The Role of Satire

Aristophanes via Notable Quotes.

Aristophanes via Notable Quotes.

With recent events in Paris and the debate over the role of satire, free speech, and hate laws, there has been a healthy interaction in the Winnipeg Free Press which looks at what satire is, firstly, and then whether it is critical to Canadian and global democracy.

St. John’s-Ravenscourt‘s very own Mr. Mark Duncan responded today in the Freep to a letter. The original letter, by Harry McFee, condemned the use of satire. Here is the letter written by Harry McFee:

Here is Mr. Duncan’s response this morning (scroll to the last letter):

Based on the debate between McFee and Duncan, where do you stand on the use of satire? How far can free speech be taken? When are Charter rights not absolute?

Here’s Rick Mercer’s latest rant. Is Ricks’s satire important to Canada’s democracy?

Good luck!


11 thoughts on “The Role of Satire

  1. I sort of agree with both the guys. I think that McFee has a point in that we should all have respect for each other which includes there religion. But, I also think that the events that happened should not have happened as Mr. Duncan’s said. The post was meant to be a joke and should not have been taken personally. I stand in the middle between the two because I think that the picture was supposed to be a joke and we all should still be respectful of each other.

  2. From what I have taken from this article is that Harry McFee believes that the picture shown is a form of bullying, disrespect, and very mocking. On the other hand, Mark Duncan states that this picture was not published to hurt anyone’s feelings, or bully anyone. He continues to state that this picture is a form of “Satire”. By this he means that “The satirist derides with the aim of reformation; the bully derides for the sole purpose of harming individuals”. Satire is actually defined as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”. This picture is the perfect example of satire as it was not intending to bully or mock anyone, but just to criticize. However I still do partly agree with McFee as he states that everyone still needs to show respect for one another.

  3. I stand for both sides as I feel like people should know when they have crossed the line. It might be funny to some people but it can also be hurtful. In this circumstance, people thought the picture of Prophet Mohammad as disrespectful and sadly ended up taking violent measures against the picture. To prevent this from happening we need to eliminate some Satire that can be taken the wrong way for some people. Even if we achieve to make one side happy, the other side will not be happy. I agree with Mr. Duncan on how the picture was not meant to disrespect anyone but i also agree with Mr. McFee on how some people can take it as disrespectful and hurtful.

  4. I stand on McFee’s side because of the following reasons. First let’s say I went to a big community and said a joke about Jewish people (No offence) and there were a few Jewish people there. I said the joke it hurts their feelings. It was not meant to make someone feel bad but it did , so it really doesn’t matter if you meant it to hurt or if you didn’t. It still hurts their feelings even if you meant it to hurt or not. Now also why in the world would you insult the 2nd biggest religion in the world? So when you no it’s going to hurt other people’s feelings why not just be quiet. The Muslims has their religion and we can just leave them and not insult them because they are believing what they believe in. So I stay on Mcfee’s side because if you know people are going to get mad why keep doing it? Now we learned the consequences let’s hope the media stops posting stupid comics.

  5. The whole matter of whether this situation was bullying or simply free speech can be debated on various levels. By no means were the acts of violence that were taken acceptable, even if it was believed to be disrespectful. Personally, I agree with Mr. Duncan. By definition, if this act of disrespect isn’t repeated then technically it isn’t considered “bullying”. The real issue is, people are seeing this strictly as an insult because one group of individuals don’t agree. Everyone has their opinion, and how can we determine this isn’t another belief that is being expressed. Ask yourself, would you go kill every person who does something you don’t agree with? It just shows how well people can handle themselves in situations. We are defending the people who are believed to be insulted by the cartoon, but how about the hundreds of lives they took as a form of revenge. For some reason everyone is forgetting that aspect. I’m not saying cartoonists should continue to put out pieces that “disrespects” a religion, because that would just result in more world issues, which we are ultimately trying to avoid, but I think people and other cultural groups have been through worse situations of “disrespect” without committing crimes of violence and turning a one time thing into a top story headline. People can overreact sometimes, but we need to learn to control our emotions but also respect and have moral boundaries. If people get offended by certain pieces of work, that is their right, and they can speak up in a mature manner.

  6. I think in order to discuss satire, it is important to understand the topic first. Satire has been defined as “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.” I think that Mr. McFee is correct to say that satirists are “bullies.” The job of a satirist is to intentionally make fun of certain beliefs, or ethics. However I think that satire provided by the likes of Rick Mercer is important, as it shows important news pieces. I think that satire produced by Charlie Hebdo is unjust. They are intentionally ridiculing multiple religions so we can laugh, but in reality they shouldn’t always be treated as a joke. I also agree with Mr. Duncan as well. I think that it is important to realize that satire is a part of our culture, and we cant have people barging into buildings with fully loaded AK47’s because of a cartoon.
    -Joshua Waldman

  7. I don’t believe in mocking somebodies religion. Even though I am not religious, it’s a matter that should be left alone. It’s a different story when a government is being mocked because that is what I believe is free speech. I’ll just be frank, I believe that mocking the government is free speech, but I believe that mocking religion is hate speech. I believe that Charlie Hedbo did something completely insensitive, he shouldn’t have done it it was a bad decision to make fun of Muhammad. While I believe that the comic strip is offensive, the journalists are innocent, sure they’re kinda dicks for making that strip, but that doesn’t mean they deserved to die. I’m just going to say that government satire is ok, religious satire isn’t.

    -Jack Dyson

  8. Looking straight at the circumstances given, when there is already lots of conflict involving islamic extremists in other parts of the world, I can see how Mr. Mc Fee can be led. However, this does not change the fact of satire being a favourable form of argumentation towards a certain political or social party. Nevertheless, looking back at the circumstances given we can see that their are certain limits given and crossing these limits involves inducing pain and fear on a majority of a population; therefore we can regard this as a certain extreme on the part of Charlie Hebdo. Putting this in simple terms: Why would you intentionally provoke a presently attacked religion; why break their peace? No matter what you believe, like everyone says, everyone has their own opinion and passing your jurisdiction is simply unreasonable. If this post were to have been inadvertent, then the circumstances would change, however it was not. Anyhow, in spite of recent events no one can deny the fact that satire isn’t efficient to bring up ideas. Okay, it may be somewhat offensive if used incorrectly, yet it satisfies everything that the publics craves in a story. No one wants to read a story that is 500 pages long and refers back to the same statements, they want something that is short, artistic, comedic and most importantly gets the point across associating all of the above. Thinking about something completely different now, consider a book or a TV show. Viewing a popular show such as Lost or a renowned novel such as Divergent, you can see that the action starts right away, getting straight to the point. If you read the book for too long and nothing interesting happens, then the majority of people are going to leave–same with anything else. The only exceptions to this are books or shows that are so well written that the content doesn’t matter so much as the message or writing, otherwise the item will become obsolete and useless. What I’m trying to get at here is that even if something may be offensive or hurtful in a sarcastic, egocentric point of view, these are the best methods of positive reinforcement towards political activism. This DOES NOT mean that I am saying that we should be going around and criticizing everything and being completely insensitive to all religions but it does mean that some sort of comedic relief towards POLITICAL facts is necessary for anything. In conclusion, I do not stand on the side of Mc fee saying that this is bullying because it was simply a bad example of satirical play that caused further consequences.

  9. To, first understand this issue we first need to have a base understanding as to what satire real means. According to the dictionary satire means “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”. I this example, Mr. Duncan’s view is that the the satire presented in this argument was a form of reformation and change instead of a signal of mocking someones religion( which is wrong). In my honest opinion I say true to what Mr Duncan, has pointed out here but like Mc was trying to say making fun of someones religion in some cases can be very dangerous and can be a very sensitive matter to deal with. In, conclusion I still stand with Mr Duncan on this important issue.

  10. I believe free speech is a notion that is unreachable. Speaking in generally will end up, intentional or not, offending someone’s way of thinking. Everyone thinks differently and has different religious, moral, and worldly views. Therefore, you can never satisfy everyone. So, free speech is something more than capable within our limits, if you are able to talk. It’s the outcome and consequences of what we say, do, write, draw, etc.. that we can not predict or judge. Both Mr. McFee and Mr.Duncan have different points of views which I am 50/50 on. A satire depicts the world in a different way while as Mr. Duncan stated a bully does it with the intention of hurt. But it’s all on how our brains perceives it. For example, I can say on Twitter that “I don’t like [insert singer name]” giving no justification as to why, but simply using “free speech” to express my opinion. I am entitled to do this but the outcome? A lot of backlash and hate on me for simply not liking someone. This is why I am saying that free speech has no limit, we may say whatever we want, we should just be wary of the outcome.

  11. Though the image of Prophet Muhammad may have not been intended to hurt anyone, it did. Freedom of Speech is a great thing that we are fortunate to have, but to use it to (non-intentionally) disgrace another religion is not right. Even if it was not meant to hurt others, thinking about how others may react to this image should have been taken into consideration. There are around 1.6 billion Muslims today and to post an image that may be interpreted in a wrong way by them should have been thought about before. This goes with any religion too, they would be just as unhappy as the muslims are if the same thing happened to them. I agree with McFee in that we should respect everyones religion and not use freedom of speech to ridicule a religion.

    If Mr.Duncan believes that is was satire, i don’t believe jokes should be made about others religions and what they believe.

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