Here’s a Twitter thread arguing that The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian satire site — think The Onion, but evangelical — isn’t really satire because some folks treat its jokes as real. Apparently, it led to a rupture in the relationship between the poster, Josh Raby, and his dad, who defended posting a BB piece as, well, real enough to accept as real.
“This is why The Babylon Bee fails at “knowing their audience”. Because they know *who* they are, but they ignore every cultural force that makes them *them*. They lob jokes and close their eyes as to how they’ll land.
Their audience can not handle satire, because satire requires an understanding of the reality, and these people actively reject reality on a daily basis. Just like the president. Just like my dad.
Now: BB isn’t my cup of tea. (Having grown up among evangelicals, though, it does make me laugh sometimes.) And I don’t doubt the thread played out precisely as Raby describes it.
But. The Bee is satire. The fact that some people don’t understand that doesn’t make site somehow uniquely pernicious. It just means that some people are gullible, and some people are motivated to be gullible.
Google “Onion article mistaken for real news” and you get 2.7 million result. The first is this article documenting times when real news outlets like the New York Times and ESPN failed to spot a joke posting and passed along the fake news as real. Raby, somehow, isn’t arguing for the perniciousness of the Onion.
There’s always a tension with satire and an audience that can’t always read satire properly. That doesn’t mean satire isn’t satire. We should judge the Bee by the same standards we judge the Onion. And we should judge people who refuse to acknowledge reality on that basis, not satire-maker. Let’s judge others as generously as we judge ourselves.