Drew_head_webDrew McLachlan
Associate Editor
The Navigator

While browsing news stories over the weekend, I came across one article that really stood out. It followed Parti Québécois’ candidate for Lafontaine, Jean Carrière’s, dismissal from the party over an Islamophobic post he made on Facebook. If you’re wondering, Carrière’s post featured a topless woman flipping off the camera, with the words “FUCK ISLAM” boldly transcribed next to her sour face. But it wasn’t the content, which I was already familiar with, that stood out. The angle of the article, posted on The Beaverton, cited the reason for Carrière’s dismissal was his use of English. From the article:

“Ours is an inclusive party that allows and encourages its candidates to express their discriminatory views,” the Parti Québécois’ leader explained. “Our only requirement is that they exercise their right to free speech in French. I have therefore taken steps to snuff out the creeping bilingualism of this province’s xenophobia.”

“I’m not the monster people make me out to be; my other posts conflating Islam with beastiality and pedophilia were written in French” Carrière said while deleting his previous posts that contained any English.

The article, of course, was meant as satire. Satirical news is nothing new; along with The Beaverton, websites like The Lapine, The Onion, The Daily Currant, NewsBiscuit, and countless others all across the globe run similar stories, some openly, and some under the guise of legitimate journalism, if only to enhance the comedic value. While most people can see through façade, and at the least get a cheap laugh from these articles, there are still those who aren’t “in on the joke.” I’ve seen people appalled after learning that American Republicans are planning on arming unborn children in order to stop abortions, and enraged that a journalist could “honestly” believe that Skrillex is a satanic lesbian whose music is a tool used to promote the worship of her dark master. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most of us have had to, at the least, double check a story we’ve read, unsure if it’s fact or farce.

Blogger David Atkinson even made a guide to help readers detect whether or not a story is satire. His tips include reading the website’s “about” section, checking the publication for other articles that are clearly satirical, and cross-checking with trusted news sources, as big stories like “Olympic closing ceremonies to feature entire ‘War and Peace’ in Skywriting” are likely to show up in more than one publication.

But what’s the purpose of fake news? More often than not, these stories are simply created for the laugh factor. The Lapine recently ran an article in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper apparently mixed the term “tweeting” with “twerking.”

“The luncheon crowd went silent as Harper carried on by saying, ‘What? Don’t I look like I twerk?’ As a media aide hurriedly approached the stage, Harper added that as Prime Minister he ‘would like to twerk with every Canadian, but that of course is impossible.’”

While a cheap laugh at the expense of our fearless leader is fine, even healthy, every once in a while, the stories that stick for me are the ones that go deeper with their commentary. The story above, featuring Carrière, is not only entertaining, but a legitimate criticism of Parti Québécois’ conflicting stance on bilingualism and bigotry. Another story on The Lapine, titled “Tar sands renamed ‘happy sands’ by oil industry,” is a critique on the whitewashing that some oil companies (and political governments) use to address the growing public concern over large pipeline projects. Stories like these provide more than just surface level entertainment, but a humorous, tongue-in-cheek format to deliver political commentary to an audience more prone to sarcasm and irony than Radio One or rants filmed behind the CBC studios.

Going back into the week, there was another news story that stood out to me. Bassem Youssef, a television satirist known to some as “the Jon Stewart of Egypt,” found the signal to his program jammed for the second week in a row. The former heart surgeon also found himself the target of protests after mocking Egypt’s ruler, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Youseff continues performing and attempting to air his fake news show every week, seeking to keep his people in on the joke.