Thursday, April 20, 2006

Figuring out how far is too far

Between the Danish cartoon controversy and the various vicissitudes of the award-winning South Park in the show's struggles with Scientology, the network, and pretty much everyone else, you can see broad outlines of a dialogue that is likely to shape how satire is produced and received for a while. Basically, the question is how far is "too far"? The consensus of the general public and the media seems to be that there is a line which should not be crossed. The discussion is taking place in real time, on the battlefields of Op-Ed pages nationwide and Comedy Central, but it's also taking place at centers of ethical and journalistic studies. The Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada is hosting a panel discussion on the issue, boasting (of course) journalists, clergy, and satirists. It seems a well-planned seminar, but the underlying question, "what are the use of limits in humor to make your point," does presume that there are limits in the first place.

Still, much better to have thoughtful discussions like this than to start randomly clamping down on satirical material you don't like, an action which more people seem willing to take these days given the heightened sensitivity overall. A student-run satire paper at the University of Wisconsin, The Second Supper, found its hardcopy circulation cut by more than half after publishing an article some members of the student government found offensive. Most astonishing was the contention of a student VP who felt this restriction "doesn’t violate free speech because it did not completely ban [the paper] from campus". This glib and egregiously misinformed defense of what is evidently a punitive measure would seem ludicrous, except that it's all too easy to see others excitedly recycling the argument. Would it be "acceptable" for half the cable markets in the US to pull Comedy Central off the air following an offensive episode of South Park? Maybe that will be covered in the next panel discussion.
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Thursday, April 06, 2006

One kid's First Amendment education begins

So a kid in a Wisconsin college writes a satirical article based on Cheney's shotgun mishap, and now there's a flap about it, even bigger than the flap over Cheney actually shooting a guy. Shouldn't Cheney have been charged with accidental attempted manslaughter by now? But I digress.

Granted, the kid had Cheney shooting African-American kids and calling them by a certain word that you knew you were going to find out the kid put in there, so even Miss Cleo could've seen this coming. But reducing the circulation of the paper it was in from 2,000 to 900 as punishment? That's about the most ridiculous thing I've heard today. Idiots.
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Respectability, thy name is "South Park"

Finally, somebody's taking South Park seriously - and in a good way. The long-running satirical cartoon just won a Peabody Award (you know, what The Daily Show got last year). The take on South Park by Peabody Awards director Horace Newcomb is very well put, and I shant summarize it.

Despite the fact that the award was announced today, the actual award ceremony doesn't happen until June, which gives Trey and Matt plenty of time to pick out dresses. And anyone want to take bets on whether they decide to make fun of the Peabody people for giving them the honor?
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Another edition of satire around the world...

And we thought America: The Book had a radical idea with textbook satire. Turns out the Indians have been doing it for a while now, and in real classrooms! Though the offending textbook compares donkeys favorably to wives and politicians, it wasn't until the politicians complained that the press got into it.

Meanwhile, a bit of sad news, as a nationally recognized satirist has died. Mohammed al-Maghout died of a stroke at age 72. He was the kind of person you don't hear too much about, but should - a Syrian who lampooned authoritarian Arab regimes - without so much as a single mocking of the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.

Finally, this one makes me feel like I've got it easy. Satirists in Zimbabwe are staging a play which suggests Robert Mugabe should step down. I'm sitting in my home office with no worries about secret police storming my home - for the most part - and these guys are basically risking death to do their play. Witty summaries elude me.
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Monday, April 03, 2006

The gnome saga continues...

It'd be one thing if they just said, "Here's a funny picture of a gnome, now give some money to Amnesty International." But HumorFeed member site Utterpants has gone all out on their GnomeWATCH promotion to benefit the aforementioned organization.

As promised in a previous post, the link to the sale site on eBay's UK edition is here. Utterpants has also been posting a series of faux news stories related to the gnome, which should tell you just how committed they are to the cause.
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Satire pervades the web, seeping into mailboxes and mainstream news like a spilled cup of coffee. It stains and it won't go away.

The Bitter Cup is a collaborative blog for members of HumorFeed, a collaborative of satire and humor sites that has been making trouble since 2003.