Self-Censorship

I managed to get one of my posts blocked on Facebook the other day.

To be more precise, a tweet that crossposted to my Facebook status contained a link that one or more people identified as “abusive.”

The link in question led to a satirical blog post decrying “World War II” on the History Channel as implausible, poorly written and plotted, and basically ridiculous–as if it was a work of fiction.  The blogger was trying to make a humorous point that if history was packaged and sold as a fictional story for television, no one would believe it.

When you think about it, that’s very true. So many insane and unlikely things have happened over the course of history, perpetrated by characters that any competent editor would have red-lined out of a novel manuscript or television screenplay, that if a fictional work followed the true stream of human events, blow-by-blow, it would be unpublishable. Historical fiction does exist, of course, but it’s nearly always played straight, with a narrow focus and no sense of the absurd.

My link to the post was probably blocked for two reasons. First, when I went back and read the comments on the blog, it became obvious that people were having difficulty with the  satire. They took the blogger’s article literally and reckoned him some sort of history denier, conspiracy nut, or anti-German/anti-Japanese bigot. Satire uses outrageous humor to make a serious point (reference Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal). If the satirist is confusing his audience, he’s missed the mark.

Second, and this was something I should have considered more carefully before I posted the link, the blogger went over-the-top near the end of the article. He said some irresponsible things about the use of nuclear weapons and also included a link to a very graphic Wikipedia article about the Nanking Massacre. The reference was gratuitous and unnecessary, and there’s certainly nothing funny about that horrifying event. I think the blogger got so wrapped up in being outrageous, he lost the point he was trying to make.

Anyhow, I’ve removed the link to the blog article on my Facebook wall. It was confusing, and the point wasn’t worth causing offense.

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2 thoughts on “Self-Censorship

  1. Isn’t that a sad commentary on public intelligence? How could anyone not see that was SATIRE??? Even if they didn’t get the point that you, as a WRITER, were especially interested in, that of truth being too implausible for fiction, they still should have been able to see that the original author was using satire in referring to television. Maybe the author pushed it a little far at the end, but taken as a whole, I still thought it was a brilliant blog entry. I’m glad I got to see it before the thought police tagged it as “offensive”.

    1. The people who didn’t understand were definitely in the minority, but I was still surprised at how many there were. Some were offended, some were clueless, and some were focused on correcting the historical inaccuracies and omissions in the article. Several thought he was just making fun of the History Channel. A couple were non-native English speakers, so it was more understandable that they would have trouble comprehending the intent of the piece.

      Whatever the reason, once the link was tagged, it couldn’t be accessed from within Facebook, so it just sat there, leaving people to wonder what nasty thing I was trying to lure them into. I guess that’s the scariest part of this, that a couple of people can arbitrarily shut down dialogue without any warning or explanation.

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