Friday, August 21, 2015

Satire vs Hoax

Ken O’Brien

Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues

Hoax: something intended to deceive or defraud

As a way of educating my obviously ignorant (and perhaps deceitful) detractors regarding the recent issue I have raised regarding the activities of Town Councilor Kristen Auclair, I reprint an article written by Matt Rock on Newsvine on May 27, 2014.

Satire is not meant to be a "hoax" (an open letter to the team at IFL Science)

As some of you may know, I used to be a frequent writer here at Newsvine, probably best known for writing political satire.  That satire was deemed good enough for someone to hire me and steal me away in 2011.  If you don't know who I am, well, now you do.  And with that introduction out of the way, let's get to the content at hand. 

Recently, I wrote this satire article, which you may have seen already, as it went viral shortly after it was published.  As of my writing this, it has 268,000 shares on Facebook and has been viewed by over half a million people.  It's been debunked repeatedly, too, by Snopes and many other organizations.  But one of those debunkers, "I F--ing Love Science," did so rather insultingly, not in their article, but on their Facebook post about the article in question.  So I sent them the following "open letter," which I'm sharing here on Newsvine because let's face it, it's the only place I ever get to write serious stuff anymore.  If more people understood and respected what satire is, I honestly believe the world would be a better place.

Dear IFLS,

You fine folks recently covered an article that I wrote for National Report, which claims that a fictional think tank in Wyoming released a report that solar panels are draining the sun of its energy. Firstly, I'm honored that IFLS reported on one of my articles, even if that ultimately means you probably killed off a good bit of the virality. But secondly, and more importantly, I need to correct you on something that I found to be rather insulting: satire is not "a hoax."

The point of the article is, first and foremost, to be funny. It very obviously achieves that goal, as most of the hundreds of thousands of people who've read it got a good laugh out of it, one way or the other. The second, and arguably more noble objective, is to highlight that there are, in fact, huge corporations who release paid-for pseudo-science to support whatever their agendas happen to be. That point also wasn't lost on most people, whether they recognized this as satire or not. I could write fifty serious articles on the subject and barely reach 100 people, or write a satirical piece and spread that message to 500,000. The latter method ultimately gets more people thinking. I don't have a degree in journalism. But I do have a sense of humor and what I am told is a decent degree of writing skill. Therefore, satire is my best option, and it's an option I take great pride in and enjoyment from.

To label this piece as a "hoax" is truly disingenuous, and insulting to the people who work just as hard at creating quality satire as journalists do at writing real news. And, in some cases, we work many times harder, as is evidenced by all the shoddy reporting you can find on just about any cable news network or in most of this country's newspapers.

Telling the world that Bill Cosby is dead is a hoax. Elaborately faking the existence of Loch Ness, or taking apart an old DVD player and claiming you've found parts to an alien spaceship, or photoshopping Elvis into a busy shopping center... those are hoaxes. They're a low form of societal trolling. That is absolutely NOT what we do as satirists.

Satire isn't meant to deceive; if it is, it's bad satire. Satire is meant to entertain, and in most cases enlighten, its readers. The deception is oftentimes necessary to get the point across, as most low-information individuals only bother reading the news if it's shocking, funny, or strange. You don't need an Oxford degree to sort that out... just visit Facebook. People are more likely to read the article if they believe it's real, and when they realize the story is too outlandish to be serious, they recognize it as satire. That, or they dangerously believe whatever they read to be true, without taking even half of a moment to Google something and check out the story's validity. That's not the fault of the satirist, but of the reader. And that deception only serves as additional humor to those people intelligent enough to recognize the content as satirical.

I'm a huge fan of IFLS, and again, seeing one of my satire pieces on your website was the highlight of my year thus far. But in the future, I would ask, on behalf of satirists the world over, that your writers learn and respect the vast, unfathomable differences between satire and "hoaxes." I'm not asking you to laugh along or appreciate my sense of humor, or that of anyone else. But please don't label us the same way you would a degenerate, because there's a lot more art... and yes, science... to what we create than those inexperienced in our craft can begin to comprehend.

Matt Rock

Staff Writer/ Columnist, National Report


  1. Someone should have made much more of this before the election. No matter what she says now or then, this was clearly an attempt to fool the public. It was as the article says a hoax not satire.

  2. Deception is not funnyAugust 22, 2015 at 2:59 PM

    It is all well and good for councilor Auclair to say now that this was all satire. Do her collaboraters also participate in this “satire”? Or is she exploiting them? Is she in fact covering up her own beliefs? And if not, who is she satirizing? I’ll tell you who – Christians. If it is satire then she is making fun of fundamentalist Christians. What will she “satirize” next? How about the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation?

    Mr. O’Brien is right to point out that this was never presented as satire. If anything it was a hoax. The hoax went too far when it tried to raise money. I’ll wager their real effort was to bilk those who accept creationism as a fact. Whether such a belief is right or wrong there is only one conclusion when it comes to this effort. It is not, and never was, satire. It was an attempt to deceive believers and to gain financially by such deception. In no way is that right.

    Councilor Auclair should stop sending others to defend her. If it was a hoax she should categorically say so publicly. And she should apologize to those who were deceived and from who she attempted to gain financially.

  3. Where’s Auclair?August 26, 2015 at 4:59 PM

    I’ve seen a number of her supporters on this site repeating the councilor’s phrase about this being satire. But where is the councilor herself?

    The videos on youtube are only the tip of the iceberg. If people want to know what this group is all about you should go to their facebook page at :

    The posts there make it clear that this is nothing more than a hate group ridiculing not just Christians but all religions. I know that if I had been aware of this before the election I certainly would not have voted for her.

    It is time for the councilor to speak out publicly about her participation in a group that promotes this kind of garbage.


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