In my travels, I’ve heard a common lament from folks of confident ideology — it’s hard to tell what’s satire anymore, they say, because the other side has gotten so extreme and “loony.”
The same group may share something outrageous their ideological foes did on Facebook or Twitter, adding, “This is not from the Onion.” When they fall for a story from the Daily Currant or the Borowitz Report, they may say, “It’s becoming harder to tell what’s satire and what’s real.”
Which brings us to the image above, taken from the Facebook page “Christians for Michelle Bachman.” (Click through — the comments really must be read to be believed.)
It’s clearly satire. This isn’t an assumption: with basic media literacy skills, it should be clear after a quick glance it isn’t real. To say “I fell for it because they’re so loony, it’s believable” is a cop-out — and comes from an ideological place where the speaker has convinced herself that anything “the other side” does will be “loony.” In other words, our old friend Othering rears his ugly head.
Here’s a problem: it’s likely a good number of readers (the vast majority, if the comments are to be any judge) NEVER realize it’s satire. It’s filed away in their minds as a Barthesian myth, a shockingly real example of the “looniness” of the anti-pot, anti-gay crowd.
It becomes a standard for any future interaction with members of that crowd — obviously they’re crazy, just think of that ad; they can’t be reasoned with. Polarization increases and the left’s view of the right becomes even more skewed. (And vice versa, I’m sure, but for whatever reason, I don’t seem to be Facebook friends with “the other side.” Maybe I’ve been too guilty of a bit of Othering in my own past.)
Anti-pot hysteria is largely a thing of the past. Anti-gay hysteria is rapidly heading in the same direction, thankfully. Sure, these sentiments still exist in many ways in America — but they don’t take this hysterical, exaggerated form, even among the far right (We’d know this if we approached these cultural groups sans the lens of ideology.)
But we need a boogeyman — we need to keep believing that the “Reefer madness” media culture of the 1950s is alive and well, to fuel our indignation and spur us on.
Now, because it’s always fun, let’s look at some comments from the thread (posted on “Christians for Michelle Bachman,” another obvious satire):
“Lord save us from the gullible stupid sheeple. I can’t believe this was posted by anyone … [T]his is about the most incoherent destructive gibberish I have ever seen. Anyone with a IQ over 100 should be able to see straight through this and if that can’t their IQ just drop by at least 25% to be so stupid.”
“Bullshit. This is pure unbridled hate and gay bashing if you believe that there is a god and he created us then you have to believe the created homosexuals too. Pot doesn’t turn people gay if drugs turned you gay pretty much everyone in America would be gay. This is purely uneducated hate speech and using feat to scare people in to following your cause if your Christian and you support this then I feel sad for your kind and it makes me more proud to be atheist”
“This post and the story behind it is completely laughable. Everything about it is a lie. Even if this were remotely true, he must have been gay before smoking pot. And the $400 a day pot habit shit? Please, me and six of my best friends couldn’t smoke that much. This page, its followers, and Michelle Bachmann are complete twits.”
“WHAT?! This can not be serious. This is a joke right? NO ONE is this stupid!!”
Some people are.