Christwire: Distinguishing Satire

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What’s scary about the satirical website Christwire is imagining how many people who ran its page views up to 27 million in August actually take it seriously. “A close reader of ChristWire will soon figure out (one hopes) that the site is not serious,” Mark Oppenheimer wrote in his New York Times “Beliefs” column Saturday. “But many of the columns are deft enough, just plausible enough, to fool the casual reader. Even–or perhaps especially–a reader whose beliefs are being mocked.”

Sure, the Christwire “riposte” to Oppenheimer, “Satire, Poe’s Law and the New York Times Campaign to Discredit the Evangelical Message of Christwire,” attributes to the Gray Lady “a recklessly pro-Zionist, anti-Christian agenda.” Pro-Zionist is hardly a term of opprobrium in conservative evangelical circles these days. Such missteps notwithstanding, it’s clear from Oppenheimer’s reporting that plenty of people who should know better take Christwire at face value.

And why shouldn’t they? Head over to Doveworld, the website of the World Outreach Center, the tiny church in Gaineville, FL, that has generated worldwide attention for announcing its intention to burn a pile of Korans on 9/11. There you’ll find a blogpost on “Ten Reasons to Burn a Koran,” which is comparable to Christwire’s viral “Is My Husband Gay” post (with its 15-point checklist)–except that it’s no satire.

David Petraeus has informed the AP that that images of burning Korans could be exploited by Muslim extremists to inflame popular passions in Afghanistan and endanger American troops. From which Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, blogging on the Renew America website, deduces that Gen. Petraeus is making the case that Islam is a religion of violence. Not that Fischer is himself advocating the burning of Korans. No satire there either.

  • Jaqnuary

    Philosopher Stanley Cavell tells of how he once used the Lewis Caroll character Humpty Dumpty’s remark about how words mean whatever he says they mean as an example of communications problems. In the Q&A that followed Cavell’s presentation to a group of fellow philosophers, he heard from one participant that Humpty Dumpty was correct. Cavell’s conclusion was that irony has lost its helpfulness in human exchanges these days. What a sad commentary on the oppressive mood, even among the well-educated.