Sat-ire. Noun. 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—at least, that’s what a quick Google search will tell you. In a day and age when responsible social media usage is more relevant than ever before, properly creating, receiving, and interpreting satire becomes even more important.
On October 14, blogger Mocha Uson posted a screenshot of Matanglawin Ateneo’s lampoon issue, which read “MOCHA TANGA BLOG” in large, capital letters. The post received much social media attention, with Matanglawin Ateneo, an official publication of Ateneo de Manila University, clarifying afterwards that the headline was a part of its annual satirical issue.
A few days later, Uson uploaded another post, a screenshot of the Facebook profile of Matanglawin’s Editor in Chief, Rambo Talabong, which also mentioned his position as an intern at Rappler. Uson questioned if this was Rappler’s way of supposedly attacking her, in response to her criticisms against the news website. Matanglawin again released a statement in response, first reiterating that the piece in question was part of a satirical issue, before rejecting Uson’s claim that Talabong’s position at Rappler influenced the publication of the said headline. The post then criticized Uson’s posting of Talabong’s account publicly, claiming that it made him an easy target for cyberbullying, and was an irresponsible usage of social media.
Satire, by definition, is meant to offend. It is meant to disrespect and criticize in a humorous and ironic fashion. Above all, however, satire is meant to get people thinking and talking, to get people to view societal issues in a critical manner and perspective.
Several times, people take satirical articles at face value, unable to read between the lines and determine the underlying meaning in these kinds of pieces. In some cases, readers fail to read beyond the title, and are thus unable to identify the piece as satire. These articles’ objective of pointing out the flaws and problems within society thus gets overlooked in favor of attention-grabbing headlines.
In Uson’s case, she seems to perceive the satirical headline as a personal attack, even going so far as to suggest that it is Rappler’s way of responding to her recent criticisms. More than that, several of her followers began openly calling out or criticizing both Matanglawin and ADMU as a whole. While it is understandable to react negatively to a headline that openly insults, however, it seems both Uson and her readers made judgements on screenshots without bothering to understand, or even read, the satire in the first place.
At the same time, it begs the question of why satirical pieces are written in the first place. Satire that is written purely to catch the attention of readers, or to bash and demonize without any substantial argument or thought, cannot be considered satire at all. When writing these kinds of pieces, it must be more than accusing those around us as idiots—such claims, without any underlying meaning, offer nothing of value.
In their official statement, Matanglawin explains as much, stating that their annual lampoon issue was targeting current events, including the extra-judicial killings, the Marcos burial in the LNMB, issues concerning the South China Sea, and several others—Uson only being one of them. They argue that there was more to their issue than the mockery of Uson’s blog which unfortunately failed to reach the Facebook public since only the front page of their lampoon issue was publicized.
With the integration of social media into everyday life, recognizing and understanding satire becomes more important than ever. The genre is not used to solely bash or ridicule others; it exists as a way to understand information and an avenue to allow readers to become more critical of societal issues, and to view them in different perspectives. Digesting these kinds of articles, however, also requires media consumers to read beyond headlines and understand the point of these articles, which cannot be summarized into a titular phrase.
There is a difference between shallowly mocking and insulting people, and utilizing the same kind of mockery to analyse the bigger picture. The moment we immediately reject these kind of pieces, brand them as attacks, and completely fail to look into the meaning that lies between these lines, we risk ignorance and fail to uphold the value of critical thinking.