A Defense of Satire


Reading the title I just typed nearly makes me cringe. I am quite confident that satire is more than able to defend itself, and that if it did need a defense attorney it would deserve one much more qualified than I am. Nevertheless, in light of current events I think it is my duty to provide some semblance of a defense (explanation might be a better word) of the art of satire and specifically of satirical newswriting.

The “current events” I refer to as my reason for this article are actually only comprised of one event: we at The Defendant are adding a new column to our paper. The more intuitive among you may have already guessed from the preceding paragraph that this will be a satirical news column. For the less intuitive among you, I have an announcement: we at The Defendant are adding a satirical news column to our paper. I believe we are now all on the same page.

With that established, my purpose in writing this is to give a brief explanation of what satire (and specifically satirical news) is and why it would be beneficial to the JBU community.

While more formal definitions can be found with a quick google search, satire can most basically be defined as humor with a purpose. Specifically, this purpose is to expose the flaws, faults, and foibles of a particular society. It is not simply humor for humor’s sake. In its best and purest form, satire is humor that leads to (or at least calls for) change. In many cases, being laughed at causes much more poignant conviction than being yelled at. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “It is a grave error to underrate Wit as something trivial; for certain purposes of satire it can truly be the sword of the spirit, and the satirist bears not the sword in vain.”

Satirical news, then, is a somewhat self-explanatory name. It is simply satire applied to newswriting: fictional, humorous news stories that make a point about their particular subject or social context. If you are familiar with The Onion, it is a perfect example of satirical newswriting on a national scale. If you are familiar with the Babylon Bee, it is a perfect example of satirical newswriting applied to specifically Christian culture (side note -- if you are unfamiliar with The Babylon Bee, do yourself a favor and give it a read).

As you have probably gathered, the new column in The Defendant will take satirical newswriting and apply it to the culture of John Brown University.

Why is this beneficial?

To put it succinctly, satire is beneficial to any culture that has flaws. To put it more succinctly, satire is beneficial to any culture.

I love JBU as much as anyone. I think it is an incredible place, and I would not want to be going to college anywhere else. That being said, I would certainly admit that we still have room for improvement. In fact, it is because I love JBU that I am willing to critique it. To paraphrase Chesterton once again (if you get nothing else out of this article, I hope you get that Chesterton is worth reading), to truly love something means hating it enough to change it but loving it enough to think it worth changing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t going to be all humbug and negativity. It’s a humor column, for gosh sake. I want it to be a place where we can let down our guard and laugh at ourselves (to quote Chesterton one last time, humor is “the chief antidote to pride”). There are certainly some funny things about life at JBU. And hopefully we can laugh our way to making JBU a little bit better place to be.

Before I end, and before the satire column goes live, I should make a few disclaimers. Like all the great disclaimers of old, they will come in italics, be preceded and followed by asterisks, and sound (probably) way more serious than necessary.

*Any events and people found in Defendant satire articles are fictional. Any semblance to real people or events is unintentional. If you think a story is written specifically about you, I guarantee you it’s not. It is satire, so it will be realistic/reflect (though exaggerate) the general nature of life at JBU. It will NOT simply take a completely true story, change the names of the characters, and be published (but if you really have done the exact things as the characters in these stories, you probably need to read them more than anyone else…).*

*Defendant satire articles are not intended to offend anyone or cause discord. Inevitably, offense may occur, but it will be light-hearted and fairly distributed. In the words of my former pastor, “I strive to offend everyone equally.” Feedback and possibly even response/guest articles are welcome.*

*The majority of the satire articles I have written thus far have concerned the infamous and continual circus of events known as “JBU Dating Culture.” I have found that this is one of the easiest elements about JBU to satirize, probably because it is the most needing of satirizing. Therefore, I have a feeling that this phenomenon will not change anytime soon. You’re welcome.*

*If you are still reading this, I am grateful and impressed.*

Now that you have been adequately warned and the art of satire has been inadequately defended, I look forward to the publishing of the new column. I will end with a quote that is 100% original and that I’m sure you have never heard anywhere before.

JBU, go in peace.

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