Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ebert: Not A Creationist.

So apparently Ebert posted this somewhat ham-handed attempt at satire on his website poking fun at creationists. Of course, pretty much everyone mistook it for being serious, and so Ebert had to publish this explaining himself and then ranting about how gullible Americans are. (For added awesome, check the URL.)

The first thing I thought of is how this will probably remind my Vanderreaders of a certain incident.

The second is this - how accurate is Ebert? Are we really losing our capacity to think critically? Or are satirists and hyperbolists simply not sensing the amount of absurdity already present in our culture, and failing when they attempt to go over the top? And what can be done about it?


Mike said...

I don't know how anyone took the original post to be serious. I read it and chuckled.

The awesomeness of the URL was actually added by Fark (which I can only assume was your reference), not in the original link posted by Ebert himself - just to clarify.

As for your question, yes, I believe - at least it certainly seems - that the collective "we" are losing our ability to think critically. More accurately, I might say our lives have become so harried that our reactions are tied to a hair trigger and we simply don't (or can't) take the time. I thought Ebert raised a good example in the whole "sex ed to kindergarteners" thing. In general, you can really look at both major political campaigns and conclude that they believe critical thinking has gone the way of the dodo. This is even sadder because I think a large part of the initial appeal of both candidates was precisely the fact that they didn't approach the American people this way.

Modern absurdity may have reached a point where the only way satire can succeed is to remain camouflaged, allow itself to be believed, and then announce itself so people then realize how ridiculous things are. To use everyone's favorite example, about five years ago hundreds of students at a top 20 university actually believed that, were the Chancellor of said university to die tragically, the student newspaper would have been so callous as to announce the news as "GEE DEAD" in big bold print. To say nothing of the content of the article itself. The fact that the actual satirical target, the student newspaper itself, fell by the wayside doesn't diminish the fact that the incident was probably more successful as satire because it was believed to be plausible.

The downside to this theory is that people will be more likely to simply be angry at having their gullibility pointed out, and thus not learn the appropriate lesson. As was again the case in our example. Oh well. I've rambled on long enough.

Ben said...

Familiar as I am with Creationism (taught to me by my 8th-grade science teacher as an alternative to evolution in defiance of the Birmingham school board's orders...sort of a reverse Scopes), I could recognize that Ebert mimiced Creationism spot on. That Q&A could be posted on a Creationist website (almost) without modification. The only reason I knew it was satire was because I'm an avid Ebert reader and found it highly unlikely that he believes such stuff.

So......people don't get satire. What's the lesson to learn from that? That our culture should be less absurd? That satirists should go even further over the top? (Not sure that approach would work. I remember Andy commenting on this blog utterly denying that Zhubin's "Bush Eaten By Wolves" comment was satire.) If people don't "get" satire, what point is to be gained by it? For that matter, what did Ebert hope to gain by this?