Parody, Fake News, and Elitism

Parodic or satirical news has merit in that it allows us to dismantle the largely unquestioned incompetencies or failings of those who hold power. Jonathon Swift shows how even the most absurd proposition can be made to seem reasonable in “A Modest Proposal,” effectually exposing how the trappings of authority and intelligence in a source can blind people to its weak argument. Swift’s writing also functions as a criticism of the government and the powers that be by exclaiming the virtues of his “proposal” in the absence of any other efficient or effective plan.

However, I also see that engagement with satirical news as a critique of contemporary issues is made possible through privilege and power. Yes, The Onion is funny and absurd, but doesn’t some of its appeal come from the fact that some people just “won’t get it?” This allows people to establish themselves as better than those who don’t realize that the headline is fake or satirical. I think that a lot of the skills needed to recognize satire are learned and practiced in intellectual circles that are not accessible to a large portion of the general population. So, a news format that is used to dismantle some systems of power is also used to uphold others.

This is not to say that satirical news shouldn’t be used and enjoyed. However, I think it is essential that we be critical of our consumption, and the systems it supports.


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