Sunday, October 09, 2005

Irony is dead!

And we have killed it!

I began this post two days ago, and it didn't seem to be going much of anywhere, so I saved it and watch it slip to the bottom of my list of posts to edit. Then, I saw this on Andrew Sullivan today:
OH PLEASE:Of course that Harriet Miers' blog is a parody.
He was refering to this, which he linked to yesterday and I linked to today.

Sullivan isn't clear on what kind of complaints he's responding to, it sounds a little like some people just thought he thought it was real. But today, the parody blog links to someone who did think it was real. Yikes!

This is just another entry in the list of ways reality and satire blur together. Over my few months of writing this blog, I have, among other things:

-Noted Onion reality convergence.
-Wondered if a writer for the Onion's AV club was stretching things in a review.
-Been unable to determine if this is a hoax.
-Mentioned a joke letter that got taken too seriously.
-Wondered whether a fake photo of a church sign was real.

As I noted writing about the joke letter, this isn't a new problem, it happened back when Johnny Swift wrote his Modest Proposal. Still, I think the internet has made things worse. The internet helps spread both satire and the work of real live wackos faster than ever. Also, irony is famously hard to convey in print. It's easy to tell the diference between a raving lunatic and a wise guy when they're speaking at your community meeting place of choice, harder when they're giving their opinions online.

From one angle, it seems like we ought to fight the temptation laugh at the nuts on the other side of the aisle. Ignore them, they're not representative of their side, focus on the serious members of the opposition, right? Unfortunately, the nuts often are representative of their sides. Look at the popularity of Ann Coulter and Michael Moore. Even people who don't represent a large chunk of the population may represent a type you'll run into a handful of times in your life. There are probably plent of people out there like the "I'm not a racist" racist I mentioned here. The quote is worth keeping in mind the next time someone says, "I'm not a racist," yet on the other hand not everyone who says that is a racist.

A better-sounding policy would be "think before you respond," and have your thinking go beyond deciding whether the thing is real or not and ask whether it matters. Alas, I have no idea how to decide what matters in practice.

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