№ 2. Thinkpiece Bot, Charlie Chaplin, and Satirists Now and Then

(Every Saturday, a smorgasbord of discoveries made both offline and online will be featured here, to celebrate how the Internet is full of oddities and ideas from the real world.)


1. Thinkpiece Bot

Launched in August 2015, Thinkpiece Bot is a project by digital artist Nora Reed, who wanted to illustrate the predictability of self-touting thinkpieces online, especially those targeted against millennials. These days, anyone can publish an opinion under the guise of being a ‘thinkpiece’ (e.g. this very blog) with the help of a clickbait headline — and Reed satirizes this Internet culture through a Twitter account vaguely reminiscent of the game Cards Against Humanity, but whose human input is only until the updating of terms and variables.

Perhaps the funniest part about such a bot is that some auto-generated headlines actually sound plausible. To see that in action, here’s a Buzzfeed game on real thinkpieces vs. Thinkpiece Bot tweets.

2. The Great Dictator (1940)

Charlie Chaplin is quite possibly the most iconic figure of the silent film era, and yet his most timeless and resounding work is that in a talkie. In The Great Dictator, he plays a Jewish barber who closely resembles and is mistaken for an anti-Semitist dictator (go figure). Though written over seventy years ago, the movie’s parting message is no less relevant today. Chaplin ends the film with a memorable speech rejecting his position as emperor and entreating humankind to return to humanity.

“More than machinery we need humanity,” he reasons. “More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

3. Penguin Little Black Classics

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For Penguin Books’ 80th birthday in 2015, the publishing house reprinted 80 volumes worth of excerpts and short works from its classics list. This year, it added 46 new titles to commemorate the publication of its first-ever Penguin Classic book.

The best part about this series — no matter how commercialized some critics make it out to be — is that the books are downright affordable, each priced at £80p, or PhP 80 in local bookstores. The selection is also diverse, with a mixture of both well-loved and lesser-known authors. One can view these snippets of literature as samplers or testers for an author one wants to try, before engaging in said author’s lengthier works.

4. ‘Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies’

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The Russian writer Ayn Rand would not have liked children unless they were consciously made by their parents and thereafter inherently valuable, so the idea of this Objectivist cat-lover taking a stab at children’s entertainment is laughable. Two years ago in the New Yorker, Mallory Ortberg applied Randian thinking to 17 children’s movies, with results that are funny even if one was not informed in the author’s philosophy.

For instance, Rand’s nutshell take on Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) would have gone along the lines of: “A ridiculous movie. What could a restaurant owner possibly have to gain by giving away a perfectly good meal to dogs, when he could sell it at a reasonable price to human beings?… —One star.”

5. Mochang Tanga Blog
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In the event of worthwhile socio-political incidents, the Matanglawin student publication from Ateneo de Manila University would release format-appropriate lampoons through its alter ego, the Tanganglawin. In light of recent controversies in the Philippines revolving around what it means to be a credible source of information, the publication’s latest spoof takes the form of Mochang Tanga Blog — a mock-up to actually mock the reporting style of the most reliable blogger of her generation, Mocha Uson. That a number of self-proclaimed social media vigilantes continues to cite articles by Uson and other similar sources in lieu of real empirical evidence for their arguments showcases Filipino society’s overall descent to ignorance, a situation that student satirists seek to criticize.

Of course, only the style of the Mocha Uson blog is being lampooned. It is not a personal attack against the blogger herself. Inside the pages of the Tanganglawin spoof are also veiled criticisms against extrajudicial killings, Gloria Arroyo’s acquittal, and the like. (If you are a Mocha Uson fan looking for answers on this post, make of that what you will.)

Does the use of satire help get the criticism across more clearly? It would be difficult to say, but given the fact that Uson’s legions of believers automatically shut down within five kilometers of any genuine evidence-based argumentation, the humor approach is worth a shot. Also, Filipino culture is supposedly permeated by humor more than anything else, so that the best way to beat the demons of ignorance is to join them, after a fashion.

Satire from then and now, from here and there, has not changed much, although its means of dissemination have expanded since it began in the ancient Greek period. The Internet has only eased the flow of information from one culture to another, even when this same medium can be used to verify sarcasm and irony and at times, punish the same. While there are people who continue to be dissatisfied with the way things are in the world, nonetheless, and while people still know how to look at the bright side of things (for in a way, satire is an optimist’s tool), this genre will continue to proliferate, each example more creative than the last.

 

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