As I gear up to teach about memes and fake news in a “Media Aesthetics” class, I am keeping track of good background articles so I can bring my students up to speed.
Satire, like fake news, creates a sense of community through rejection. It delights in tearing down institutions but is useless at constructing them. Jonathan Swift said that satire was a mirror in which viewers discovered everybody’s face but their own; its pleasure is the pleasure of othering. The act is inherently tribal as well as political, and social media exacerbates the tribalism. Left-wing friends eagerly post John Oliver’s latest screed with THIS in all caps, hoping for mutual virtue-signaling. Right-wing friends post pizzagate fantasies to prove how deep their anger runs. The content is more or less irrelevant—at least beyond which side is the object of derision. In a recent survey by Pew Research, 14% of respondents admitted that they intentionally shared fake news. The left and the right in America are in a contest of competitive virality: comic bits vs. fake news. Stephen Marche, LA Times