Recently, I came across an old 2013 Rappler article, which discussed the inability of Filipinos to distinguish facts from satire. Marguerite de Leon, writer of said article and Social Media Producer for the online news site, provided popular satire examples to establish her argument that Filipinos cannot distinguish facts because of a flawed educational system, which then leads to the impotence of being able to think critically.
I’m not going to discredit Ms. De Leon’s opinion for it is of valid reasoning. I do believe, however, that distinguishing whether an article – online or not – is purely factual or an intent at lampooning someone is just a matter of reading properly rather than critically thinking about it. With that said, I would like to offer the textbook definition of what satire simply is.
satire [sat-ahyuh r]
- the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
- a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, ridicule, or this
Annually, we here at The LaSallian publish a spoof issue to commemorate April Fools’ Day and spread positivity throughout the University. Although there are some who take our spoof issue so seriously to the point that they would argue and bicker about it online for countless hours. What’s worse is that the arguments are so heated, they tend to develop into personal attacks directed towards the writers, photographers, and artists involved in the article.
Now, besides endorsing our latest issue, what I would like to reiterate is that distinguishing satire from facts doesn’t have to involve critical thinking. You should save critical thinking for issues that matter, issues that require action, and issues that demand solutions. As for satire, you just need to read properly and understand the humor that lies with every paragraph. While it’s true that the Philippines’ educational system is far from what is ideal, I doubt that there’s a writer out there who can fully fool a vigilant and understanding Filipino reader.
I remember a satire article from our 2014 spoof issue. The article discussed the involvement of DLSU’s track and field team in chasing down snatchers and hooligans operating along Taft Avenue. This article was met with huge criticism against the University and concern for the student athletes who will literally chase down the bad guys along the hustle and bustle of Taft Avenue. The previous two sentences alone are already screaming of absurdity and travesty. If you took this at face value and believed that DLSU volunteered its track and field team as a vigilante task enforcement group to protect the abused of Taft Avenue, it means you’re simply not reading properly because in what world would a respectable university volunteer its students to literally chase down crime?
On a national scale, a satire article published amidst the 2013 senatorial election came into the crosshairs of the ever so aggressive Filipino readers. It discussed how now Senator Nancy Binay obtained a Supreme Court order protecting her against any public debate after one of her personal assistants allegedly schooled her in a debate. The personal assistant is none other than her then eight-year-old son, which sparked issues regarding political dynasties. This article resulted into multiple backlashes. Not only did it generate heat for Nancy Binay, but the Supreme Court of the Philippines also received hateful remarks and was accused of being biased despite being the judicial branch of the government. While this example may require a bit more processing than the former, this satire article should be understood for what it is, not what it’s not, which is real news. If our judicial branch is that corrupt to issue a protection order for a fully grown woman running for a legislative seat because she lost to her eight-year-old son, then I’m migrating away from this country as soon as possible.
Mosquito Press, a known publication for poking fun at Philippine political figures, released a Harvard study that analyzes over 500,000 historical documents from 300 different societies. Findings of this study suggest that Filipinos are the most gullible people in the world. Applying this legitimate research to the topic at hand, I guess I can conclude that besides not reading properly, Filipinos are just naturally gullible, which is why we cannot distinguish facts and satire when it is presented to us in all its glory.
At the end of the day, I do understand that there are times wherein we let our emotions get the best of us whenever we see a headline as provoking as those that were mentioned before. However, while I still do believe that Ms. De Leon is right in saying that our educational system is flawed, I believe that you don’t have to be critical to distinguish and identify what satire is when you’re faced with one. Although, a word of caution, to know what satire is, you need to do more than just reading.
To identify what you’re reading in general, you have to understand. Because if you did understand this opinion piece, then you’d stop reading at the dictionary-like definition I presented before. After all, this is just another satire article with a dash of opinion from your truly.