I’m not entirely sure whether satire degenerates in the hands of the left, but one could make the case. From Jonathan Swift to Evelyn Waugh, the greatest satirists writing in English have been conservatives of one stripe or another. As for the degeneration, Philip Roth’s stabs at satire might suffice by themselves to make that side of the case.
By the same token, we may wonder if the understanding of satire may degenerate on the left. Take the case of Facebook as reported by the New York Times in “For Political Cartoonists, the Irony Was That Facebook Didn’t Recognize Irony.” Subhead: “As Facebook has become more active at moderating political speech, it has had trouble dealing with satire.” The political cartoons discussed in the Times story incidentally make the case for the degeneration of satire in the hands of the left.
Referring to Facebook’s content moderation, the Times noted:
[S]atire kept popping up as a blind spot. In 2019 and 2020, Facebook often dealt with far-right misinformation sites that used “satire” claims to protect their presence on the platform, Mr. Brooking said. [Updated March 22, 2021: The Babylon Bee, a right-leaning satirical site, has feuded with Facebook and the fact-checking site Snopes over whether the site published misinformation or satire.]
The Babylon Bee is of course a site devoted to satire with a conservative Christian bent. The Times’s reference to the Bee as a “far-right misinformation site” virtually defies belief.
The Times “update” followed the Bee’s demand for a retraction over the “misinformation” label. One may reasonably find the Times update wanting. The linked Post story explained:
[Babylon Bee CEO Seth] Dillon said the update was “was no better than the original.”
“We have not, in fact, feuded with Snopes as to whether we publish satire or misinformation,” he wrote on Twitter. “Snopes retracted that insinuation with an editors’ note saying it was never their intent to call our motives into question.”
Dillon added: “It’s therefore misleading and malicious to characterize that incident as a feud, as if Snopes ever openly stood by the claim that we are misinformation and not satire.”
“We cannot stand idly by as they act with malice to misrepresent us in ways that jeopardize our business,” he said.
The Post quoted from the Seth Dillon’s Twitter thread here. Were it not for hostility to the Bee’s point of view, the Times’s cluelessness would be difficult to account for. One can rest assured that the Times would exercise greater care if the Bee leaned left rather than right. It takes some kind of willfulness to craft an “update” as obtuse as the Times’s. We wish the Bee well in its effort to call the Times to account.
Yesterday our counsel sent a letter to @nytimes demanding a retraction. We took this action because their article was—and remains—defamatory.
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) June 3, 2021