Satire is hard in this world. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that anyone can publish anything. Another is that everything is published so quickly. But this is hardly new. As I discussed in Indian Rope Trick, in the 19th century, a reporter made up the mythical magic trick out of whole cloth. And no one really noticed for about a century. So it is easy enough to be fooled. We have things like Sarah Palin calling for the impeachment of the President without ever mentioning what his “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” are. And the amazing Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm who seriously thought that Deer Crossing signs were a waste of money because Deer Can’t Read! In such a world, what exactly is satire? It would seem that our entire political system is self-satirizing.
I’ve written before on this topic, When Satire Becomes News. That was about the Boston Globe mistaking an article by the satirical The Daily Currant for news, Paul Krugman Declares Personal Bankruptcy. Admittedly, there is nothing particularly satirical about that, but the lede is pretty funny, “Economist and columnist Paul Krugman declared personal bankruptcy today following a failed attempt to spend his way out of debt.” And I’ve even been caught myself, showing What I Think of George W Bush.
But perhaps the Boston Globe can be forgiven; The Daily Currant is known to be incredibly dry. And I was certainly not alone in my thinking some fake Bush paintings were real; you will commonly see them thrown together with real Bush paintings. But National Report is a very well known satirical site that is generally at least as obvious with its satire as The Onion. So it was a big deal when Fox News got caught in the same trap.
Today, I was fooled again, although it was only for a few seconds. I saw the headline, Glenn Beck And Ted Cruz: “We’ll Pray the Mexican Away.” I saw it on Google+, with the description, “Cruz and Beck are spending Saturday on the US-Mexican border distributing much needed material and spiritual relief to literally dozens of children…” Now, I’m not a complete idiot. I figured it was on some sarcastic liberal blog, but no, it was from National Report, and it was great. And, one would hope, it is also obvious. I mean, Beck and Cruz going to the border to pray for the kids doesn’t sound too out of line. The play on “pray the gay away” is funny, but very much how someone like me might characterize what they had supposedly done.
The best part about the article is how it actually comes off more as an ad for, “Crisp, refreshing Dasani sparkling water.” In case you didn’t know (I didn’t!) it is made by the Coca Cola Company—repeated twice, just so you know. What is especially funny about this is that you can hardly go to a public event that has more than a hundred people at it that is not “sponsored” by some company. So in addition to all that more serious satire, there is this silly refrain. Here is a bit of it:
In the words of one child (as translated by The Blaze): “Thank you for the hope that I no longer have to be Mexican for the rest of my life and for the crisp, refreshing Dasani sparkling water, a product of the Coca Cola Company.”
I don’t think anyone will mistake this for anything but satire. And it gets at an important point. I don’t think (if the geography would allow it) that there would be this kind of uproar if Russians were seeking asylum through Canada. I know it’s not nice to say, but if racism were removed from the Republican Party, what would they get? Ten percent of the vote? Maybe?
See also: Cons Think Colbert Is a Double Agent.