Sunday, 10 June 2012

It's hard to tell what's satire

Joe Bennett wonderfully sends up Turia's army. New Zealand's Associate Health Minister in charge of tobacco eradication recently suggested that Kiwis violate the traffic code by honking their horns at people seen smoking in cars carrying kids.
[S]he proposed other drivers put social pressure on those smokers.
"Maybe one of the ways we could do better is to encourage people who see people smoking in cars, tooting to them and doing the 'you shouldn't be doing that, mate' [gesture]."
She wagged her index finger in a scolding gesture to demonstrate how this could be done.
In the accompanying NZ Herald web poll, 22% agreed they'd honk to shame a smoker; a further 12% said they might; 39% worried about being opening themselves up to road rage. A spokesman for ASH downplayed road rage fears while endorsing Turia's suggested honking and finger waggling. I would love to have a high-res version of Turia waggling her finger disapprovingly. I could put it in every tobacco post henceforth.

Here's NZTA advice about using your horn:
The horn should only be used as a reasonable traffic warning. It should not make an unnecessary or unreasonably loud, harsh or shrill noise.
Joe Bennett goes the step further:
Sometimes, and you'll find this hard to believe, the smoking murderers kick back, blasting their own horns and giving me the fingers. Well they don't scare me. I follow them, stick right on their bumper, giving them a blast every few seconds to let them know I'm not giving up. I follow them all the way home.
"That's where they live, kids," I say when they pull up. "Remember that address, eh. " I don't have to say any more.
An evening or two later the kids don their little brown shirts and announce that they and their classmates are just going out to play for a bit. "Good on you, kids," I say, "and here's a snack for the road," and I hand them a tray of rotten eggs that I've been saving specially.
"Oh and no throwing stones," I say. "They can do terrible damage to windows."
Off they go, my little darlings, and my heart just swells with pride and with love.
Do read the whole thing.

When I first read it, I didn't know that Turia had actually recommended finger-waggling and tootling; I thought the whole thing was satire of a possible plausible next ridiculous thing Turia might recommend.  And so I was amused that commenters were taking it seriously. But the only satire was Bennett's purported endorsement of the suggestion.

Meanwhile, a Twitter feed purporting to be the Twitter arm of a new anti-tobacco "wiki"* site started providing some rather absurd offerings. I wasn't sure if the Twitter feed and the wiki were set up to make the anti-tobacco movement seem a bit silly. It looks now like the wiki is real while the Twitter feed is a parody. Again, it's hard to tell anymore. The Wiki warns about libertarians:
The tobacco industry has increasingly aligned itself over the last few years with a growing number of libertarian bloggers, think tanks and activists, who in turn argue that individual liberty and freedom to choose where to smoke should be more important than further restrictions on smoking.
Suspicious, that. Aligning themselves with those who are philosophically predisposed to valuing individual rights instead of, well, people who would prefer to waggle fingers and tootle horns.

*Is it still a wiki when you have to apply for editor rights and sign a bunch of disclaimers? It's hard to imagine that the same folks who set up the fake Twitter feed wouldn't have had an awful lot of fun with a wiki that didn't have that restriction, so it's not nuts that they have that restriction. But is it still a wiki?

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