Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Is it really necessary to label "The Borowitz Report" as "satire"?


What's wrong with this picture?

by Ken

Let me confess that I'm the one who appended the January 15 "Borowitz Report" as an update to Part 11 of Noah's herculean 2016 In Review America Off The Rails series: "Comrade Trump: Inauguration Entertainment Update!."

It seemed an obvious call. No sooner had we put up Noah's update to his earlier post on the extraordinary difficulty the Trumpinistas have been having getting entertainers to perform at their guy's inauguration (Part 3, "The Trumpf Inauguration Committee Finds The Perfect Inauguration Entertainment At Last!"), and also getting the folks who had signed on to keep from weaseling out, than here comes Andy B with this wicked post:

Luckily, I can report that after the fact Noah found the addition of that Borowitz Report altogether appropriate. So that's not why I bring it up. I bring it up because what you see immediately above is not the way I originally presented it. No, the way I originally presented it is the way presented it, which was more like what you see atop this post. (For reasons I'll explain in a moment, it's not exactly what you see atop this post, which is merely a re-creation.)

Sometime after posting, I found myself looking at this again, and I found myself bothered again. No, "bothered" doesn't cover it. I was shocked and appalled, just as I had been when I'd first looked at this and noted that was now labeling The Borowitz Report as "SATIRE FROM THE BOROWITZ REPORT."

Really? Is it honestly necessary to explain that what Andy B produces is "satire"?

For that matter, does "satire" really define what it is? I'd never really thought about it. I guess have to acknowledge that satire sort of describes what a Borowitz Report is, but somehow putting a label on it seems to constrict it, to close it off. In truth, it seems to me that when you see something like that head, "Karaoke Machine Backs Out of Performing at Inauguration," you immediately know two things:

(1) Chances are pretty good that it's not literally true, because it seems pretty unlikely that a karaoke machine would be able to back out of performing at the inauguration.

(2) You just have to read it, because, well, it's bound to be fun and it expresses a larger truth.

I guess this is what satire does, being fun and expressing a larger-than-factual truth. Yet somehow slapping the label on seems to me to short-circuit the whole process of discovering, deciphering, and connecting. And, oh yes, smiling. Somehow when we start with that "SATIRE FROM" label, the necessity of smiling seems to diminish -- a chunk of the fun is taken out.

I might add that I don't know how long has been doing this -- you know, slapping that "SATIRE FROM" label on Borowitz Reports. I don't know because, as I've been realizing, I have been clicking through to a lot of Borowitz Reports lately -- since, oh, about November 3. Not because I don't think they'll be funny. On the contrary, what Andy B does maybe better than anybody I'm aware of is to find "funny" in news that wouldn't seem to have a lot of "funny" in it -- and not only funny but true.

True-to-reality, that is, not true-to-facts. Because Andy B always understands and respects the underlying seriousness of the subjects he targets. No, I think I've been looking away out of resistance to the very idea of finding anything about this post-November 3 world amusing. It's too horrifying.

Until that karaoke-machine-having-second-thoughts came along. I knew I could handle that, and I also knew that I wanted to read it right away. And I was right. Not even that heavy-handed "SATIRE FROM" label could spoil it. But not for want of trying.


As I just noted, once I found myself looking again at the version atop this post, the longer I looked at it, the fidgetier it made me. Until finally I had to do something. I recalled that I had considered originally lopping off that "SATIRE FROM THE BOROWITZ REPORT" label. But I held back, I think out of some sense that it would be somehow misrepresenting the way the piece had been presented, which was pretty much the point of my presenting it with use of the screen shot. Now, looking at the thing more and more compulsively, and realizing that even without that slug, the piece would still be clearly presented as a Borowitz Report, I came around to the view that I should have lopped it off.

And finally, even though it was a post that already wasn't new, and might never be looked at again (though I always hope!), I had to do it. I reopened the thing in Photoshop Elements and lopped the slug off, then inserted the new version in the post. As soon as I verified that it looked OK, I deleted the original version, and I felt better. Of course, once the original version was deleted, it was gone, which is why, as noted above, I had to re-create it in order to present it for this post.

And I still feel better. My only regret is that I didn't have the sense to do it originally.

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At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's entirely possible that the new Yorker, being fairly responsible and all, felt that due to how unfathomably stupid and intellectually lazy americans are, they needed to be pedantic about their labeling.

Lest they run the risk of starting some sort of karaoke machine religious sect -- being that they can think and make decisions and all. Or maybe risk persecution by Christians for worshipping false idols. shit like that?

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Zappatero said...

one of the reasons for the labeling is surely this piece of literary art that managed to be insulting and not even remotely funny at the same time.

You'd think someone named "Django Gold" would have a better satire needle, but he doesn't.


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