Satire versus bullying

I hadn’t heard of Terry Pratchett until I saw this quote at The Standard:

There could be some truth in that.

Another Pratchett quote on bullying (from Hogfather):

“A bully, thought Susan. A very small, weak, very dull bully, who doesn’t manage any real bullying because there’s hardly anyone smaller and weaker than him, so he just makes everyone’s lives just that little bit more difficult…”

He has a satirical record:  Terry Pratchett and the Art of Satire:

Under his hand, the entire concept of fantasy changed, and satire was put to better use than ever before; but just how did Pratchett combine both into such a phenomenally successful formula?

Pratchett also uses the medium of his Discworld novels to examine more serious issues concerning our society today: bribery and corruption are a major feature of his Discworld, especially amongst the ruling elite.

Human behaviour is examined in all of his novels – even his children’s books, such as The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, where the society of intelligent rats are made the heroes rather that of the townspeople who are trying to kill them. Comparing the two- with the implication that is it the rat that are the truly educated ones rather than the humans- allows Pratchett to make intellectual points in both a funny and parodic way that might not be possible in another setting.

Here, satire is not only a comedic device but also a way in which to examine our society.

Through his juxtaposition of the modern and the fantastic we can laugh, not only at the society he creates but also, obliquely, at ourselves. In Pratchett’s hands, the art of satire is a way in which we can examine ourselves more clearly.

Satire is a useful way of examining and exposing those in power, politicians.

But it can also be misused as a means of attacking politicians – and political supporters.

From Oxford:

The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

A person who habitually seeks to harm or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable.

Politicians (and political supporters) sometimes deserve ridicule, and satire is a fair and reasonable means of doing that.

But politicians are also vulnerable to being coerced, intimidated or harmed by unfair and untrue attack and ridicule.

‘Satire’ is sometimes used as an excuse for dirty politics.

Satirical cartoons – where should the line be drawn?

Joe Sacco: On Satire – a response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks

The acclaimed graphic artist and journalist Joe Sacco on the limits of satire – and what it means if Muslims don’t find it funny

In fact when we draw a line, we are often crossing one too. Because lines on paper are a weapon, and satire is meant to cut to the bone. But whose bone? What exactly is the target?

And why?”

For that is going to be far easier than sorting out how we fit in each other’s world.

A Swift challenge for Psycho Milt

It’s funny how things from the past resurface in social media. This happened today on Dim-Post, quite ironically on a post On Cunliffe’s apology for being a man, with discussions about rape culture and what contributes to it. ‘Luke’ started it with…

Your good humoured perverse perseverance in the face of unrelenting rationalism and evidence, whilst having your arguments roundly refuted post after post, is truly worthy of the Pete George Memorial Certificate for Wilful Ignorance.

Clunking Fist…

But we all had a jolly (dark) laugh about child abuse a little while back, which pissed off old Pete George. Why is child abuse okay to “joke” about, but not domestic violence? Pete tried to argue that the jokes promoted a culture tolerant of child abuse. Which was crap. Adult on child, dark humour okay, Man on woman, dark humour not okay. What’s the difference? That women have (legitimately) laid claim to a share of power, whereas children haven’t (after all, they’re only children and can’t be expected to handle a share of power like adults can)?

It seemed to piss off others more than me, they set about successfully engineering a a ban for me from their cosy club of intellectuals (I never had the right degree of legitimacy there anyway amongst the snobs). Clunking Fist made an interesting point.

Gregor W…

We didn’t have a dark laugh about child abuse at all as I recall. It was actually a reference to poverty to which someone (DeepRed maybe?) provided a Swiftian reference.
Pete chose to equate our acknowledgement of Swift’s satire as a tacit endorsement/acceptance of child abuse (and presumably, cannibalism).

I chose to call bullshit on them trying to justify something I thought was gross (and said what I thought, raising the hackles of the hoity toity. Knowing something about Jonathan Swift excuses anything apparently.

Psycho Milt…

Yes, and I found it depressing but completely unsurprising that he appeared to have no idea who Swift was, or what satire is, or what Swift might have meant by this particular example of it – nor any interest in finding out.

Psycho has got it wrong there. I guess he had no interest in finding out what point I was making. That’s completely unsurprising.

As Psycho knows so much about it all I challenge him to put his love of Swift to a test.

Psycho, try writing a bit of Swiftian type satire about women and meat markets and put it out in social media. Use some graphics like the example you were referring to for impact if you like. Then explain to everyone how acceptable it is because satire and Swift are perfectly acceptable ways of inspiring reactions.

Then read what Clunking Fist wrote again.

Maybe you might understand that the modern world is a wee bit different to the eighteenth century.

Opposition discover existing policies will solve manufacturing crisis

After a a several month long inquiry into manufacturing the opposition parties – Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana – discovered that a collection of previously announced policies will solve the manufacturing crisis.

Major recommendations 

Recommendation 1: The government adopt macroeconomic settings that are supportive of manufacturing and exporting, including:

  • a fairer and less volatile exchange rate through reforms to monetary policy;
  • refocusing capital investment into the productive economy, rather than housing speculation;
  • and lowering structural costs in the economy, such as electricity prices.

After this success the parties are believed to be considering launching further inquiries. They hope that the same politicians running those inquiries will also discover that repackaging policies was much more efficient than coming up with new ones.

They are optimistic that NZ Power, NZ CGT and NZ Money will alsobe able to be packaged and sold as capable of addressinmg other crises and will:

  • Eliminate poverty
  • Reverse global warming
  • Cure cancer
  • Win them the next election

They are believe that at least one of those will be seen as a realistic goal.

Oddly satirical

I just had a weird satirical experience.

I read this at The Civilian: Labour proposes repeal of National Government

And straight afterwards read this: What Rough Beast? The Political Meaning of Aaron Gilmore’s Fall

Colin Craig – binding referendum on satire

Colin Craig has had his feelings hurt by satirical website The Civilian and has responded with legal action for defamation – see Colin Craig versus The Civilian.

I am a politician on the rise, Maurice Williamson is a fading old fogey. The Civilian should have headlined me and Williamson should have been the one who had a small mention at the bottom of the article.

As a strong advocate of democracy and binding referenda Craig may make the redefinition of satire the next public issue.

“The day of reckoning on the redefinition of satire is still to come.”

“Last night was not a vote of the people of New Zealand. If it had been, the answer would have been no to making fun of me.”

“It is a failure of democracy when those purporting to entertain the people end up making jokes the public oppose,” he says.

“We have seen the public vote disregarded on law and order, on the number of MP’s and on the Anti-Smacking Bill.

“The blogosphere’s willingness to put satire to the people while disregarding my feelings sadly comes as no surprise.”

“The Conservative Party began on the foundation of binding referenda, and last night’s lampooning only reinforces the need for us to enter Parliament.”

“Next year’s election will be the opportunity for New Zealanders to finally have their say.”

“The economy is kind of important, but smacking, gay marriage and satire need to be decided by the people and if I get enough attention without being ridiculed they will decide the election.

“As the only party with Binding Referenda as a bottom line, we expect our support to continue to increase.”

A binding referendum on the redefinition of satire may be the next Conservative bottom line. Talking of bottoms, the Conservative Party seems to be bottoming out:

  • Smacking bottoms
  • Bottom love and marriage
  • Scraping the bottom of the humour barrel

NOTE: Real quotes from Colin Craig were used in the making up of this post.


Reaction to Colin Craig versus The Civilian

Colin Craig’s legal action against a small satirical website – see Colin Craig versus The Civilian – has predictably been well publicised and discussed in social media, but it has blown up into mainstream media attention.

3 News – Colin Craig threatens satirical website

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has threatened a satirical news website with defamation after claiming it published a story designed “to make him look ridiculous”.

MSN News – Website skewers Colin Craig’s legal threat

Mr Craig demanded a retraction and apology on the website and also $500 in legal costs.

He could not be reached for comment, but a spokeswoman told NZ Newswire he was aware the website was satirical.

Mr Craig, a millionaire, has previously complained about being defamed in satire pieces by Steve Braunias and Josh Drummond, published by Fairfax.

Radio New Zealand – Legal action threatened over satirical item

It’s also gone international, in Pink News in the UK: New Zealand: Conservative Party leader threatens to sue satirical website for ‘big gay rainbow’ article

And Craig responds via NZ Herald – Craig warns on satire quote

Conservatives leader Colin Craig says his threat of legal action against a satirical website for a post on the gay marriage bill does not mean he lacks a sense of humour – but warned any attempts to attribute false quotes to him would get similar treatment.

Mr Craig said he knew the post was satire, but others had not recognised it as such.

“I’ve had people say ‘gee, I’m surprised you said that Colin’. Not everybody is able to tell the difference

“I take these things pretty seriously. We are a serious political party and want to go a long way, so making sure that what is reported on what I have said, is accurate is important.”

When the Civilian’s response was read out, he laughed and said he would consult his lawyers about whether it was enough to halt further proceedings.

“It does clarify the point and that was what was important for me.”

Mr Craig said he did have a “well developed sense of humour”.

“But when it comes to statements being reported in the public sphere … there is no room for humour.”

Craig was interviewed on Firstline this morning: ‘No room for humour’ in politics – Craig (video)

and Story:

Speaking on Firstline this morning, Mr Craig said he enjoys “a good laugh”, but draws the line at false quotations.

“The problem is not everyone will understand what satire is,” says Mr Craig.

“It looks like it’s a quote from me and it’s clearly not. I take that pretty seriously.

“We’re a party doing very well, we intend to be in Parliament after the next election – and should be, all things being equal – so we’re serious about this, and if people want to quote me, fine, but they do have to actually make sure it’s correct.”

The Civilian has “quoted” a number of politicians in previous satires, and the main focus of the post getting all the attention was Maurice Williamson:

In contrast Mr Williamson, whose “big gay rainbow” speech became a worldwide internet hit, told 3 News the article is “a very funny piece of satire and I had no problems with it”.

National’s three D’s – Deliberate Dumbing Down

There’s a sinister motive to everything National do. As usual there is more to their proposed unqualified teacher plan than they are willing to say. Just as well there are bloggers to shine a light on their dark intent.

The right  is constantly attacking the status of teachers for a number of reasons:

  1.  Education is a major area of government spending and teachers’ wages are the lion’s share of the education budget. If the fat elite want to pay less tax, then they need less government spending. Paying teachers less is one route to that. Unqualified teachers in charter schools, which have the power to set their own pay rates and to run for a profit, is all part of driving teachers’ pay down.
  2. To reduce the overall standard of teaching in this country and ultimately produce a dumbed down, acquiescent population – a majority underclass of poorly educated workers if you like – who will work for peanuts and do as they’re told.
  3. By dumbing down children more of them will grow up to be criminals, thus creating more business for private prisons.
  4. With bad education kids will grow up unable to work hard to make money for themselves so will have to resort to gambling, which will pay back Sky City for their donations.
  5. In a cunning double whammy poorly educated people suffer from poor health – and they’re not smart enough to realise what hospitals can do to help them so the Government saves there too.
  6. Dumber people won’t know how to apply for all the extra benefit supplements – and probably won’t even know if they have been kicked off a benefit.

This would be satire if some of it wasn’t actual accusations made on a major blog – 1 and 2 have actually been suggested (probably by people who somehow missed being taught by qualified teachers) – see Robber’s charter.

Edit: Here’s more  (presumably posted as serous comment):

  • I think it’s part of a broader philosophy to develop an authoritarian education system that stifles critical thinking, and teachers to a narrow range of skills on tests. It includes increasing the numbers of teachers who have little in-depth understanding of education that helps democracy to thrive. It increases the numbers of submissive teachers who will follow orders, and teach to tests in an authoritarian regime.
  • Who needs qualified registered teachers to educated poor kids anyway? Isn’t it all a waste of money, really? How else will we expand our ‘low wage’ competitive advantage? It’s just common sense, to a Tory.
  • The Tories dread creating an intelligent populace (as people might be disobedient, and dare to think for themselves.
  • Did you really think it would escape notice that the rich want the best education for their kids while serving up shit to the poor?

Rhinocrates and Dim-Post set straight

Something I thought would have long faded into blog history has resurfaced. It relates to a blog battle in February (2012), but came up again at Dim-Post yesterday (I haven’t commented at Dim-Post since February and rarely go to read now).

Ironically from a post called Talkback bait a discussion developed questioning my absence.

16. Comment by alex — May 9, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

I have a question for the moderator of this blog, is it true that Pete George is banned from commenting on Dim-Post?

To my knowledge “the moderator” has never commented on any bans, blocked or deleted comments yet.

18. Comment by Clunking Fist — May 9, 2012 @ 5:31 pm

I’m not the moderator, but I believe Pete George was not banned from this site. Rather, he was hounded from it.

Not true. I was standing up to a sustained attack when suddenly my comments stopped appearing. I could no longer respond to accusations or abuse. Several comments were apparently blocked over a period of time. No notice or explanation was given.

21. Comment by Hugh — May 9, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

If he was hounded out my only regret is I didn’t have a hand in it.

33. Comment by Rhinocrates — May 9, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

Sorry everyone if I was such a nuisance in my role, but I thought that it was worthwhile to “go nuclear” as it were and destroy a couple of threads to drive him out (though I shouldn’t take sole credit).

36. Comment by Rhinocrates — May 9, 2012 @ 11:07 pm

Anyway, what I meant to say, in reply to eighteen and twenty-three, sorry if I was a bore, but I felt that it was necessary in my minor role in hounding PG, but it was his persistent stupidity that offended me. In this world, with the gift of life, one has no right to glory in being thick as if it made one a “nobel savage” and PG, like a true narcissist WOULD NOT BLOODY STOP. Sorry if it wreck a couple of good threads, but I felt that it was worth it in the long run. The Dimpost seems to be doing pretty well without him.

A repeat of a closing comment in February.

78. Comment by Rhinocrates — February 27, 2012 @ 10:19 am

Indeed, but I’m (perhaps vainly) hoping that the sacrifice of this or a few threads will finally drive the egomaniacal fool away for good. Then they can stay on topic. In the meantime, it’s like trying to have a serious conversation with road works going on outside the window – the drone goes on and on, and whenever someone says something important, it suddenly increases in volume and drowns out their words. The difference is that road workers are doing something genuinely useful.

So a deliberate and sustained attempt to “hound me” off the blog, which was eventually enforced by the moderator, in silence. This meant no explanation (even Red Alert usually warns, and also notifies of deletes and bans). It also meant I couldn’t defend or explain my position against continuing attacks after I was blocked.

It’s ironic that Rhinocrates claims “like a true narcissist WOULD NOT BLOODY STOP”, while he admits that it was him who wouldn’t stop until succeeding in shutting me out.

I accept that I was never flavour of the month at Dim-Post, no one likes their pomposity challenged. I admit I sometimes pushed the boundaries. I know I sometimes annoy others – but as has just been proven much of the annoyance factor is the quantity of attack reactions, some obviously motivated by an aim to shut down speech.

It’s worth looking at what provoked this attack and ban. From the reaction against me one could surmise I’d done something terrible.

It all began on What Then? in February, which was post on child abuse. There’d been quite a bit of reasonable discussion, then there was a link to a graphic image that I have resisted promoting but to provide a full record I’ll include here:

37. Comment by DeepRed — February 24, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

And the image in more detail:

I tend to speak up on things on blogs I think are inappropriate, so I did:

39. Comment by Pete George — February 24, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

DeepRed @37 – I think that’s disturbing, disgusting.

Whoops. Bad move on a sometimes satirical blog frequented by intellectuals.

40. Comment by Gregor W — February 24, 2012 @ 9:11 pm

You do know Swift was a pre-eminent satirist right, Pete?

43. Comment by Pete George — February 24, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

Gregor – I don’t care how pre-eminent you think Swift was, I find that graphically disgusting, and the implications are nasty. But if you think it’s clever why don’t you show it to your children, to understand the impact of that you must have children.

Modern New Zealand is incomparable to Ireland three hundred years ago.

44. Comment by Gregor W — February 24, 2012 @ 9:41 pm


I guess you could see it that way if you were a humourless, moronic literalist who didn’t know that Swift made essentially the same hyperbolic joke wrt English landlords and their Irish tennants back in the early 18th century.

But I guess you don’t know that, as your contextual knowledge of the world seems to start around the turn of the 21st century.

We don’t have anything like the landlord/tenancy situation of that era. Swift didn’t have Photoshop, colour printing or the internet. And in his day many if not most children didn’t survive infancy.

This appeared to me as a repulsive modern political attack. And I simply made my point, and others made counter points…

45. Comment by Gregor W — February 24, 2012 @ 9:45 pm

For Christ’s sake Pete, dry up.

Instead of making us suffer your po-faced opining, how about you saddle up your high horse and piss off to another blog if you’re so bloody offended.

46. Comment by Pete George — February 24, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

Gee G W, steady. If you’re uncomfortable with me expressing an opinion you could trot off somewhere else yourself.

47. Comment by Gregor W — February 24, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

But there is a time and a place for tedious moralizing and being offended about things, and a blog known for satire is probably not the place where you’ll get the best reception.

…it didn’t end there, it was only the beginning.

49. Comment by Rhinocrates — February 24, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

Oh God, he really didn’t get it? Swift disgusts him? Quick, someone introduce him to William S. Burroughs – I want to see his head explode, a la Cronenberg’s Scanners -style.

No, it was Rhinocrates that didn’t get it. I wasn’t commenting on Swift, I was commenting in the image, in the modern context it was used.

That began a series of comments by Rhinocrates that was a sustained diatribe. It included his usual semantics over word meanings, but also some clearly intended abuse:

55. Comment by Rhinocrates — February 25, 2012 @ 10:02 am

You dirty old man, nobody else gets sexually aroused by images of child abuse – you’re projecting, I’m afraid.

57. Comment by Pete George — February 25, 2012 @ 11:29 am

Why do you use selective definitions to frame abuse? What you’ve done is quite nasty really. Perhaps obscene.

What about intervention with at risk babies and abuse of children? Don’t you care? Or do you prefer to resort to blog abuse?

I thought I’d made a reasonable objection.

58. Comment by Rhinocrates — February 25, 2012 @ 11:43 am

You’ve asked a leading question and I refuse to answer it because of your fundamental dishonesty of intent.

Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Dual ironies – his fundamental dishonesty of intent (which he later admitted). And complaining about a “leading question”, then asking a leading question that was obviously a bait. I’m well aware of the use of that phrase, but in the context of his abuse it was very deliberate.

I did bite back.

59. Comment by Pete George — February 25, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

Rhinocrates – what you’re doing is far beyond mock, that should be obvious even to most urbane intellectuals.

You’ve accused me of ‘dishonesty of intent’. What was the intent of your attacks here on me using selective definitions?

Talking about my wife, she just asked me to show her the graphic that led to this – she said “that’s fucking sick in so many ways”. She was repulsed. And she’s disgusted by the accusations you’re making at me. You’re a gutless prick attacking like this from an·o·nym·i·ty.

You provide proof that the Kiwi culture of abuse is deeply entrenched in many facits of our society. And keeps blaming someone or something else, in perpetuity unaddressed.

Following that there was a lot of waffle, bluster and indignation. A couple of closing comments:

72. Comment by Rhinocrates — February 25, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

That is sad on one level, but on another it’s sickening because you want to turn a thread on the most serious of topics into an episode of The Pete George Show yet again.

That’s a common tactic – staging an attack (in this case with admitted intention of “hounding” off the blog) and blame the target. That didn’t go unnoticed.

79. Comment by alienredqueen — February 28, 2012 @ 7:28 am

What is sad is how many of you have contributed to this thread devolving from a mature discussion of the topic to your own personal flame war.

Fair comment. I claim to have mostly have been defending myself from attack. Rhinocrates has admitted an intent to attack and shut me down.

I thought it had pretty much ended there, but it was revived in Not too bright where I started off joining a new discussion. This continued fairly normally for about 50 comments, with a couple of digs at me commenting too much. But the previous stoush was brought up again – but not by me.  It developed into too much bluster again, with some support shown for both sides of the argument.

Some commenters started to suggest “you really should just shut up for a bit Pete”, then

72. Comment by nommopilot — February 27, 2012 @ 9:19 am

Pete you really are failing to understand a lot of what is said to you and misconstruing it. If you don’t like a picture on the internet, don’t look at it. The picture you’ve been squawking about for 3 days now is pretty mild compared to what’s out there in the wilds of the intertubez and it’s about time you STFU about it. nobody is making you look.

You do derail nearly every topic and what you say is mostly, as described above, “meaningless pompous claptrap”.

How about taking a little break for a few days? How about staying on your own blog so the rest of us can have a choice of whether we want to know every little thought you have?

73. Comment by Pete George — February 27, 2012 @ 9:30 am

nommopilot – you and anyone else can choose to take your own advice and ignore me, but instead a few choose to keep repeatedly attacking me regardless of what the topic might be about. Others (like Rhino) divert off topic far more than me.

And then I was literally shut up – none of my posts after that were accepted, but there was no comment or explanation as to why.

I got the blame and the banishment, but claim to have mostly made honest attempts to contribute to discussions, albeit acknowledging sometimes to frequent.

“If you don’t like a picture on the internet, don’t look at it” – if we all followed that advice there would be little blog debate. You can also apply “if you don’t like what I say argue against it or ignore it” but that would deny most debate too.

I know I can annoy others on blogs. Some people annoy me – but I either ignore them or speak up against them. I don’t try to shut them out or “hound them off”.

A word on the satirical nature of Dim-Post. Yes, it is sometimes satirical – but it is more often seriously political. Using “satire” selectively as an excuse for abuse and hounding is nonsense. And I’m not aware of any rule that says satire can’t be offensive.

Rhinocrates and the enlightened intellectuals who frequent Dim-Post can keep claiming a victory in my absence if they wish. In the absence of any explanation of why I was blocked I won’t be back – so that probably seals my end at Dim-Post. I just wish they were upfront and honest about it.

Comment by alienredqueen — February 28, 2012 @ 7:28 am