I remember when I first encountered an article from the MosquitoPress.net. The title was “Harvard study finds that Filipinos are the world’s most gullible people”. I must admit the title made me raise my eyebrow but midway through the article where it says that the Philippines was only a notch higher than the Trojans. I immediately knew that the article was a satire.
The article became viral and even now, that article is still making rounds on various social media sites.
With the success of websites like The Onion and MosquitoPress, a lot of Pinoy satire websites mushroomed. Satire has an intrinsic appeal and has been used since time immemorial to critique various social issues. Satire comes in many form and these days,it can be found online.
But is it being used properly?
Recently, this article appeared on my Facebook feed: 16 year old filipina killed by her 5 classmates in a Christian school after liking an Atheist Fan page. Intrigued, after making sure that the link is safe, I clicked on the link and read the article. The story was presented in a news-story format, complete with first person quotes and eyewitness accounts – and really, nothing in the article will make you realize it was a satire, until you read an obscure text on the site’s sidebar which states that everything there is satire.
My issue with that article is that it used this image:
The dead person there was actually a teacher killed inside her classroom. I wonder how the teacher’s family would feel if they saw her image being used on a fake news article on the internet. (That article has been removed since then.)
This sort of “satire” is actually a bad example of a satire, in fact, it’s not satire at all. Just sensationalism, probably just to get more website traffic or what we call a click-trap.
A satire is supposed to be a critique. It’s supposed to criticize aspects of the society and to bring about discussion and public opinion with the hope of correcting social issues.
I remember the famous Willie Nepomuceno in one interview saying that he does satire in order to encourage critical thinking among the Filipinos. His brand of satire is imitating Pinoy celebrities. But sadly, as he himself admits, it seems that his audience sees the comedy show more than they see the satire. That’s why sometimes, he says, he feels like giving up his craft because it’s getting pointless.
Satire, as used by bloggers, can be viewed in at least two ways: either to educate or just to get website traffic, but it could also be both.
But really, a thin line must be made between satire and pseudo-satire. Bloggers must not label their article as “satire” when in fact they’re only making up fake news without the intent of provoking critical thinking. Take the article discussed above, nothing in that article provoked critical thinking. It only provoked disgust and hatred. It was not even a reflection of Philippine society. We don’t really have any violent issues between atheist and Christians in the country. In fact, we co-exist even though we have differences in religion. So what is the “satire” all about then, if it failed to reflect and criticize an aspect of the society? Certainly, it’s all about sensationalism and getting website traffic.
There’s really no established yardstick in determining what is satire and what is not but in general, if the article is misleading, then that is not satire. If it does not have a redeeming value, if it does not espouse critical thinking, then it is not satire, it’s just an article meant to gather clicks.
On the other hand, there is the question:
Are we Filipinos intellectually responsive to true satire?
This may be elaborately discussed in a separate article (maybe in the near future) but just my quick take:
I think not. A lot of us still can’t quite appreciate the true intent of satire. As observed by Mr. Nepomuceno who has been the face (errr, the many faces) of Pinoy satire, Pinoys do not seem to give due reaction to satire. All we do is appreciate the humor but not the deeper meaning behind it. Maybe because we’re just tired of thinking or over thinking issues. Whatever the reason is, satire, though humorous as it is, should be taken seriously.