6 Replies to “Sarcasm on social media

  1. There is also something called “Poe’s Law”. From Wiki:

    “Poe’s law is an adage of Internet culture stating that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, it is impossible to create a parody of extreme views so obviously exaggerated that it cannot be mistaken by some readers for a sincere expression of the views being parodied.”

    Clearly this doesn’t have to be limited to internet usage. Here’s a hypothetical example:

    Mr A: “You can do anything you want if you just put your mind to it.”

    Mr B (adopting sarcastic tone): “Oh yes – that’s right. You can leap over the moon just by the force of sheer determination!”

    Mr A: “Exactly! You have understood perfectly!”

    And the cute bit is that Mr A may very well understand what Mr B is up to and just use his words against him.

    Randy Newman wrote a song called “Political Science” in which he ironically takes on the role of a “Let’s just nuke ‘em all!” American bigot. Newman said that when he sang the song back in the 70s everyone ot the joke. But when he sang itin later decades, a lot of listeners thought, “Damn straight!”

    All of which just goes to show that if you are going to say the opposite of what you mean, it only serves you right if some people take you at face value!

    • Poe’s Law seems very useful to me George. Is it named after Edgar Allen?

      Harry Enfield, on seeing his “loadsamoney” character of the eighties worn as a badge of pride by the very people it satirically targeted, promptly pulled the sketch.

      Re your final sentence, I’ve often found a good tactic in the face of malicious sarcasm is to pretend to take it at face value.

      • Nah – the Poe who formulated the law was one Nathan, not Edgar Allan.

        On the topic of (doubly?) ironic misappropriation, Bruce Springsteen was appalled when the Republicans tried to use his “Born in the USA” as a Republican anthem. But then again the lyrics (“Born down in a dead man’s town/The first kick I took was when I hit the ground”) could be taken as the typical southern red neck’s patriotic hard-done-by posturing about how “they” all hate us – “they” being those damned liberals, anti-Americans etc.

        And although it’s not strictly speaking a case of irony, Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” was supposed to show up its rapacious money grubbing parasite Gordon Gekko as …well as a rapacious money grubbing parasite. And then it turned out that many viewers took Gekko as a hero and wanted to emulate him. In an accompanying documentary on my DVD of “Wall Street”, Stone said he found this amusing – which makes you wonder what Stone is really up to.

        It’s fascinating how many movies dwell on truly repulsive characters – and characters whose psychopathy is really shown up …and yet audiences seem attracted to them. Think of all the gangster movies. Think of how Brando wanted to do The Godfather because he thought it showed up how American politics really works. But in the end, the violence is glamourized.

    • I’m a slow learner, Bryan, as you can see from the example of my own ill advised use of sarcasm, linked from my opening sentence. Yes, it is dangerous and at times attractive.

      I seek authenticity of voice, as all writers should. Paradoxically, I’d advise novice writers to emulate the voice of others. Coltrane said he found his own unique voice on tenor sax that way, and I know this to be generalisable to other communication forms.

      But even our authentic voice can lead us astray. No more so than when it adopts a sarcastic tone. See George’s comment on Poe’s law.

  2. There is a related issue to sarcasm and that is to invent a caricature figure to parody views you disagree with. There is such a fugure on the right – by the name of Tatania McGrath. From Wiki:

    “Titania McGrath is a parody Twitter user and author created by comedian and Spiked columnist Andrew Doyle. She is a social justice warrior who promotes identity politics and political correctness on her Twitter account. McGrath characterizes herself as a “radical intersectionalist poet committed to feminism, social justice and armed peaceful protest,” while her creator describes her as “a militant vegan who thinks she is a better poet than William Shakespeare.” ”

    The flaw in this should be obvious. If Doyle’s opponents really were so ridiculous, he would never have had to create this McGrath character. She is a clear straw man or straw woman figure who he has created to serve as a useful dummy enemy he can knock over very easily because she has been designed precisely to be knocked over.

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