Politicians fed up with trying to figure out if articles are satirical
Photo illustration by Tina Wallace
Amidst a growing number of complaints from leaders and government officials, the federal government has introduced a motion to ban the use of sarcasm in all communications involving politicians.
The motion, known as Bill C-967, will ease the minds of politicians who are unable to grasp the concept of sarcasm and who fear they are unknowingly criticized by political commentators.
Just last month, Prime Minister Stevie Harper revealed he was duped by the comments of an attractive young journalist working for the Ottawa Denizen who described his helmet hair as “particularly fetching and stylish when seen next to Trudeau’s ridiculous curly locks.”
A few weeks later, Ontario Minister of Education Liz Flipflop also fell victim to sarcasm when she mistakenly referred to the article, “Provincial government increases funding for university,” published in the Tomato, as a rare piece of quality journalism.
“I was ecstatic to read an article that makes me look so competent,” Flipflop said. “I don’t remember some of the major funding allocations to universities that the article claims we have made, but I applaud Stephanie Piamonte’s rigorous pursuit of the truth.”
Flipflop was later seen putting her foot in her mouth, following a lengthy discussion with her political advisors.
In spite of the support shown by many members of Parliament for Bill C-967, many commentators view it as yet another unconstitutional attempt by the government to avoid criticism and accountability.
Jesse Spaghetti, editor of the Tomato, said he is worried the law could ruin the wit that makes the Tomato such a popular read among students at the University of Ottawa.
“Students often feel wronged by their politicians and leaders, and one of the best ways for them to express their contempt is by writing a satirical article,” he said. “Bill C-967 is nothing more than an attempt to stop us from laughing at politicians’ expense. But how can we possibly hold our politicians accountable when we can’t openly mock them?”
Others feel the motion is highly hypocritical because politicians have also been known to employ sarcasm in order to avoid being forthright and honest with the public in moments when it is convenient to do so.
“Rob Ford stood before reporters and told them, ‘I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.’ Turns out he was being facetious,” said Jonathan Knows, a political science professor at the U of O. “If he can do that, why can’t we ironically tell him that he’s doing a great job and that we support him?”
It remains to be seen how officials plan to enforce the legislation. Experts have stipulated that sarcasm relies too heavily on interpretation to ever successfully be enforced by the law. However, many say some form of sarcasm punctuation could help clarify many of the misunderstandings that occur in written communications.
In any case, if passed, the decision is likely to be appealed and sent before the courts.
“We will fight this,” Spaghetti said.