Hood: New Figures Show Satire Up 582.1 Percent
New Figures Show Satire Up 582.1 PercentSatire by Lyndon Hood
Data released by Statistics New Zealand has revealed a more than 582 percent rise in satire for the year from July 2005 to June 2006.
Two sets of data on satire prevalence are kept, for the year to June and for the calendar year. This system, in the words of one policy document "allow[s] the media to report every fluctuation twice".
These figures show that the dramatic increase in satire in late 2005 has not fallen away, as was expected. The continuing rise seems to be part of an explosive upward trend.
Overall use of rhetorical devices is up for the first time in a decade, but Police Minister Annette King believes that Government policies are beginning to pay off. "Sarcastic exclamation of the word 'whatever' has been trending downward since 2001/2002. We expect to see that impacting on other forms of irony soon."
Rhetoric Commissioner Donald Narrow believes the rise is partly due to increased reporting. "Much satire has gone on out of the public eye, over a beer at pubs, in people's houses while watching the news and so on. Now that we're out looking for it, we see it everywhere," he said
"I mean, in one week the doomed Plunketline says it's going to continue, the doomed Overlander rail service says it's going to continue, and Don Brash stays on as leader of the National Party. And that actually happened. It's like the scorn of Helen Clark is the kiss of life."
"Despite the media hysteria, New Zealand is still a very literal country. It's all very well looking at year-on-year figures," Narrow continued, "but there's much less satire per head of population than in, say, the 1870s."
1873 was the year of the famous Erewhon disaster. Samuel Butler's novel was set in a New Zealand mountain utopia that, it transpired, did not appear on any maps his publisher had made available to him. The judge inquiring into the incident famously described the publisher's offical version of the novel as "an orchestrated litany of veiled social commentary".
The rise has been linked to a number of specific factors, such as the 2005 General Election or the existence of Don Brash and Winston Peters. However, with the intensification and pettiness of recent politics, Labour's rearguard actions on the pledge card issue, and the continued existence of Don Brash and Winston Peters, future irony statistics are expected to continue the upward trend.
"We also have to think about demographic changes here," explained Geoff Oldbold, a former satirist and now sociologist at the University of Schmictoria, "Not just the rise in population, but the larger number of vulnerable youths and at-risk ethnic minorities. We have to put the raw numbers in proportion, but we also have to face these issues of Juvenal delinquency and Horacial inequality."
Youth have been particularly influenced by American trends, such as the pop-culture prominence of 'fake news' articles. The abuse of these reports, often going by the street name 'onions', has become epidemic in New Zealand. The 'Satire Chronicling Episodes of Life in a Fictitious Kiwi Small Town' category in particular has exploded.
"Satire is out of control," said National Party Justice Spokesman Simon Power, "The Government had its chance to do something, but tried to pretend this was some kind of statistical anomaly or the result of reporting changes. Well the Minister has to stop making excuses - everyone knows satire is skyrocketing. Look around - even David Farrar's been at it. The Labour Government tries to talk tough, but it doesn't care. There's more satire on these so-called 'weblogs' every day - why haven't they been shut down?"
"To address the problems of irony and sarcasm, we have to look at the causes," said Green Lampoonery Spokesperson Nandor Tanzcos, "We - society in general and politicians in particular - need to be less risible. How can we expect people to use satire in moderation in conditions where the stuff just writes itself?"
"I'm not saying satire is safe. If it's not treated with respect people can be cut - to the quick or close to the bone - or they can suffer from pen poisoning. They can even be 'burned'. Complete misunderstandings are more common than many users of satire realise. That's why the Green Party advocates education and an age limit of 18."
ACT leader Rodney Hide lambasted the Government's ham-fisted attempts at regulation. "As in most social and environmental issues, we recognise the problem, blame red tape, and say the people who are currently doing nothing about the issue should be allowed to sort it out. These satirists need to show some personal responsibility. And where are the editors? Since we're asking - what is the Helen Clark going to do about the other outbreaks of rhetoric revealed by these statistics?"
The report also shows that, for the same period, sedition charges increased by infinity percent.