The Onion in the ointment

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Must Facebook always be a killjoy?

[Satire] Mark Zuckerbloomin’ Onion shown here in his space fortress of solitude./Kyle Leitch

[Satire] Mark Zuckerbloomin’ Onion shown here in his space fortress of solitude./Kyle Leitch

In mid-August, Facebook launched a new feature which would show the text, [Satire] in front of links to satirical articles in users’ News Feeds.

According to a Facebook representative, the test program was being launched because, “We received feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units.”

Never one for euphemisms, the clever internet soon found out the real truth: too many people had complained about being tricked into believing that the Onion articles were legitimate news.

Now, credit where credit is due, the Onion has almost always had outstanding writers that stick to the news story format very well. I’ll even admit that, on some of the better-written articles, it’s taken me a few paragraphs to catch the satire, especially if someone has just thrust an article at me, demanding I read it, without telling me it’s an Onion piece.

But anyone who frequents the Onion knows that subtlety, especially the kind of subtlety which is suggested by the aforementioned “people” of Facebook, isn’t exactly a strong suit.

If articles entitled, “J.K. Rowling Revealed to be Pseudonym for Newt Gingrich,” and “Obama Not Sure How to Tell Nation This, But He Ran Over Jimmy Carter With Car Last Night,” aren’t dead giveaways of a wry joke, then I don’t know how to help you.

Actually, this latest move by Facebook to impede the work of Charles Darwin is perhaps a little more troubling than it would first appear. I mean, isn’t the spirit of nuanced humour the idea that not everyone gets all of the jokes?

I’m not a proponent of intellectual/sense of humor superiority, mind, but I’ll give you an example: re-watch an old TV show from the ‘90s: The Simpsons, The Ren and Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life, hell, even Animaniacs. Notice how many so-called “adult” jokes you get now that you’re a little bit older? That’s comedy.

This disturbing trend of a hand-holding society where everyone ties for first, and everyone gets let in on what’s so funny needs to stop. I’m not saying that Facebook should become a paragon of higher learning, but certainly it should be using opportunities like this to teach, instead of being inclusive to the point of dumbing the mass majority of people.

By taking away the opportunity for people to critically read and analyze what is an obvious work of satire, Facebook is actually hurting the majority, not helping the minority, as they purport.

Obviously, there’s no easy answer. Facebook is likely going to continue being the benevolent big brother entity, making sure all are happy, peaceful, and in on the joke. I just dread the day that I have to scream, “JOKE” before I tell an amusing anecdote before anyone will get it.

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