Joel Osteen’s luxury yacht, Poe’s law and the death of humor
OK, maybe it wasn’t that grave, but it did help me understand what’s happening in America right now. We can’t take a joke. What’s worse is that some of us can’t even identify one.
For the uninitiated, The Babylon Bee is “Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire.” It actually says that on the landing page at the bottom. Think of it as The Onion for Christians. If you haven’t heard of The Onion or The Babylon Bee, then there are at least two news outlets you might be calling “fake news” which are literally designed to be fake news.
Regardless, I thought it obvious that the vision of Osteen navigating his imaginary luxury yacht, the S.S. Blessed, through the flooded streets of Houston was satire. If that weren’t enough, surely the idea of the pastor passing out copies of his book from said yacht would do the trick.
Sadly, I was deeply and tragically mistaken.
I tried to intervene. “It’s supposed to be humor,” I wrote in the comments. “Also, there’s no way that yacht has clearance on most of those roads.”
My friends who understood the satire were not helpful.
“Cameron Smith, I think you are underestimating the Almighty’s ability to reduce boat draft,” wrote Richard Landers. Thanks, Richard. Now I have people looking at a fictitious boat wondering if it comes equipped with divinely inspired buoyancy.
My eighth grade English teacher noted, “This CANNOT be true. It must be—MUST BE—poorly communicated satire.” I thought it was rather effectively communicated myself.
My cousin, Joe Germany, chimed in citing Poe’s Law. I hadn’t heard of Poe’s Law. Now I realize it should probably be taught in primary school.
Poe’s Law boils down to this: Without a clear indication of the author’s attempt at satire, a large segment of internet readers or viewers will completely miss the satire regardless of how extreme it may be.
One gentleman upset by The Babylon Bee link said, “This is a hit piece story. Totally false and to make people mad about Christians in particular.”
He linked to a Snopes fact check which had determined that the satirical article was indeed “fake news.” Enough people had apparently considered the article to be genuine that Snopes felt the need to debunk the story.
It’s satire. It isn’t a “hit piece” and shouldn’t need to be debunked. It’s facially ridiculous and delightfully ironic. Come on, people.
Many of us need to regain our sense of humor and relax. If an article seems preposterous, it probably is. I realize that much of our politics and culture might upset us right now, but a pastor using an imaginary yacht to engage in book distribution on the streets of a disaster area shouldn’t “trigger” us beyond a hearty chuckle.
Take a few steps back from the computer. Put down the phone. Turn off the television. If we can’t clearly tell the difference between “fake news” and intentional satire, we need a break from the constant stream of information. We also should consider reading to the end of articles before sharing them.
We need to laugh. America can’t allow the death of humor, no matter how dire the moment seems. Satire, in particular, is a critical pressure release point that affords us much needed perspective. Not everyone is trying to attack our values, our families or our pets.
The idea of Osteen rapidly offloading copies of “Your Best Life Now” to avoid scuttling the S.S. Blessing on the streets of Houston is comedic gold. Find a little levity in life. It’s short enough as it is. There’s no reason we can’t enjoy it every now and then.
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