The New Republic Doesn’t Understand What Satire Is


Conversations that try to define humor are about as much fun as theology, but the New Republic’s attack on the Daily Currant just proves that the liberal site owned by a Facebook billionaire has no idea what humor or satire are.

“To choose a recent example: “Obama Pledges $700 Billion Bailout of VA” isn’t a headline whose humor you might miss on the first pass but find sly in retrospect. It’s just an unfunny lie…”

Seriously? But let me snip four sentences too boring to read and cut to…

“The VA story ends with Obama dismissing calls for officials to resign. “Why,” Obama asks, “would holding people accountable for their actions be necessary?” That neither funny nor satirical.”

We can disagree on Obama. We can even disagree on whether that’s funny. But it is satirical. Arguing otherwise is just stupid.

Current Daily Currant headlines include, “Donald Sterling Hiding Cash in Minority Neighboorhoods”, “Gluten Found in Portland’s Water Supply” and “Nation Dying of Obesity Calls for Stricter Gun Control”.

We can argue over whether those are funny (the Portland one is), but the joke is obvious. No one reads those as actual news stories, which is the New Republic’s thesis based on an old story about Bloomberg.

But the New Republic marches on with the stupid by discussing legal penalties for comedy. (There should be criminal penalties for writing an article about comedy that’s this unfunny.)

In the U.S., satirical writing—even if it makes reference to real people, and even if those references are defaming—is protected speech. But according to Harvard Law professor Bruce Hay, there are established standards for determining whether or not content is comedic and not criminally libelous—standards that can get tricky when your business is predicated on deceiving your readers. “The question a court would ask is whether the average reader would think the article was factual or satirical,” he says. While it’s unclear if somebody would win a libel suit against a purely fake news site—nobody has tried suing one yet—the risk is theoretically significant enough that these sites have decided not to chance it. As long as the disclaimer is there, they assume they’re protected.

What is even the point of this? Is it the New Republic’s working theory that the sites are not comedy sites, but are unfunnily making fun of real people with fake news stories and should be liable for it?

Would this article even exist if Obama hadn’t won in 2008? Like most entitled liberal whining, it probably wouldn’t.

I don’t understand how a human brain can be this broken. Even a computer should be able to process the existence of fake news sites better than whatever human simulation was hired by the New Republic to write this article.

  • De Doc

    As the Left increases its power and influence, the more serious and controlling it becomes. Even benign satire is viewed with suspicion, because, as we all know, only the left slanted view is the only one to be tolerated. One only need note that under the multitude of repressive regimes through history, comedy is a dead art.

    • pete

      yes, only when there is a R president (and possibly a congress) is defamation redefined as comedy.

  • DogmaelJones1

    The New Republic, dumber than a doorknob. It was unfair of Daniel to compare the article’s author to a computer. Then, there’s this standard disclaimer that can be found on the copyright page of all novels, especially those that model their characters on past and living persons, and which protects authors from libel suits by living persons or their estates: ” Publisher’s Note: This book is a work of fiction. The places, events, and characters described herein are imaginary and are not
    intended to refer to actual places, events, institutions, or persons.” And much of that fiction isn’t even satire, but readers recognize who is being portrayed in the stories. I’m not aware of any libel suits stemming from an “unfair” or “defamatory” depiction of actual persons in such fiction.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      They’ve happened, but rarely and unsuccessfully. This is still a First Amendment country and libel suits on any grounds tend to have a hard road to follow.

      • DogmaelJones1

        Thanks. I was sure there might have been some suits. I copied that disclaimer from the novel I’m working on now, not yet titled, but it follows the last in that series, “The Black Stone.” I’ve used “unfair” portrayals of actual persons in many of my novels, and haven’t encountered any problems to date. The Islamists and CAIR haven’t discovered “The Black Stone” yet so they can sue me for libeling Mohammad and defaming Islam.

        • Daniel Greenfield

          Usually they involve friends or family who ‘recognize’ themselves in a semi-autobiographical work that is only thinly disguised fiction.

          • chelmer

            The classic joke is that friends and family who recognize themselves are unhappy, and the friends and family who don’t recognize themselves in the story are even more upset.

  • Gee

    Remember – for leftists the First Amendment only applies to those that agree with their viewpoint.

    Any deviation from that standard nullifies that right