Category Archives: The need for Web 2.0 Satire

A 5-step guide to writing a perfectly satirical Onion article from co-founder Tim Keck

It must be fun to be a writer at the The Onion. You get paid to compose utterly ridiculous and hilarious satirical content based off the actual news on a daily basis, likely laughing your ass off the entire day.

But how does the process of writing those matter-of-fact and at times degrading headlines and stories actually work?

Tim Keck, who co-founded The Onion back in 1988 and sold it one year later, spoke at last week’s Seattle Interactive Conference and provided a five-step guide for writing an Onion article.

It is also handy for your LinkedIn profile, apparently.

“Take these techniques for Linkedin and you will super juice it,” said Keck, who went on to found an alternative Seattle weekly paper called The Stranger.

Without further ado, here’s how to write an Onion story:

1. Include The Elephant 

For example, The Onion poked fun at former president Bill Clinton with the headline: “New President Feels Nation’s Pain, Breasts,”

2. Religion is Dumb

Keck described Scott Dikkers, founding editor of The Onion who created this 5-step formula, as a “huge atheist,” along with Keck himself. They decided to use this as fuel for their publication.

3. The Honest Character

“Nobody speaks honestly,” said Keck. So, The Onion decided to do it on behalf of everyone and then compile stories based on that.

4. The Big/Small Switcheroo

This step focuses on talking about big things in a small way, and vice versa.

5. Write Something As Mean As Possible

Finally, to write an Onion article, you can be as mean as possible. “This is something writers love.” . Keck said that since The Onion wasn’t really “subversive,” it needed something that gave the publication energy

 

‘This is social media’s age — muzzling satire makes it go viral’

How did you start creating political satire?
Well, we’re engineers-turned management grads-turned policy researchers-turned satirists. We were working with Yashwant Sinha in 2011 on the Union Budget’s shadow version. To take a break from the mind-numbing work, we wrote a satirical piece online titled — Government mulls direct cash transfers by dropping money bags from the sky.

This was well-received. So we decided to continue.

In an age of hypersensitivity, will satire survive?
We’re optimistic. This is the age of social media — when someone tries to muzzle free speech, it invariably becomes all the more viral.

Politicians realise that these days — BJP, particularly Narendra Modi, understand social media better than most politicians. So we’re confident satire will only grow.

Unreal Elections is also a first of its kind in India — we’ve used real names in fictional situations and poked fun at them. We’ve established a precedent.

We ensure our work’s based on facts and doesn’t cross certain lines — as long as satire is within bounds, devoid of malice and fair, public figures will take it in their stride.

Satire is growing rapidly in India — what’s driving this?
It’s partly social media and the spread of digital devices which makes it easier to generate and share such content.

That said, satire’s always been part of the public discourse — and in India, some of the best satire comes from politicians taking digs at their rivals.

 

Now, social media provides mechanisms for people to interact with each other and leaders. This enriches the public discourse, with satire also gaining salience. People are more receptive to humour — that’s rubbed off on politicians too.

 

 

Laugh if you like. But we need satire more than ever

The world of social media is a swirling, sometimes dizzying mess of contradictions. A powerful force for mobilising political change, or sometimes a glorified mass of torches and pitchforks; a means to instantly engage and debate with people of all leanings and all continents, or a means to obsessively harass, troll and threaten strangers; a tool to broaden horizons, or to be bombarded with nonsensical junk. But our social media, increasingly, are assuming a role that is crucial in a democracy: satirising and ridiculing the powerful.

Satire is so subversive – and often politically fatal for those who rule – because it exposes the absurdities of power. Authority attempts to assert itself partly through a veneer of respectability and seriousness. When that is stripped away, its legitimacy can be lost, along with our subservience. But as Jeremy Paxman asked a few months ago, “Where is the Spitting Image of today? ... Imagine the sport the show could have with Cameron and Clegg. But I don’t care whether it’s puppets or cartoons or real people. Just give us some decent satire.

Take the now flourishing Twitter-land of Trumpton. In a dig at Ukip’s desire to take Britain back to something approximating the iconic 1960s children’s programme, a Trumpton Ukip account was founded. It proved not to be to the taste of the party’s Scottish MEP, David Coburn, who attempted to have the account shut down and even apparently threatened legal action. Big mistake: the powerful attempting to menace those who poke fun at them is the ultimate provocation, and is particularly self-defeating. All Coburn has achieved is to make a relatively small-fry account the Twitter trend of the moment.

Political satire is booming online, where taking the mighty and the powerful down a peg or two is a sport. On the web you can find Vine videos of George Osborne looking spaced out at prime minister’s questions; and the mocking of broken political promises, from “We’re all in it together” to the trebling of tuition fees. Some of it is crude, unpolished or just not very funny. But thank goodness social media have taken up the mantle – because there is all too little of it on our TV screens.

Satire is so subversive – and often politically fatal for those who rule – because it exposes the absurdities of power. Authority attempts to assert itself partly through a veneer of respectability and seriousness. When that is stripped away, its legitimacy can be lost, along with our subservience. But as Jeremy Paxman asked a few months ago, “Where is the Spitting Image of today? … Imagine the sport the show could have with Cameron and Clegg. But I don’t care whether it’s puppets or cartoons or real people. Just give us some decent satire.

Image from: salon.com

Global Impregnation

Last week, an intriguing proposition was mooted by Government minister Dawn Primarolo.

Teenage girls, she said, could be steered towards what is described as “long-term contraception”.

This is now possible thanks to the development of contraceptive jabs and implants which can last up to five years.

In other words, there is a way of effectively sterilising girls for a lengthy period of time.

At what age? Well, doesn’t 12 until 17 sound rather sensible?

This would have the advantage of bringing down the teenage pregnancy rate, so high in this country it makes us a disgrace among the nations – the worst offenders in Europe.

We are moving into a science fiction age in which life itself can be created in a test tube, and it seems that, before long, perfect babies could be bred at will, largely free of hereditary disease and illness.
We are moving into a science fiction age in which life itself can be created in a test tube, and it seems that, before long, perfect babies could be bred at will, largely free of hereditary disease and illness.

The abortion rate would fall sharply. And silly young girls could get on with the education that is meant to produce serious, responsible taxpayers, not benefit recipients.

Now, many people will see this modest proposal as little short of horrific – nothing less than state interference in our reproductive lives.

But think about it: it might not be such a bad idea.

We are moving into a science fiction age in which life itself can be created in a test tube, and it seems that, before long, perfect babies could be bred at will, largely free of hereditary disease and illness.

So, in my view, there is little point any more in feeling shock-horror at the idea of mass sterilization.

Neither do I believe it will encourage “promiscuity” because girls will feel they have nothing to fear in sleeping around. In truth, they seem to be doing that already. I’m afraid we are now in a time when sex is mere recreational pleasure to thousands of young women.

The trouble is that pregnancy no longer holds the fear for teenagers it once did. The social stigma has gone.

Image from: life.time.com

Satirical Essay on Social Media

Today’s society is faced with the continually growing problem of electronics and social media. What used to be considered a precious treasure is now the cause of teenage obesity, lack of concentration, inadequate communication, and above all a far less intellectual society. Cell phones, internet, video games, television all have taken over the youth in society and corrupted them into unimaginative, unqualified, dull robots. Facebook is merely a tool to drain the intelligence from teenagers until they are forced to speak in instant messaging jargon- LOL, OMG, TTYL. Twitter is a mechanism for teenagers to become hermits, living in their rooms updating their statuses every two minutes. Video games and television suck imagination from children’s minds, their eyes becoming plastered to a small pixel screen, their stationary bodies molded into the couch cushions. To stop a calamity like this from happening, there is only one option- abolish electronics and social media completely. If humanity can wipe away everything with batteries, plugs, and wires, people will become a more intellectual, responsive, exciting species on earth.

With government involvement, electronics and social media can easily be wiped away from the planet. Laws can be created making any form of electronics or social media illegal.
With government involvement, electronics and social media can easily be wiped away from the planet. Laws can be created making any form of electronics or social media illegal.

 

With government involvement, electronics and social media can easily be wiped away from the planet. Laws can be created making any form of electronics or social media illegal. This would include phones, game systems, and the computer. Batteries can be melted down and broken down parts dumped into land fills. Those found carrying any form of electronics or social media will be given the benefit of the doubt- this is a justice based society- and be given a warning, but the next encounter with technology could lead to life in prison or death.

 

Society has overlooked the many other options to solve this growing problem. Having students become educated to perform tasks without calculators, cell phones, or the Internet, raise the price of the most popular, yet least useful electronics, or have schools limit a student’s use of electronics or enforce better rules pertaining to electronics and social media could all be successful solutions but are not acceptable in this busy society. Because of this, abolishing electronics and social media would be the best and only solution to create a thriving society, to save the vivacity and intellect of the next generation of adults- the youth that can be seen at the present moment on cell phones, iPods, Facebook, and Twitter- from mass destruction by the monstrous electronics and social media. Make the right choice and give up your iPods, televisions, computers, and delete your Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter accounts. G2G, TTYL!

Image from: www.forbes.com