With all the fake news swirling about, it’s understandable if thinking people want to dive under the covers and demand that every statement — even those made by their own small children — be vetted, sourced, and cited.
“Your sister stole your toy truck? Prove it… bring me a signed affidavit… notarized…”
We at the Rivard Report share that concern. As journalists, we are committed to the truth. Our business includes the phrase “fact-checking,” a practice that has become strangely high profile and yet in some cases utterly pointless. Some now accept “might as well be true” as the equivalent of “actually true.”
Some other people, also committed to facts and truth, have compiled lists of fake news sources to help people confused by the stranger-than-fiction world that is 2017.
However, when one list of fake news sources included The Onion, The New Yorker’s Borowitz Report, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, some of our staff raised another kind of alarm. There was an asterisk explaining that these were satirical sites, not fake news sites. But we were still alarmed.
You may not like what these humorists are saying, but they aren’t fake news. They are not intended to incite action on false information. Satirists are opining, commenting, and analyzing. Opinion, even when presented in parody form, is not intending to deceive. It is intended to persuade. In most cases, it is intending to persuade the audience that the person, party, or idea in power is fallible.
Satire is one of history’s greatest methods of speaking truth to power. It has given us The Canterbury Tales, Gulliver’s Travels, and Mark Twain. It is the only way centuries of losers have been able to tell their stories, as the winners are writing their autobiographies.
Another thing to consider as you digest satire, whether on this site or others: satire doesn’t make fun of the already disenfranchised, marginalized, or oppressed. If you find yourself in the crosshairs of a true satirists, consider yourself lucky. It means things are going well for you in some respect.
Saturday Night Live has come under fire from President Trump for its satire, but the show is no stranger to backlash. If you haven’t bristled at something SNL has satirized in its 40-year history, then you need an emotional awakening.
The tipping of sacred cows is critical to our society, and satire delivers this valuable service. We need to be offended every now and then. The needling, jabbing, and skewering makes us examine our beliefs and behaviors so that we become better, more honest, and more consistent.
Satire deals in response, opinion, values. It’s not news, nor is it trying to be. It is critique, which is values based. So, yes, today, on the Rivard Report, we hope to make you laugh, but we are also showing our hands about a few of the things we value.
On today’s site, you will find works of satire that criticize immigrant bans, standardized testing, and subtle racism. We’re going to reveal a bias there. The writers of those pieces appreciate immigrants and believe that schools are over-tested. If you disagree, we hope there’s enough jokes in there to make you chuckle.
Parody, on the other hand, is largely used to poke, roast, or pester those we love. When you read the “Dimmick Diaries” on our banner today, you’ll know that we love our director, Bob Rivard, and our managing editor, Iris Dimmick. When you read about Ron Nirenberg’s love for bats and zeal for city government, you should know that we have the same zeal. We also love Manuel Medina’s glamorous neighbors, and deeply appreciate Ivy Taylor’s steady temperament.
So, happy April Fools’ Day, from all of us at the Rivard Report, or for today, the Dimmick Diaries!