ariel says

    mythbri #13

    I had to read the comments to figure out exactly what your post was about. You were not communicating your points effectively in the original post, and your conversation with LSP has only slightly clarified them.

    I accept this criticism. I think also that both you and LeftPositive are right that I should state clearly in the piece that I’m not going to stick to the Wikipedia definition.

    Also, what’s the meaning behind the “Or Some Gun Control Please?” I don’t get it.

    It was intended as a plea for moderation, with the stress on satire as a weapon (causing damage).

    What is the point of a discussion when communication is undervalued by not bothering to define the terms used in the discussion? How is clear communication irrelevant to effective communication?

    I should have given a (possibly broad) definition in my piece, together with explanations why in my opinion the classification of the material from the pit is not crucial. Not doing this was a mistake.

    In my opinion, implicit in the definition of satire is that it’s a genre based on incisive truth-telling. If it is not true, then it is merely propaganda.

    I think that this proposal would involve a quite drastic change of language which we actually use; in fact a rather cumbersome change. Accepting such a proposal would lead to problems in many areas. One example: satirists (in history) were coming from practically all possible political/ideological groups. Do you expect a historian of art to take sides each time, in each forgotten conflict, in order to classify a given piece as a satire or a propaganda? Very cumbersome, and that’s not what is usually done. The change wouldn’t also facilitate communication in contemporary world; quite on the contrary. You will have liberals, conservatives, libertarians etc., all of them reserving to themselves the right to use the word “satire”. As it is now, the term seems to be used in a more neutral manner. I find it more convenient to have such a universal term and I can see no reason to introduce a change.

    I’m not going to couch my words to win you over to a particular “side”, or pretend that I don’t disagree with you. I have no idea of your value as an ally, so why would I bother?

    I haven’t noticed any problem with your words. I have no idea why should you pretend to agree with me. Why are you asking me this?

  15. mythbri says

    @Ariel

    When I think of satire, I think of commentary on social/political systems, with satire specific to individuals that are part of said systems. Individuals are targeted incidentally, as part of the greater agenda of satire toward the system. As I said, this:

    implicit in the definition of satire is that it’s a genre based on incisive truth-telling. If it is not true, then it is merely propaganda

    Is only my opinion. And when the subject of the satire is itself a form of artistic expression, like a film, TV show, novel, etc., satire is entirely subjective.

    I offered my interpretation of satire merely to underscore what I understand its purpose to be, which is (according to Wikipedia) the improvement of society.

    I haven’t noticed any problem with your words. I have no idea why should you pretend to agree with me. Why are you asking me this?

    This was largely rhetorical, so I don’t need you to answer. This portion of one of your comments that I quoted:

    The second remark is to all of you. You might have noticed (or not) that this particular fence sitter is leaning (a bit) towards your side, both in the piece above and in the discussions with the pit. After this (and some earlier) exchanges with LeftSide, I’m almost losing the reason why. To be sure, there are things which I don’t like about the pit. There is also the fact that I’ve spent some time on FtB, talking to people which I like and respect. But there is also this other side of the coin, threatening to make me a “professional fence sitter” forever. Well, so be it.

    Was directed to “all of you”, and I took that to include me. You appeared to be defensive about LSP’s criticism of your post, and indicated that this criticism, or the tone thereof, would have some kind of influence regarding your status as “professional fence sitter”. That you might almost consider taking a side were it not for the way people interact with you.

    What I was saying that I don’t feel like modifying the tone that I use in order to “win people over,” that if only I were nice enough more people would agree with me. I’ll engage your arguments and let you know how and why I disagree with you, which is the approach that I take with everyone (except for the people I choose not to engage).

  16. LeftSidePositive says

    Ok LeftSide, as long as you are trying to make arguments, I’m with you. As long as you don’t … meh.

    I see you failed to stick your flounce. Also, don’t fucking give me this shit about “as long as you are trying to make arguments.” I have given you a thorough and comprehensive dissection of the errors in your post. You should be fucking thanking me on your fucking knees for clarifying so many points of your embarrassing ignorance.

    No. Satire is just a genre; the concrete specimen can be good or bad.

    No. You are completely and totally wrong. Satire is a genre WHERE VICES AND EVIL IS HELD UP TO RIDICULE. If there is no evil or vice, there is no satire. End of story. It is absolutely inherent in the genre that it serve an edifying purpose. What you’re trying to claim is that something could be just “a bad biography” if it is about a fake person–nope, sorry, literary genres actually have criteria. If you fail to meet that criteria you don’t get to call your work a part of that genre. The issue of whether or not it is ethical has nothing to do with whether or not it is good or bad from an artistic sense–only with whether or not it meets the intellectual criteria of satire.

    No. They may be producing bad, unfair satire.

    And, since satire exists to expose and ridicule vices and follies, if the vices and follies do not actually exist, the piece cannot be exposing them and thus cannot be satire. This really isn’t difficult.

    I understand that you are trying to use “satire” as a success word, but I don’t think that’s how it’s really used.

    THEN PROVIDE A FUCKING ARGUMENT FOR THAT. You have failed to do that, repeatedly. You have ignored the fact that my use of satire is supported by every dictionary available, and yours is not. You have fucking ignored many arguments both here and elsewhere on Almost Diamonds about the misuse of satire in this very discussion. You have not considered the value in words actually meaning something.

    And actually show that people who are using it differently are not just a) ignorant, b) self-important, and/or c) manipulative. Further show that adopting an incorrect common-use definition actually aids understanding (especially when words like “lampooning” or “mockery” already exist!). Have academics the world over redefined “ironic” just because Alanis Morisette can’t seem to get it right?! I rather think not.

    I have already told you at great length that those who use satire incorrectly (from the Slymepit to Rush Limbaugh) do so with a vested interest to try to claim moral high ground. I have shown the “pro-life” example of how conceding to dishonest and manipulative ways people use terms is corrosive to good communication. Address those arguments or shut the fuck up.

    I don’t think also that a detailed discussion on how the word is used is worth having (even if it could be interesting for its own sake).*

    Rule #1 of good writing: ALWAYS DEFINE YOUR TERMS. You fail. Badly. Also, you have just asserted you don’t think this discussion is worth having–I have stated repeatedly why words and meanings matter. You have failed to even engage with that.

    *One of the curiosities I found: satirists formed a separate category of professionals in old Ireland, but they could be punished by law if their satire was unjust!

    Apart from what would be first amendment issues with that today, this shows exactly my point: satire has to be just and accurate to be satire.

    Again it looks to me like a side issue and I would prefer instead to ask directly about the justification of their behavior.

    AGAIN, valid criticism IS justification for saying things that make people feel bad. Satire IS the justification that has been offered for their behavior, so asking directly IS asking whether or not it’s satire.

    Have a good day.

    Don’t be a passive-aggressive wankstain.

  17. says

    You should be fucking thanking me on your fucking knees for clarifying so many points of your embarrassing ignorance.

    Um, no. If you want thanks for educating, do it in a way that doesn’t encourage resistance to your points. You can try to educate (or win an argument or whatever your goal is here) by browbeating, but don’t ask/tell anyone to thank you for it while you’re doing it here.

  18. LeftSidePositive says

    Mythbri:

    implicit in the definition of satire is that it’s a genre based on incisive truth-telling. If it is not true, then it is merely propaganda

    Is only my opinion.

    Actually, it’s not only your opinion (and, for the record “it’s only my opinion” is pretty much never a worthwhile argument–either your opinion has merit and should be defended on those merits, or it’s not worth talking about). It is also the “opinion” of every single dictionary and academic definition:

    Wikipedia:

    Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement.

    Mac Dictionary:

    the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

    American Heritage:

    1.
    a. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.
    b. The branch of literature constituting such works. See Synonyms at caricature.
    2. Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

    Collins English Dictionary:

    1. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) a novel, play, entertainment, etc., in which topical issues, folly, or evil are held up to scorn by means of ridicule and irony
    2. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) the genre constituted by such works
    3. the use of ridicule, irony, etc., to create such an effect

    Webster’s College Dictionary:

    1. the use of irony, sarcasm, or ridicule in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
    2. a literary composition or genre in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.

    Dictionary.com:

    the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.

    Encyclopedia Brittanica

    artistic form, chiefly literary and dramatic, in which human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, parody, caricature, or other methods, sometimes with an intent to inspire social reform.

    Samuel Johnson

    a poem in which wickedness or folly is censured,

    Oxford

    the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
    a play, novel, film, or other work that uses satire:
    a stinging satire on American politics
    a genre of literature characterized by the use of satire.
    (in Latin literature) a literary miscellany, especially a poem ridiculing prevalent vices or follies.

    Wyndham Lewis, “Rude Assignment”:

    [I]n whatever department of human expression, wherever there is objective truth there is satire

    As you can see, without the core requirement of vices and follies actually existing, the whole edifice of the claim of satire comes tumbling down. This is not just some side-point to what satire means, it is in fact the most central aspect of the word. I think I’d rather go with every single dictionary available, rather than Ariel’s pathetic assertion that “I don’t think it’s used that way” especially when he offers absolutely no defense of how he thinks it is or should be used, or why we should drop a definition that’s been doing just fine for centuries, just so Ariel can pretend he’s not quite as bad a writer and not quite as muddled a thinker and not quite as ignorant a fencesitter as he very clearly is.

  19. Ariel says

    No. You are completely and totally wrong. (1) Satire is a genre WHERE VICES AND EVIL IS HELD UP TO RIDICULE. (2) If there is no evil or vice, there is no satire. End of story.

    You are simply wrong and all the dictionary examples you have given don’t settle the issue. Compare the definition of worship as “an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity”. Your reasoning: if there is no deity, there is nothing for the devotion to be directed to, therefore there is no worship. The reasoning is faulty and rests on a misinterpretation of a definition: it’s about purport and intention, not about facts in the world. Similarly the dictionary definition of satire: it can be interpreted as concerning purport and intention. In effect you can only claim: if there is no representation of vices and evil, there is no satire. And even gods can be represented, even though they don’t exist. I’m sorry but you don’t have an argument.

    What would settle the issue? IMO arguments from usage. Do the users of English require to know the context (and to take sides) to recognize something as satire? Show to the people examples of (say) nineteenth century cartoons depicting politicians, provide the information about the purported ridicule of their vices (but not whether the criticism was valid) … and wait for the verdict: satire or not. If they answer “satire”, it would support my interpretation. Answers “I don’t know” would support yours.

    Since (I guess) neither of us is going to do that, we may look for examples in the net. If you think it’s worth the effort, I can provide some tomorrow. Otherwise I won’t bother.

    Apart from what would be first amendment issues with that today, this shows exactly my point: satire has to be just and accurate to be satire.

    I don’t understand. The fact that you can be punished for an unjust satire shows that unjust satires don’t exist? I’m afraid you lost me.

    Good night.

  20. LeftSidePositive says

    Compare the definition of worship as “an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity”. Your reasoning: if there is no deity, there is nothing for the devotion to be directed to, therefore there is no worship.

    Firstly, that would depend on the use of the term worship. Depending on the context of the discussion, the fact that there’s nothing up there to be worshipped does actually discount the goal and purported achievements of the worshippers. For other contexts, the fact that they think there’s a deity is enough.

    HOWEVER–there is a key difference here. Deities NEVER exist. Vices and follies and injustices frequently do. Applying a reference to something that is always illusory is not valid for something that is usually real, and then fails to distinguish between the cases when that criteria is really met, or it isn’t. Compare the use of definitions to references of real things: I already described “biography,” and you have failed to address it. If someone writes something, claims it’s a biography, it cannot actually be so if the person it’s about isn’t real (even though no dictionary I could find explicitly said “a real, nonfictional person” because to everyone except you, that’s understood!). Even if, in some strange circumstance, the writer thought zir subject was real, if ze isn’t real it’s not a biography. This is different from the standard for “worship” because deities don’t exist (or, at least, from the religionists’ perspective, their existences are all similarly unprovable and dependent on faith), whereas people do exist, and a reference to a person doesn’t need to be taken on faith. So the faith-based way someone refers to a deity cannot excuse someone failing to establish whether a person exists.

    Similarly, “champion: a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition, esp. in sports” (Mac Dictionary). Inherent in this definition is that there actually were rivals, and there actually was a competition. Someone who thinks he was in a competition but was not is not a champion. This is because competitions and rivals are real and verifiable things, so when they are referred to it means they’re there, unlike “deity” which is not similarly verifiable in any case.

    Similarly, “murder: the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.” (Ibid) If that other human being wasn’t real, can’t be murder. If a would-be murder thought they killed someone, but didn’t actually do so, it’s not murder.

    So, MOST words, when they refer to real things in their definitions, actually expect those real things to apply. Defining that away just makes the definition total mush.

    The reasoning is faulty and rests on a misinterpretation of a definition: it’s about purport and intention, not about facts in the world.

    Whether or not someone is justified in making a criticism is inherently about the facts of the world. Whether someone is right or wrong to ignore someone’s criticism or attack or harassment is inherently about the facts of the world. What does your hyperfocus on intent accomplish, apart from distracting from a very real focus on whether or not criticisms are valid, and allowing dishonest people to claim an intellectual validity which they have not earned?

    Furthermore, most of the things the Slymepit tries to pass off as satire don’t even meet this relaxed criteria. They don’t have a thesis about some wrongdoing that’s faulty, they just viciously harass people for their gender, sexual activity, appearance, etc., etc., and photoshop their heads onto animals, and threaten to rape people. If any of their people laugh, they try to call it satire. This isn’t a question of someone honestly thinking they’re ridiculing a genuine wrongdoing–it’s just people with fucked-up prejudices indulging them and thinking they’re funny. “What you’re doing is not satire” is a hell of a lot more efficient and accurate to get at the heart of why they are unjustified, rather than allowing them to believe they’re engaging in satire and then trying to get them to be nicer (ESPECIALLY since most of the great and influential satires haven’t been particularly nice!).

    Similarly the dictionary definition of satire: it can be interpreted as concerning purport and intention.

    This is why we have a wonderful phrase: Intent Is Not Magic. Furthermore, even if “it can be interpeted”–WHY?! WHY should you place someone’s erroneous intent over actually verifying what is true?

    In effect you can only claim: if there is no representation of vices and evil, there is no satire.

    Why is that an “only”? Why is that wrong? (especially when I have abundantly supported my position on the definition and you have offered NOTHING except special pleading!) What do we gain from throwing out that criteria? You haven’t made an argument, and you’ve failed to even address most of mine on what we gain from keeping that criteria.

    Show to the people examples of (say) nineteenth century cartoons depicting politicians, provide the information about the purported ridicule of their vices (but not whether the criticism was valid) … and wait for the verdict: satire or not. If they answer “satire”, it would support my interpretation. Answers “I don’t know” would support yours.

    Nope, sorry, you fail. Most people in that situation are going to assume without you telling them that the cartoon depicts a real thing and a real issue, especially because most people have had exposure to 19th century cartoons through history books where they were depicting real issues. Moreover, people unfamiliar with a historical context will more likely assume it’s true rather than admit their ignorance of the subject. If they knew it was inaccurate, they’d call it “propaganda.”

    Since (I guess) neither of us is going to do that, we may look for examples in the net. If you think it’s worth the effort, I can provide some tomorrow. Otherwise I won’t bother.

    No. I want you to PROVIDE A COHERENT ARGUMENT (which you have thus far failed to do) about why your defining down satire and ignoring the inherent and essential value in a satire being true for it to be valuable, actually adds anything at all to anyone’s understanding. I have already showed how defining away essential aspects of satire (and, more importantly THE REASON satire is being used as a defense in this discussion!) harms communication and impedes clarity (like your godawful mishmash of an article posted above!). Why is it A GOOD IDEA to use “satire” as though it means nothing? Why are you willing to throw out the essential moral difference between making a real criticism and making a fake one? Why are you so resistant to addressing someone dealing in falsehoods and claiming it’s a satire with “your attempt at satire fails because your premise is untrue.” Is that so hard? Is it better to validate their claim that they’re participating in a noble intellectual tradition when they have no claim to anything that makes that tradition noble? (or intellectual, for that matter!)

    I don’t understand. The fact that you can be punished for an unjust satire shows that unjust satires don’t exist? I’m afraid you lost me.

    No. Stop being willfully obtuse. It means that unjust satires are LOGICALLY INVALID. Not that things purporting to be satires, but are in fact unjust, don’t exist. It means the moral value of satire is inherent in it being true. It means that the protections afforded to these satirists depended on them doing their job properly, which meant their satires had to be just. An “unjust satire” describes something PURPORTING TO BE a satire, but failing because it is unjust. Just like we can easily refer to the injustices of the justice system–what something purports to be and how it actually lives up to that claim are two different things. Without being just, the value and validity of satire disappears, and it’s much clearer and easier and more accurate to say “that’s not a satire–it’s wrong” than it is to indulge someone in their belief that they’re making valid cultural commentary or that their intent is magic.

  21. Ariel says

    Applying a reference to something that is always illusory is not valid for something that is usually real, and then fails to distinguish between the cases when that criteria is really met, or it isn’t.

    As a guide for interpreting the dictionary, this is an utter rubbish. You can’t just assume that the authors of dictionaries use here a double standard, because “deities never exist”. You know nothing about the beliefs of the authors of dictionaries (it’s quite plausible that many of them think that reference to deities is only sometimes illusory); and in such a context (i.e. while defending a double standard in interpretation) it is the intentions and beliefs of the authors, not of you, that matter.

    But consider also the definition: “Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something or someone”. The point is that criticism – as we normally use the word – can be mistaken. Criticism can be invalid, with the faults found by the critic not being real faults. It’s still criticism, only it’s wrong. Like yours, dear LeftPositive :)

    I already described “biography,” and you have failed to address it.

    What’s your problem with biography? If it contains a lot of false information, then it’s a bad biography. The same with satire.

    If someone writes something, claims it’s a biography, it cannot actually be so if the person it’s about isn’t real

    Ah but you see, in cases we are discussing, both the persons and vices are real enough, only the ascription of vices to people is under discussion. Consider (some of) the cartoons from the pit. What vices do they criticize? I would say: authoritarianism, group thinking, cruelty, self-righteousness. These are the vices; and I haven’t seen anyone questioning this. What is questioned is the way they are ascribed to real people. The analogy with biography would be: the biography of LeftPositive, ascribing to him/her the invention of the wheel. Totally wrong! Bad biography! But a biography nevertheless.

    A better (although still not ideal) example for you would be “Don Quixote”. The critics accused Cervantes that what he ridiculed was not a vice. Chivalry is a virtue, for God’s sake! Not the proper object for satire! But even the critics – as far as I know – didn’t question the genre; they considered rather “Don Quixote” as a bad satire.

    MOST words, when they refer to real things in their definitions, actually expect those real things to apply. Defining that away just makes the definition total mush.

    Many words in the area of art and communication (depicting, representing, criticizing, praising, etc.) do not have this trait. Ignoring this makes your argumentation a total mush.

    What does your hyperfocus on intent accomplish, apart from distracting from a very real focus on whether or not criticisms are valid, and allowing dishonest people to claim an intellectual validity which they have not earned? […] “What you’re doing is not satire” is a hell of a lot more efficient and accurate to get at the heart of why they are unjustified, rather than allowing them to believe they’re engaging in satire

    Quite on the contrary. How many times should I explain that I’m against distracting from a very real focus of whether or not criticisms are valid? It is your hyperfocus on defining away cases of satire that hinders that. If the dishonest people claim that what they are doing is satire, adopt a broad definition of satire and attack their dishonesty. Otherwise you will be up to your nose in a mud, arguing about words and definitions, like here with me.

    Furthermore, most of the things the Slymepit tries to pass off as satire don’t even meet this relaxed criteria.

    Excellent; then there shouldn’t be any problem.

    I have abundantly supported my position on the definition

    Unfortunately, “abundantly” only in the sense of quantity. You haven’t been able to produce a single good argument supporting your interpretation. Your dictionary argument is worthless. For your other arguments, see above.

    you have offered NOTHING except special pleading

    Wrong. I offered examples from the area of art and communication (highly pertinent) supporting it. I described (in my answer to mythbri) some practical consequences of adopting your usage. I expressed an opinion that research on actual usage would be the proper way to settle the issue.

    Stop being willfully obtuse. It means that unjust satires are LOGICALLY INVALID.

    The fact that satirist could be punished for producing unjust ridicule means that unjust satires are logically invalid? Dear LeftPositive, I will not ask you to stop being willfully obtuse. You are probably not doing this on purpose.

  22. LeftSidePositive says

    As a guide for interpreting the dictionary, this is an utter rubbish. You can’t just assume that the authors of dictionaries use here a double standard, because “deities never exist”.

    I already said that this is equally valid from the religionists’ perspective because it must inherently be a faith-based assumption, which is a category error on your part when you try to apply it to observable, actually existing things. Look, this is really simple: “talking to God” incorporates more uncertainty because of how people conceptualize God. “Talking to Julie” is understood by any reasonable person as actually talking to Julie, not just thinking you are, because Julie belongs to the category of things that can be conclusively verified. Authors of dictionaries are perfectly well aware that other people don’t believe in those dieties or in some of them. That means the level of criteria that is relevant is not the same as when someone refers to something that does and should exist, so that most people’s common understanding of the meaning of a reference incorporates the expectation of certainty for one. Words have connotations and context matters. This is not difficult. You, on the other hand, have provided no support for why you are ignoring what the vast majority of people mean when they talk about satire (honestly or self-servingly!).

    But consider also the definition: “Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something or someone”. The point is that criticism – as we normally use the word – can be mistaken. Criticism can be invalid, with the faults found by the critic not being real faults. It’s still criticism, only it’s wrong.

    Words have different levels of subjectivity in how the dictionary definition applies. Criticism also means “the act of critiquing,” depending on context. This is not difficult. The question is, why are you trying to bend the definition of satire to strain away its usefulness? What does your insistence on including dishonesty accomplish? What do we gain from including something that does not have the essential qualities of what makes satire useful and important in the term “satire,” when they use the term “satire” explicitly to defend their actions as useful and important?

    What’s your problem with biography? If it contains a lot of false information, then it’s a bad biography. The same with satire.

    No, you willfully obtuse fucking idiot. If the “biography” is not about a real person, it IS NOT A BIOGRAPHY. I already said this, and you’re pretending I didn’t. That makes you a dishonest fucking wanker.

    Ah but you see, in cases we are discussing, both the persons and vices are real enough, only the ascription of vices to people is under discussion. Consider (some of) the cartoons from the pit. What vices do they criticize? I would say: authoritarianism, group thinking, cruelty, self-righteousness.

    No, this is untrue. The Slymepit is ridiculing people for being female, for being unattractive, for being fat, for being old. These are not vices, and thus cannot be satire, no matter how much they are defended as such.

    Furthermore, when they are claiming to be satirizing actual vices–they are lying through their teeth and misrepresenting (or outright making up!). There is no truth to the claim that those vices apply to that person, so it’s useless to call it satire. Call it lying. It’s not that difficult. It’s faster, easier, and strips away their main strategy of defense.

    More importantly, I think this point is a pathetic bit of face-saving that is inconsistent with your previous discussion on the term (which you have never actually tried to define, by the way!). Why did you use an example of “satirizing people dying of hunger” in comments to the Slymepit’s statement, when dying of hunger is not a vice? Why did you validate the attitude that someone who is scared, hurt, and trying to escape is deserving of more satire, when these are normal human reactions to HARASSMENT (which is what you’re describing, btw!) and are not vices deserving of ridicule? You don’t know what satire means. Admit it, go home and read some more, and stop wasting our time.

    The analogy with biography would be: the biography of LeftPositive, ascribing to him/her the invention of the wheel. Totally wrong! Bad biography! But a biography nevertheless.

    No one in their right mind would consider that a biography. A biography is a work of non-fiction. “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” is not a biography.

    A better (although still not ideal) example for you would be “Don Quixote”. The critics accused Cervantes that what he ridiculed was not a vice. Chivalry is a virtue, for God’s sake!

    The thing here is that those critics were wrong, and Cervantes clearly showed why chivalry was absurd, problematic, and unsuited to the modern world. The fact that it’s one of the greatest satires is because it’s astute and CORRECT in its observations. Otherwise it would be “a pathetic attempt at satire” rather than “a satire.”

    Quite on the contrary. How many times should I explain that I’m against distracting from a very real focus of whether or not criticisms are valid?

    Then why do none of your examples in your original piece actually address dishonesty or the ethics of accuracy in satire, but instead just focus on being too mean? Why do they describe someone responding to abuse rather than to a satire? Why do you explicitly defend the student who is not (or may not be–your writing is so unclear) actually making an argument, and sympathize with him regardless of whether he has a point? Why does your whole piece suffer from an insufferable vagueness when you could have just used the word “mockery” and made yourself clear (at the cost of the disingenuous and inaccurate point you were trying to make), if there is anything to be gained from your stretching of “satire”?

    If the dishonest people claim that what they are doing is satire, adopt a broad definition of satire and attack their dishonesty.

    Why? Why is this a better idea? How does this tackle the fact that they are using satire as a defense and claiming that it ennobles them? How does this address the fact that most people will still hear the word “satire” as something valuable? Why should we cede that ground?

    If someone claims what they’re doing is “pro-life,” it is an incredibly bad idea to let them have that emotional resonance with their position. Listeners are not perfectly rational creatures. If you give them the emotional weight, no amount of picking at crumbs is going to undo that.

    Moreover, ceding the idea of “satire” while focusing on particular points of dishonesty or inaccuracy validates the idea that the piece as a whole is intellectually valid, but you’re just quibbling over details. On the other hand, saying “this is so dishonest and inaccurate, don’t pretend it’s a ‘satire’” communicates to everyone that it’s rotten to the core, and NONE of its claim to the social value of satire can apply.

    Otherwise you will be up to your nose in a mud, arguing about words and definitions, like here with me.

    Actually, no. Most people on the Slymepit who use the satire defense actually know what it means and why they’re using it. Addressing their claim of “satire” at the core of what it means and stripping away their ability to use it self-righteously to defend their behavior IS THE POINT. They know that exposing their mockery as based on made-up issues and quotes, makes their claim of satire come crumbling down. You are the only one who is obsessed with changing the definition, because you wrote a horribly muddled piece that repeatedly confused satire with abuse and harassment and had no point to it, so you’re just desperately trying to save face by stomping your foot and twisting “satire” into whatever knots you can, just so you can look like less of an idiot.

    Unfortunately, “abundantly” only in the sense of quantity. You haven’t been able to produce a single good argument supporting your interpretation. Your dictionary argument is worthless. For your other arguments, see above.

    You have offered NO COUNTER-ARGUMENT WHATSOEVER to the dictionary definitions. You haven’t made any coherent statement as to WHY we should relax the definition of satire. You haven’t even provided your own definition and why it’s more accurate or useful than the definitions I’ve provided. (You even failed to make clear you disagreed with the Wikipedia definition in your piece!) You have failed to address the fact that it gives them valuable ground in the debate and THAT’S WHY THEY USE IT. You have failed to address the “pro-life” argument. You have failed to address the role of connotations in how listeners process and subconsciously make judgements based on language (an EXTREMELY well-supported field in cognitive science, by the way!). You have failed to address that allowing the Slymepitters to lay claim to “satire” by defining it down lets them claim intellectual validity in the minds of their listeners. You’ve failed to address that your definition of satire (as near as we can tell!) is just the fallacy of affirming the consequent (“Satire brings groups together and makes opponents seem ridiculous” =/= “anything that brings a group together or makes an opponent seem ridiculous is satire.”). You’ve failed to address some pretty gaping holes in your claim that “nothing of substance depends on it, it’s just a word” (or am I to assume that you don’t actually mind when we call you a pedophile?!). You have failed to address how your “be nice anyway” stance fails to address the historical importance of satire and the necessity of hurting the feelings of those who are doing wrong (the cracker example, just for one). You have failed to address the “validity is not enough” both validates wrongdoers who have invalid views (and erroneously think the harm will go away when they express those invalid views more nicely!), and that this same frame would shut up people who have very valid points and need to agitate and often get silenced by a tone argument (the “validity is not enough” frame also fails to address what actions can never be validated, as I already explained to you). You have failed to show that people who are using “satire” differently are not just a) ignorant, b) self-important, and/or c) manipulative. You have failed to address the simple fact that intent is not magic. You have failed to address that your over-broad definition of satire means you are simultaneously minimizing what the slymepit is doing while acting like just naming someone one has a disagreement with is an unbearable, unacceptable humiliation (see also, the “sin” example for the dangers of this kind of “everybody does it!” thinking). You have failed to address how dishonest this looks in the context of your determination to be a fence-sitter (i.e., you have a vested a priori commitment to seeing everyone as the same and seeing yourself as better for not being involved, so you have a vested interest in not distinguishing between valid and invalid invocations of “satire,” and it’s probably not in our interests to accommodate a willful and evidence-resistant fence-sitter since their definitions will naturally lead to stagnation!).

    I described (in my answer to mythbri) some practical consequences of adopting your usage.

    I really don’t think it’s particularly difficult to distinguish between satire and propaganda. I think most art/political critics do that quite easily, and, more importantly THAT’S THEIR JOB. Since people on different sides of the political spectrum can still have vices, people from all ideologies can satirize those vices. But trying to satirize things that turn out to be good ideas (anti-women’s suffrage posters, etc.) people stop calling them satires–a google search for “anti-women’s suffrage…” suggested “propaganda” as the very first suggestion, but never suggested “satire.” Even straight-up googling “anti-women’s suffrage satire” presented results of suffragists’ satires of the antis. This is even more obvious when the question at hand is not a difference of values but outright lies. No one (apart from possibly skinheads) calls the cartoons of Jews created by the Third Reich “satire,” although they would perfectly meet your (twisted, inaccurate, useless) definition. They call it propaganda.

    I expressed an opinion that research on actual usage would be the proper way to settle the issue.

    And you failed to address the counterpoint that research into the numerous ways people misuse “ironic” wouldn’t actually benefit anyone trying to communicate with that term.

    The fact that satirist could be punished for producing unjust ridicule means that unjust satires are logically invalid?

    Would you care to address the distinction I already made between purporting to be something but not actually meeting its criteria? And, yes, punishing someone for unjust ridicule means that it’s just ridicule NOT SATIRE (and also possibly slander), so the protections afforded to satirists disappear because by being unjust, they are not performing the essential function of the satirist, which is to be a witty truth-teller. Even if they claim it’s satire, and even if some semantic constructions use the fact that they are referring to what others are purporting, not what actually is (just like Barack Obama could perfectly grammatically refer to “my Muslim faith” in the context of partisan rumors, which doesn’t actually mean it’s accurate to refer to his faith as actually Muslim), this doesn’t actually change what the definition means (indeed, these counterfactual grammatical constructions DEPEND on you knowing what the definition means and how the claim being undercut differs). This really isn’t difficult.

  23. LeftSidePositive says

    Sally, based on your usually-expressed opinion of fence-sitters, may I safely assume you’re referring to Ariel?

    (Just wanted to make sure!)

  24. LeftSidePositive says

    Btw, here’s an excellent explanation of why without truth in it, something claiming to be satire cannot really be:

    http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/satire-sarcasm-and-irony-why-cant-the-conservative-right-do-it-intentionally/

    There’s a reason the 1/2 Hour News Hour failed after one season, and The Daily Show is going strong after 17 years and 18 Primetime Emmys. It’s because satire actually needs a kernel of truth in it. Something that isn’t true is just hollow and doesn’t work. If you don’t have an accurate view of the world, you are in no position to highlight the follies of others because they are too clouded by your own folly, and as such satire just plain can’t happen.

  25. Ariel says

    LeftSide, throught this post I’m going to adopt your style of discussing. I think you deserve it well. (Stephanie, if that bothers you, say a word).

    Look, this is really simple: “talking to God” incorporates more uncertainty because of how people conceptualize God. “Talking to Julie” is understood by any reasonable person as actually talking to Julie, not just thinking you are, because Julie belongs to the category of things that can be conclusively verified. Authors of dictionaries are perfectly well aware that other people don’t believe in those dieties or in some of them.

    And how do you know to which category “satire” belongs? Don’t you understand idiot that the authors of dictionaries are perfectly well aware that when a satirist ridicules “vices and follies” of a given person, some other people might not believe him?

    You, on the other hand, have provided no support for why you are ignoring what the vast majority of people mean when they talk about satire (honestly or self-servingly!).

    You have provided not even a single scrap of evidence that “vast majority of people” mean by satire what you want them to mean. Presenting it as a fact is pure demagoguery.

    Words have different levels of subjectivity in how the dictionary definition applies. Criticism also means “the act of critiquing,” depending on context. This is not difficult.

    And it can mean also a product of such an act (exactly like satire is the product of an act of satirizing). This is not difficult. Why in satire the level of subjectivity should be different? How do you know it? You have not addressed the objection at all, but you pretend dishonestly that you did. Pure demagoguery again, but I would expect nothing else of you.

    No, this is untrue. The Slymepit is ridiculing people for being female, for being unattractive, for being fat, for being old. These are not vices, and thus cannot be satire, no matter how much they are defended as such.

    What is untrue? That some of of the cartoons criticize these vices? Did you read what I really wrote? Answer: yes, you did, but you chose to ignore it.

    Call it lying. It’s not that difficult. It’s faster, easier, and strips away their main strategy of defense.

    It’s an excellent strategy for a war hawk like you, that for sure.

    Why did you use an example of “satirizing people dying of hunger” in comments to the Slymepit’s statement, when dying of hunger is not a vice?

    I didn’t say that dying of hunger is a vice. When you satirize a politician it also doesn’t mean that being a politician is a vice. But you could easily ridicule a real concrete person dying of hunger, even in a satire (in my liberal sense). Make this person an example of laziness, of stupidity – whatever. You can easily ridicule a vice, while making a complete asshole of yourself. It’s really simple.

    Why did you validate the attitude that someone who is scared, hurt, and trying to escape is deserving of more satire

    I didn’t, you dishonest twit! You are twisting my words to suit your aims. The words are:

    The person is question becomes confused, nervous, she starts making mistakes, plunges deeper and deeper while doubling down or trying to escape, suffers, reveals herself as a weak link in a chain, all of this so funny and so deserving another satire … right?

    And in the next sentence I gave an answer to this question. The answer was: no.

    Be careful now, I’m going to tell you something which I really, really mean. Here it goes. LeftSide produced a lot of text here, revealing herself as a caring and reasonable person, worth discussing with and deserving a praise … right? Ok, if you are going to answer “yes” to this question, you lost me and I’m not with you anymore. I mean what I said, understood? But I didn’t in any way validate a view that you deserve a praise. Exactly the fucking opposite! Only a dishonest demagogue can twist words like that.

    The analogy with biography would be: the biography of LeftPositive, ascribing to him/her the invention of the wheel. Totally wrong! Bad biography! But a biography nevertheless.

    No one in their right mind would consider that a biography. A biography is a work of non-fiction. “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter” is not a biography.

    This is one of the dumbest replies I read in my life … ever. Congratulations, LefSide! I didn’t know that a translation would be needed. Since (evidently) it is needed, here it goes:

    Consider the biography of LeftPositive ascribing to him/her ingenuity and brilliance. Since LeftPositive is an obvious idiot, it’s totally wrong! Bad biography! However, it may contain sufficiently many facts to be a biography nevertheless.

    You neither understood nor confronted my reply. Nothing else to be expected.

    Then why do none of your examples in your original piece actually address dishonesty or the ethics of accuracy in satire, but instead just focus on being too mean?

    A genuine question at last. The reason was that at this (early) stage of the dialogue you can count on nothing else. At this stage you can’t expect ethics of accuracy – it’s unrealistic. But I believe we can count on stopping being too mean. I believe it is possible to make the other side sensible to this. Even if I would like to have more than that, intention is not magic (as you are so fond of saying)

    Why? Why is this a better idea?

    For a war monger, it isn’t. The war monger wants to destroy the enemy and to stop the dialogue before it started. On the other hand, for someone counting on the dialogue to change something, it is. It is not aggressive, it doesn’t imply from the start that you view others as worthless piece of shit. In this way you show that you take their intentions into consideration. I understand that you hate it. But I think also that people like you, LeftSide, should be prohibited to come closer than 50 miles to any place where a dialogue is going on. That’s of course only my private opinion.

    How does this tackle the fact that they are using satire as a defense and claiming that it ennobles them?

    By stating explicitly that satire can be bad, unjust, damaging and harmful. By refusing to treat it as an excuse.

    How does this address the fact that most people will still hear the word “satire” as something valuable? Why should we cede that ground?

    Yes, this may well be the case: although bad satires exist, the social role of satire can be assessed as positive in general, hence the association. You are asking a real question here (no, I don’t think of you as a complete idiot :)) But the crucial question needs to be asked: who is “we”? War mongers attempting to obstruct the dialogue? People who want the dialogue to continue just for propaganda purposes? People who are honestly trying to understand the other side with the hope of reducing, if not stopping, the hostilities? A single answer to your question does not exist. Since (quite evidently) you belong to the first group, I’m even ready to admit that for your aims the aggressive way is better. But starting with the second group, problems with your option abound. Adopting the aggressive approach is risky: for the observers (your questions concerns PR, after all!) you may start looking like “untouchables” – like people who are not ready from the start to put up with any ridicule coming in their direction. The spectators will see the pictures which look like satire, pictures which – on the face of it – criticize authoritarianism and group thinking; maybe they will have a quick look at some discussions on Pharyngula or A+ forum; they will confront it with your nervous (“It’s not satire! It’s a lie!”) reaction to them … well, what do you expect? Do you think you will get good PR from this? I doubt it.

    And needless to say, it’s the perspective of the third group that interests me most.

    You have offered NO COUNTER-ARGUMENT WHATSOEVER to the dictionary definitions

    Of course I haven’t. I have nothing against these definitions, only against your way of interpreting them. The alternative reading is presented in my #19, dear demagogue. You offered nothing in return.

    You haven’t even provided your own definition and why it’s more accurate or useful than the definitions I’ve provided.

    I’m happy to accept dictionary definitions (on my reading, not yours).

    I really don’t think it’s particularly difficult to distinguish between satire and propaganda. I think most art/political critics do that quite easily, and, more importantly THAT’S THEIR JOB.

    Sure, LeftSide. You think. Show evidence then that the classification of Juvenal’s poems as satires has been revoked because of the poet’s attitude to foreigners and Jews. Show scientific discussions where such a classification is made explicitly dependent on historical assessment of Domitian’s courtiers he criticized. Otherwise, fuck off.

    Last word. If you continue flooding me with long lists of my “failures” (your favorite technique from the start), I will pick a few of them as I see fit and answer. If you want to choose yourself the questions to be addressed, make the lists shorter. The decision is up to you; this is just to inform you what to expect in return.

  26. says

    Yup. “Load of bullshit” refers to the OP. I didn’t have the time to write a lengthy rebuttal but then you already did, LeftSidePositive! More later.

  27. LeftSidePositive says

    Thanks, Sally. To be honest I was just plain wondering if anyone was still reading (even I have to gird my stomach to read through all of Ariel’s insufferable, self-serving circumlocution, and I’ve already engaged him in debate!) and if there’s actually an interested audience for my replies (I’m not counting Ariel, of course…he’d pretend not to know the definition of “oven mitt” if it would help him fencesit and write long, muddled treatises!

    But isn’t it cute now that he tries to be aggressive? He sounds like an eight-year-old repeating bad words he heard his father say in the toolshed!

  28. LeftSidePositive says

    And how do you know to which category “satire” belongs?

    Because that’s how it’s being used by the Slymepit–that’s WHY it’s being used by the Slymepit. It is WHY satire has such a long history and proud tradition. It is WHY people care about it. It is the most parsimonious understanding and the most specific, which when one is trying to write clearly, is by far the most favorable approach (although to write clearly one has to think clearly, so I can see why that would be unattainable for you!).

    Don’t you understand idiot that the authors of dictionaries are perfectly well aware that when a satirist ridicules “vices and follies” of a given person, some other people might not believe him?

    Look, dude…you’re really out of your depth here. Trying to add “idiot” to your arguments when you’re foundering so badly just makes you seem all the more amateurish. It should be reserved for when you’re actually knocking something down. By the way, idiot, direct addresses in English should be surrounded by commas, dumbfuck.

    More to the point, the goal of the satirist is to prove via the satire that those vices and follies are true. If he can’t do it, he fails and his piece isn’t a satire.

    You have provided not even a single scrap of evidence that “vast majority of people” mean by satire what you want them to mean.

    Remember that long list of arguments that you failed to address? Address them before you claim that I did not present a scrap of evidence.

    It occurs to me that you are thinking of EVERYTHING as meaningless, postmodern terms of art. You say “you have not provided evidence” because I have and so you’ve parroted it as the thing to say–you see other people making arguments with that phrase, so, like “satire,” you’ll just appropriate the words and it never occurs to you that they might have MEANING behind them. Look, just like saying “satire!” fails miserably when there are no actual vices and follies to be ridiculed, saying “you haven’t provided evidence” when I actually have provided abundant arguments you’ve failed to address makes you look like a total fucking idiot who has become unmoored from reality and all meaningful communication.

    (Oh, and fuck off, you lying fucking weasel.)

    Why in satire the level of subjectivity should be different? How do you know it?

    Because “satire” has positive connotations of speaking truth to power. Because that’s how the slymepit is using it IN THIS DEBATE. “Criticism” on the other hand is a much more value-neutral word in terms of whether or not its accurate. In fact, the Mac Dictionary even embeds that value-neutrality right into the definition: “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.” Other definitions I could find were similarly subjective and discussed the act of rendering an unfavorable judgement instead of phrasing structured around actual faults. This is different from other words like “insight” that actually do convey value and accuracy on the part of the one having the insight.

    I have already shown that many words’ definitions are only useful when applied objectively, and I have shown that satire similarly loses a lot of its usefulness when applied so subjectively. You have not communicated any benefit to loosening the definition of satire (except for ceding ground to the pit, which is a COST, you idiot!).

    Call it lying. It’s not that difficult. It’s faster, easier, and strips away their main strategy of defense.

    It’s an excellent strategy for a war hawk like you, that for sure.

    Caring about being lied about makes me a “war hawk”? Caring about being abused and gaslighted makes me a “war hawk”?

    Apparently people should just indulge dishonesty and excuses for harassment, because defending ourselves is just too damn belligerent for you pretending that there’s no conflict to disrupt your perfectly-civilly-toned day. Well, fuck you and the horse you rode in on, jackass!

    I didn’t say that dying of hunger is a vice.

    Yes you did. You proposed satirizing someone dying of hunger. When one satirizes, one exposes vices. Therefore, the only way to satirize someone dying of hunger is if you thought dying of hunger were a vice (or, which is more likely, you have no idea what satire means and you were just using it to mean “ridicule.”).

    But you could easily ridicule a real concrete person dying of hunger, even in a satire (in my liberal sense). Make this person an example of laziness, of stupidity – whatever.

    You’re just grasping at straws, you worthless fucking idiot. Look, if that were what you actually meant, you would say, “would you satirize someone for their stupidity even if they were dying of hunger?” not “would you satirize someone dying of hunger?” because this communicates no vice.

    Moreover, NO ONE is so lazy or so stupid that they can die of hunger simply of their own accord, so even your pathetic, transparent, post-hoc reasoning fails. Billions of years of evolution pretty strongly dispose us to getting food to prevent us from dying. Kinda basic, that. Even if someone made stupid mistakes in the past, there would have to be a society of people intent on punishing this person and continuing to deny zem food.

    The person is question becomes confused, nervous, she starts making mistakes, plunges deeper and deeper while doubling down or trying to escape, suffers, reveals herself as a weak link in a chain, all of this so funny and so deserving another satire … right?

    
And in the next sentence I gave an answer to this question. The answer was: no.

    I already explained to you that all you communicated was that you found it personally distasteful, NOT that you disagree with the premise that this person is worthy of satire. Address my point about that, you cowardly fucking weasel.

    If you actually meant to undercut the idea that this was deserving of satire, you would have said something along the lines of “but here, you’ve allowed your enjoyment of ridicule to go too far, and now you’re ridiculing someone just for being human.” You would have, you know, actually addressed the counterpoint you were trying (*cough*liar*cough*) to make, instead of going on and on about niceness and pity. At the very least, you are a SPECTACULARLY shitty writer.

    But more likely, you are a spectacularly dishonest arguer trying to save face when you’ve been shown up not to understand the topic of what you chose to write about. Applying your previous misunderstanding of satire as “value-free ridicule” is vastly more consistent with all your prior statements on the subject of satire prior to being called out on your ignorance, and explains your “contribution” to the discussion far more elegantly than all your flailing, post-hoc excuses. Even more importantly, your next paragraph takes pains to state that you’re opposed to this meanness EVEN WHEN IT’S VALID, thereby further supporting the fact that your attitude towards satirizing a frightened person is NOT to show that it’s invalid, but just too mean.

    LeftSide produced a lot of text here, revealing herself as a caring and reasonable person, worth discussing with and deserving a praise … right? Ok, if you are going to answer “yes” to this question, you lost me and I’m not with you anymore.

    Jesus Christ on a cracker, you are a fucking dumbshit. There is a critical difference here. This construction indicates that being a caring and reasonable person IS IN FACT worth discussing and worth deserving of praise. The disjoint here is that you are heavily implying that I am NOT a caring or reasonable person and THEREFORE NOT deserving of praise. But your construction has still established that being a caring and reasonable person is in fact deserving of praise. Therefore, to complete the parallel, your previous construction DID IN FACT validate the idea that being scared or harassed into submission was worthy of satire.

    Consider the biography of LeftPositive ascribing to him/her ingenuity and brilliance. Since LeftPositive is an obvious idiot, it’s totally wrong! Bad biography! However, it may contain sufficiently many facts to be a biography nevertheless.

    So, you’re trying to morph a differing value judgment into a blatant error in an objective, verifiable fact? Nice try, but no. While we’re on the subject, stop trying to shift the goalposts to “containing “sufficiently many” facts” after the example clearly indicated at first a person who was wholly made-up, and then a factual error so egregious as to overturn the whole enterprise.

    At this stage you can’t expect ethics of accuracy – it’s unrealistic. But I believe we can count on stopping being too mean.

    Ah, the cry of the civility troll in all its glory! Look, dumbfuck, I don’t know how you could have possibly fucking missed this when we’ve told every other naive fucking tone troll this in the last two years…but the fact that these assholes have an inaccurate view of the world IS THE REASON they are being so mean. Their worldview is rotten to the core. You can never get people to treat women more humanely until you get it them to realize the fundamental truth that women are deserving of humane treatment. When the disagreement is this fundamental, it doesn’t go away with a nicer tone. It is actually the belief itself (“I’m better than women because I’m a man” or “women exist to make me feel puffed up and hardened” or “women who express or inspire any sexual thoughts have what’s coming to them”) that is driving the hateful behavior–they are acting directly on that very belief, not on the extraneous frustration of disagreement. This is like trying to convince people to stop praying while you assure them that their belief in god is reasonable. Until they change the core inaccuracy, they will have no reason to stop being mean–why stop being mean if someone is less valuable than you? Why stop being mean if women deserve hateful treatment for stepping out of line? Why try to stop silencing women when there is just something so *wrong* about women speaking up?

    I believe it is possible to make the other side sensible to this.

    So DJ Grothe failed at this. Ron Lindsay failed at this. Hemant Mehta failed at this. Eran Segev failed at this. Jim Underdown failed at this. Dan Fincke failed at this. Michael Nugent is currently in the process of failing at this. Why do you think you suddenly have the capacity to make people who prioritize unbridled communication over all other values (and say so explicitly!) bridle their communication just for your stated preferences?!

    Even if I would like to have more than that, intention is not magic (as you are so fond of saying)

    Do you even know what this phrase means? By this non-sequitur I’m guessing not.

    (By the way, for the sake of clarification–someone who holds odious views but decides to be superficially polite doesn’t need any magic for their odious views to do harm. I suggest you look up “othering,” “microaggressions,” “silencing,” and “privilege blindness” just for a quick primer on how rotten worldviews bubble up to the surface even when they’re not realized by the person in question.)

    For a war monger, it isn’t.

    So saying I won’t put up with harassment of me or my peers makes me a “war monger”?! I want to live my own life in peace and not have any intrusions on my boundaries. Well, gee, I guess I’m just as bad as those warmongering nations, Belguim and Switzerland!!!

    The war monger wants to destroy the enemy and to stop the dialogue before it started.

    Because I’m obligated to have a dialogue as to whether or not its okay to send me rape and death threats? I’m obligated to have a dialogue about whether or not it’s okay to proposition women who want to be alone? I’m obligated to have a dialogue about whether slavery was really all that bad? I’m obligated to have a dialogue about whether burning people at the stake might be a great way to enhance group cohesion? Nope, sorry–some things are settled questions. Don’t make victims keep coming back to their wrongdoers for “dialogue” to beg and plead for our rights.

    On the other hand, for someone counting on the dialogue to change something, it is.

    And here we get to the heart of the matter: all your weasel-words, all your redefining words out of existence, are really just a front so you can pretend you are “seeing both sides” and valuing “dialogue,” when in reality you’re ignoring the fact that some people are unequivocally harmful and blatantly malicious, and are trying to police those victimized by their behavior just so you can feel better about yourself. Well, fuck off, asshole!

    It is not aggressive, it doesn’t imply from the start that you view others as worthless piece of shit.

    Has it ever occurred to you just how much effort these asshats have gone to conclusively demonstrate for me that they are worthless pieces of shit?

    In this way you show that you take their intentions into consideration.

    You are blatantly ignoring the fact that I have abundant evidence that their intentions are dishonest. Also, if someone makes a claim that is just plain wrong, I HAVE taken it into consideration when I tell them why it’s wrong. Taking things into consideration doesn’t mean I have to give it undue deference.

    But I think also that people like you, LeftSide, should be prohibited to come closer than 50 miles to any place where a dialogue is going on.

    Yeah, fuck me and my caring about accuracy! Fuck me and my refusal to suffer fools! Fuck me for actually caring about consequences and other people’s lived experiences over the tone that I can browse through! Fuck me for actually holding liars accountable!

    That’s of course only my private opinion.

    Which you shared on a public forum in a transparent attempt to shame me into capitulating to your desires. Sorry, I don’t fall for passive-aggressive bullshit.

    By stating explicitly that satire can be bad, unjust, damaging and harmful. By refusing to treat it as an excuse.

    And how does this differentiate my dislike satire that is only perceived as “damaging” and “harmful” by those whose unfair interests are being targeted? Why throw out all that is good about satire when I can just tell them they fail to meet their lofty goals? Why kick the noble art of satire to the curb (and do so even to valid satires, and to hyperventilate about such perfectly mature acts as naming the objects of one’s disagreement)? Why buy into their pathetic frame that intentionally tries to muddle satire and harassment?

    Yes, this may well be the case: although bad satires exist, the social role of satire can be assessed as positive in general, hence the association

    Cognitive science called. They want you to learn the most basic facts of how social beings process words.

    People who are honestly trying to understand the other side with the hope of reducing, if not stopping, the hostilities?

    The hostilities will not be reduced by “understanding” the other side. The other side sees me as subhuman. The other side does not accept that I have a right to my own body, or to my own feelings. The other side does not see me as an equal, solely because of my gender. The hostilities will reduce by drumming those assholes out of our movement, and refusing to tolerate them. The hostilities will reduce when people understand there are severe negative consequences for negative behavior. The hostilities will reduce when we don’t laud sexist assholes like Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Christopher Hitchens, and Penn Jilette as movement leaders.

    Adopting the aggressive approach is risky:

    Tell that to the entire revitalized New Atheist movement. Tell that to Martin Luther King. Tell that to Emmeline Pankhurst. Tell that to Dan Savage. Tell that to every single person who’s had to stand up for themselves. Oh, and your concern is noted…now fuck off, troll.

    The spectators will see the pictures which look like satire, pictures which – on the face of it – criticize authoritarianism and group thinking; maybe they will have a quick look at some discussions on Pharyngula or A+ forum; they will confront it with your nervous (“It’s not satire! It’s a lie!”) reaction to them … well, what do you expect? Do you think you will get good PR from this? I doubt it.

    Yes, I think for everyone other than pathetic, tone-trolling, professional fence sitters with sticks up their asses like you, they will see that we are the side that prioritizes honesty. I don’t know where the fuck you think that telling off the Slymepit comes off as “nervous,” and I think your melodramatic use of exclamation points to try to cast our reaction like the guilty party in a Perry Mason drama is the only reason it comes off that way…so stop putting words in our mouth, you fucking asshole. This approach also immediately undercuts the assumed positive value of satire and juxtaposes the value we as a society attribute to satire that speaks truth to power and a pathetic cargo-cult imitation of it.


    The alternative reading is presented in my #19, dear demagogue. You offered nothing in return.

    I did, you dishonest fucking wankstain. I told you intent is not magic. You failed to answer. I gave you an extensive rundown of the role of word interpretation in cognitive science and the costs of allowing the overuse of words with positive connotations without meeting the criteria for those positive connotations.

    I’m happy to accept dictionary definitions (on my reading, not yours).

    You’re not “accepting” a dictionary definition “on your reading.” You’re selectively reading to suit your own agenda. Your agenda does nothing but confuse the issue and muddles communication.

    Sure, LeftSide. You think. Show evidence then that the classification of Juvenal’s poems as satires has been revoked because of the poet’s attitude to foreigners and Jews. Show scientific discussions where such a classification is made explicitly dependent on historical assessment of Domitian’s courtiers he criticized. Otherwise, fuck off.

    Oh, FINALLY! Something actually resembling an argument! Fascinating! I will grant a tiny bit of historical leeway to things that were called satires for centuries before modern values caught up with them and invalidated those satires, simply because I don’t expect critics to have infinite foresight, BUT at the same time, I will note that Juvenal is regarded with considerable uneasiness now due to his prejudices toward the under-privileged. I think calling those “an attempt at satire” or “a screed that has the superficial form of a satire” would be the clearest way to address them (at least it’s better than the revisionists who claim he was satirizing xenophobia through an invented character–I hate it when people try to pretend flawed authors have 20th/21st Century values!). Ultimately it comes down to failing just like the Christian “It Gets Worse” “satire” fails, because we as the reader agree with the one being “satirized,” and then it’s not a satire anymore. And there’s only so much you can do when he titled the book “satires.” You can refer to the title of the book, the role it played in the development of satire as a genre, and still note that the same shit would not fly as a satire today.

    More importantly, I notice you just plain edited out my points about Nazis and the women’s suffrage movement. Dishonest fucking coward that you are. You want to make an argument from common usage? Fine. THEN DON’T IGNORE THE EXAMPLES I GIVE YOU FROM COMMON USAGE. The fact that “anti-suffrage propaganda” is a google suggestion and “anti-suffrage satire” is not means that it’s several thousand times less likely used. Maybe something that’s been a satire for hundreds of years before people wise up to the fact that those values are fucked can be grandfathered in (and only then in extremely limited contexts), but that certainly doesn’t mean that values that are already left behind by society at large (and the Slymepit seems to be stuck somewhere in 1935 as far as its values are concerned!) can express their fucked-up selves and expect everyone else who is way past them to interpret their bigoted rage as any reasonable attainment of the criteria of pointing out “vices and follies.”

    Last word. If you continue flooding me with long lists of my “failures” (your favorite technique from the start), I will pick a few of them as I see fit and answer.

    I want you to address EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. That’s why I wrote them. And if you can’t answer them, fuck off. ESPECIALLY since you have had the motherfucking gall to ignore my points repeatedly and then say I’ve made no argument about them.

  29. mythbri says

    I recall reading a piece of satire recently that used a starving person as a means of satirizing the food culture of the U.S. In America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, Stephen Colbert talks about the problem that (most) Americans have with food – namely, that there is a lot of it, and we eat more than we should, and it’s not very good for us.

    I paraphrase:

    So the next time you think of not finishing that Wendy’s Double Baconator with Cheese, just remember that there’s a starving kid in Africa who would love to hate himself for eating it.

    I think to most reasonable people, it’s clear that the target in this case is NOT the starving kid in Africa. Because being poor and hungry is not a vice, in the view of most reasonable people. I have seen political conservatives attempt to satirize poor and hungry people in an attempt to convince people that social programs enable laziness and need to be cut, but because this isn’t true, it fails to be satire is relegated to propaganda.

  30. says

    I read the OP over and over again but my eyes keep sliding past the last few paragraphs. I have little patience for poorly written stuff these days. However, this sentence

    This said, the time has come for “yes, but”, dear Greta Christina, hasn’t it? Er … right.

    Jumped out at me. When I read it, all I could hear in my head was, “Hello! I am a huge asshole!” Would you like to attempt to refute Greta Christina’s excellent “Yes, But…” post? No? Then why bring her into this only to issue an inaccurate cheap shot? Especially considering that you qualify the whole statement by claiming it’s not meant to be “prescriptive,” by which I guess you mean you’re not trying to tell people what to do. Okay, fine. Let’s look at what you’re trying not to tell people to do.

    Satire can be a deadly weapon.

    Given you later hyperbole centered around portraying ideological and factual disagreements as war, I think it’s worth pointing out that this is not literally true, and in fact the use of satire as a weapon against the powerful pretty much ensures that it’s hardly ever deadly to anything.

    It’s not just that the satirized person will not like it (obviously she will not).

    Focusing on the satire of individuals rather than powerful institutions and ideas? Already off the rails.

    The point is rather that it may bring a lot of humiliation, confusion, pain and demeaning of the person’s very identity.

    If you’re mocking someone’s “very identity” then I would suggest that you’re not engaged in satire at all. That’s what distinguishes both satire AND criticism from harassment. Harassment attacks feminists for being female. Satire and criticism might attack feminists for being overly concerned with white middle-class women’s issues.

    I’ve already said that in principle I’m not against satirizing concrete people. I’m also not convinced that satire should be restricted to high profile public figures (sometimes we use it successfully in more restricted contexts and I can see no reason to reject such applications). But there is a price to be paid, and only too often I’m not ready to pay it.

    It’s not clear, especially after reading your follow-up comments, that these alleged costs are really what you have to pay for engaging in satire, since it’s not clear that you are working from a useful and accurate definition of “satire.” Perhaps those are actually the costs you have to pay in order to engage in personal attacks.

    Consider a politician, a priest, a blogger, a teacher (make your choice) who in your opinion deserves some ridicule. Let the scales be put in your favor: assume that your satire (directed explicitly against the person in question) is valid, i.e. it indicates and ridicules real, not imaginary vices or follies. It stresses for example the priest’s hypocrisy, the politician’s dishonesty, or the blogger’s authoritarian style (in the last case please find concrete examples for yourself). So you make your LOLs, you propagate the satires, and holy shit, it works! The person is question becomes confused, nervous, she starts making mistakes, plunges deeper and deeper while doubling down or trying to escape, suffers, reveals herself as a weak link in a chain, all of this so funny and so deserving another satire … right?

    No, not right. As was already pointed out, the results here–nervousness, confusion, mistakes–sound more like an emotional response to a personal attack, not an intellectual response to a critically valid attack on one’s ideas. While watching an ideological opponent make missteps because of emotional nervousness can be amusing, it doesn’t necessarily have any connection to the factual content of the critique. Nervousness and confusion can result from both accurate and inaccurate attacks, but I assert that they are much more likely to result from attacks aimed at the personal characteristics of an individual, less likely to result from attacks aimed at ideologies and institutions.

    What I want to say is that if you answer “yeah, right!” to the last question, you lost me and I’m not with you any longer, all my sympathy to satire notwithstanding.

    I guess “yeah, right!” is meant to be sarcastic here? So basically if I disagree about your previous sentences then… what? The conversation’s over? Kind of dissatisfying, if it were my essay, I’d make sure to have a two-pronged argument, one to address the people who agree, and one to address the people who disagree, because just saying, “well if you disagree with me here then we have nothing left to talk about” isn’t much fun and it undermines your credibility. What about those people who do disagree, and for valid reasons?

    Or better put: you would need a very strong argument not to lose me. At this stage a mere indication of some “vices or follies”- even a valid one – is not enough; you need far more to justify the person’s continuing humiliation and degradation.

    Degradation is DEFINITELY not on the satire menu. That is just completely out of the question. Degradation should be off the table, FULL STOP. If it is not, then you are not dealing with satire but with harassment. Humiliation can be a side effect of having your worldview thoroughly discredited, but if that is your goal, to humiliate a person, then you are not doing satire.

    That’s at least how I see it. Without such strong arguments, I would opt for taking this person off the hook; otherwise I would be ready to turn not against her, but against you, even if I share a lot of your initial misgivings.

    So, here you seem to be saying that there might be strong arguments that would persuade you that it’s worth it to humiliate and degrade an individual. I question the morality of this position. I don’t think degradation and humiliation are useful for much besides silencing tactics, and satire is not a silencing tactic.

    I’m ready to admit that my approach is problematic: one could claim that I insist on backing off exactly when the satire starts being really effective.

    No, it’s just that you’re confused about what satire is. You’re advocating backing off when satire is not satire, but when it’s harassment and personal attacks, which is a reasonable position. You’ve just misapplied all the labels.

    So you are free to say that it is simply my weakness, not strength. You can argue that in such situations the default reaction should be to press the “kill” button and eliminate the weak link.

    More hyperbolic death and warfare metaphors. Not impressed.

    You could also argue that an efficient activist should be able to take such decisions. If this is so, the only conclusion will be that I do not qualify for an activist. Interview failure, thank you very much, we will keep your name in our database. And the only answer available to me will be: thank you as well, I will think twice before buying your products.

    Anyway, I’m curious about your thoughts on this.

    My thoughts are the LeftSidePositive is correct and I’m available for copy editing if you decide to write any more essays in the future. Very low rates.

  31. LeftSidePositive says

    Great rebuttal/dissection, Sally!

    Btw, with regard to:

    What I want to say is that if you answer “yeah, right!” to the last question, you lost me and I’m not with you any longer, all my sympathy to satire notwithstanding.

    I guess “yeah, right!” is meant to be sarcastic here? So basically if I disagree about your previous sentences then… what? The conversation’s over?

    I don’t think he was being sarcastic. I think what he meant to convey was more along the lines of “oh yeah, right on!” or “yeah! right!” rather than the colloquial “yeah, right.” I think he was trying to imitate the speech of someone who was riled up for more “satire” (*ahem*cough*totalfuckingbollocks*cough*) since someone being harassed was “deserving another satire,” and then saying that he wasn’t with that person who would continue to harass (oops, sorry, I mean “satirize”) in that situation. But it’s kinda hard to tell because he’s such an incredibly shitty writer.

    Reading through your commentary also really highlighted for me how disingenuous Ariel was being when he later pretended that he *didn’t* mean to say that someone being harassed was “deserving another satire.” He clearly frames it in terms of “my sympathy for satire” and he doesn’t say that approach is categorically wrong (by which I mean empirically incorrect, not just morally so), but instead says he could be convinced by a strong argument…even further demonstrating that he thinks the definition of “satire” does encompass out-and-out ridicule and vindictiveness.

  32. says

    I don’t think he was being sarcastic. I think what he meant to convey was more along the lines of “oh yeah, right on!” or “yeah! right!” rather than the colloquial “yeah, right.” I think he was trying to imitate the speech of someone who was riled up for more “satire” (*ahem*cough*totalfuckingbollocks*cough*) since someone being harassed was “deserving another satire,” and then saying that he wasn’t with that person who would continue to harass (oops, sorry, I mean “satirize”) in that situation. But it’s kinda hard to tell because he’s such an incredibly shitty writer

    Okay, yeah, that does make more sense, in context. Holy mackerel that was a struggle to get myself to stop skipping ahead. It’s become an unfortunate reflex.

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