On the use of the typo to signal irony on Twitter

Irony, clearly labeled

One of the problems with rhetorical irony is that sometimes people don’t get it. That’s also a major source of its appeal. When irony works, the reader sees it but holds out the possibility that someone else does not. This effect is a big part of the fun, even though plenty of satirical writing cheats it by deploying irony in a way few readers could miss. The trick is to maintain a sort of plausible deniability. Irony doesn’t have to actually fool anybody, but we as knowing readers must be able to fool ourselves into believing it might. Satire can therefore be pretty heavy-handed, so long as the irony is not explicitly signaled. I mention this to introduce a convention of irony Twitter that has bled over into other sub-comunities: the practice of signaling irony with typographical errors. For example:

Is it cheating to explicitly signal irony in this way? Consideration after the jump.

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White House cites satirical column in support of budget

Combat! blog has returned to Missoula, where the weather is suspiciously nice and normalcy resumes. I should warn you that we will only be operational for a short time. On Friday I drive down to Jackson, Wyoming to hang out with Stubble and his girlfriend, and I won’t get back until Tuesday, so this is pretty much the only regular blog post for a week. But how fine it is! Last week, the White House redistributed a column headlined “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why” in support of its proposed budget. The column, by Washington Post humorist Alexandra Petri, was satire. Petri suspects that they didn’t actually read it but assumed from the headline that it supported their position. In this way, the Trump administration continues to operate as your aunt’s Facebook feed come to life.

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What is Borowitz up to?

A tweet from the New Yorker

I would describe The Borowitz Report as very gentle satire. While The Onion and its imitators have pushed satire toward surrealism with farfetched premises, Andy Borowitz has staked out territory closer to real life. His satire is dry. Often, his premises are not exaggerations of popular values but expressions of them, as in Stephen Hawking Angers Trump Supporters With Baffling Array of Long Words. Where The Onion’s premises are audacious, Borowitz’s are so plausible that they were routinely mistaken for actual news, before The New Yorker began labeling them “satire from Andy Borowitz.” But today’s report takes dry to a new level. With Americans Overwhelmingly Say Lives Have Improved Since Kellyanne Conway Went Away, the hygrometer is bottoming out. My throat may become too parched to laugh.

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Village of Whitesboro unfairly annexes satire

The official, controversial seal of the village of Whitesboro, NY

The controversial official seal of the village of Whitesboro, NY

When I first saw an article claiming that residents of Whitesboro, New York would vote on whether to change their official town seal, pictured above, I assumed it was heavy-handed satire. The name “Whitesboro” is obviously made up, and even if it weren’t, there’s no way any town would adopt as its official seal an image of a pioneer choking an Indian to the ground. Satire should be a little absurd, but it can’t be completely on-the-nose like that. Maybe if you made a seal showing pioneers eating at a big table while hungry Indians peeked in from the background, maybe that would work. But then I checked the mostly reliable New York Daily News, and it turns out Whitesboro is an actual place with that actual seal.

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Artisanal bindles for $350 in Williamsburg?

The Bindle Brothers of Brooklyn, from their "business company" site

The Bindle Brothers of Brooklyn, from their “business company” site

One of the best features of satire, in my opinion, is how it encourages the uncharitable reader[/ref]or auditor, or viewer, or whatever[/ref] to attack at the wrong moment. It’s like a boxing feint. I first encountered this New York Times story on the Bindle Bros. of Brooklyn—an artisanal bindle company that uses “locally grown, naturally fallen” sticks to make $350 bindle bags—shared on Twitter with the comment “come on, Williamsburg.” The commenter had even retweeted the story from an original sharer who presented it as satire, but no matter: it fit his sense of hipster affectation, and he leapt to scorn it.

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