According to a recent study conducted by students at Harvard University, it is now literally impossible to properly satirize the issues of police brutality and corruption.
The study attempted to analyze various attempts at making satire directed at the prevalence of police brutality within the United States, and tried to measure the ability of various pieces of satire to adequately fulfill a number of standards of good satire.
"Satire," said one of the Harvard researchers, Alicia Powell, "is a form of comedy in which one portrays an exaggerated version of a social or political issue, and does so in a tone which clearly suggests condemnation of one side."
She continued, “On the one hand, satirizing the issue of police brutality seems extraordinarily easy. You just need to imagine a scenario where a police officer does something cartoonishly evil, and is defended by practically all of society and gets away with it. This seemed relatively straight-forward, but as our study went on, we came across some surprising - or perhaps not so surprising - results.”
The study involved interviews with various popular satirists, as well as exhaustive analysis of real-world instances of police brutality. One aspect of the study involved showing people a mixture of real headlines and satirical headlines involving police brutality and corruption. A sample size of two thousand people, across many races, genders, and various other backgrounds, showed that literally no one was able to distinguish between the real stories and the fake ones, with an astonishing 84% insisting afterward that clearly every headline was actually satire, as there was no way scenarios so absurd could actually happen in the real world.
One writer for the popular satirical news website The Onion said, “I was going to write an article about a police officer seeing a black man holding a sandwich, saying that the sandwich was actually a gun, and then shooting him ten times. Except now that’s actually happened. Only worse, because first he tasered the teen, and shot him not ten times, but sixteen. How can I write satire when the most absurd, outlandish things I can dream up are actually happening in the real world? I might as well just become a regular journalist, it would literally be the exact same thing at this point.”
Another satirist, the author of the Tumblr news blog The Wishwashington Post, commented, “I give up. I literally give up. I could write a ridiculous article about, like, the Ferguson Police Department doing a drone strike on Ferguson and saying it was self-defense because all the black people all had guns, and then they all get applauded for being brave officers and they all get bonuses and white people shake their heads about how violent black people are and how they were just looking for an excuse to protest or riot and how if they didn’t want to be bombed they should’ve just been more civil to white people… but honestly, I could probably turn to Fox News a few weeks from now and hear that story. Verbatim.”
They went on to say, in an exasperated and hopeless voice, “I can’t do it. They are literally parodies of themselves. I give up. I’m done.”
While the study did account for the phenomenon of Poe’s Law, in which satire of extremism is often indistinguishable from the real thing, the study nevertheless concluded that true satire of police brutality is now impossible. One of the study’s closing comments read, “You can poke fun at the extremes of certain situations, but when extreme is the norm, it seems almost fruitless and redundant. You could write a satirical article about how the sky is so incredibly blue, and you can play up how absurdly blue it is, but when you look up, it really is that blue. You haven’t made anything up. You haven’t made a cartoonish parody of the real thing. You’ve documented a fact. It’s not satire, it’s just humorous, depressing journalism.”
Police Brutality Now Literally Impossible To Satirize, Study Finds
The Wishwashington Post
Poe’s Law in action…
I am reminded of Tom Leher’s announcement that he would no longer be writing songs on the occasion of Henry Kissinger’s Nobel Peace Prize because, in his words, “political satire became obsolete.”
(Source: thewishwashingtonpost, via shorm)