Montana Voices: Ah, but we’ll miss the smile and bite of satire

By Lorraine Collins/Last Best News

A bit over a year ago, I wrote a satirical piece for Last Best News about Donald Trump’s idea of building a wall along our border with Mexico. I suggested that what we really needed was a wall between us and Canada.

At the time, Ed Kemmick and I had a conversation about whether readers might actually take this as a serious proposal. Satire isn’t always understood by everyone, as I knew from experience.

Over 40 years ago, the first piece of satire I ever had published was in a Catholic family magazine. The editor said that it generated more letters than anything they had ever published. Half of the readers were horrified that a good Catholic family magazine would publish such tripe. The other half thought it was hilarious, helpful and did shine a light on serious matters of concern to families. In the end, humor won and I wrote for that magazine for several years.

But now Kemmick has decided that he should cease publishing his own satire and humor because of “the explosion of fake news.” He defines this as “blatantly false stories invented and distributed to generate revenue or score political points.”

False stories, or lies as I prefer to call them, began early in the political campaign when Donald Trump said he had seen thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. They continue to this day as the president insists that millions of people cast illegal votes for Hillary Clinton, which explains why he lost the popular vote.

Some political lies cause actual physical danger, as when a man believed the Clinton campaign was running a sex slave operation out of a pizza parlor in Washington and showed up with an automatic rifle to set them free.

Fake news is no joke, all right. Spreading false reports and lies is dangerous to the fabric of our society and we seem to be getting more and more of those all the time. The media have been trying to figure out how to deal with it. I suppose one way is not to publish a story that is known to be false, even if it’s in fun. I can understand editors’ concerns about publishing any story that can’t be fact-checked these days.

Compared to so many other things that seem endangered by actions of this administration, losing humor in the written word may not seem very important. But I sure don’t like to see a good sense of humor as one more thing we’re losing in America.

Lorraine Collins has written humor pieces, articles and commentary for magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. She is also the author of mystery and detective fiction. She moved to Montana in 2012, having lived in six other states and three foreign countries.