Barrett Wilson is a pseudonymous writer who has crafted some wildly entertaining pieces. “Why Can’t We Hate Children”, which he had published in Areo Magazine—a parody of the Washington Post’s earnestly published “Why Can’t We Hate Men?”—was widely lauded for exposing the absurd extent to which identity politics has gripped the MSM.
In recent months, Wilson has taken it upon himself to create The Swift, a platform that is as funny as it is reflective. Banter Magazine spoke with Mr. Wilson to discuss the attendant opportunities and challenges of running a satirical outlet in a media age that seems to be plagued by a lack of journalistic rigor.
Banter: The phenomenon of ‘Fake News,’ both real and perceived, poses a legitimate threat to political discourse. Indeed, the social harms of circulating misinformation--chiefly, polarization and mistrust among the polity--are not particularly contentious. Is satire Fake News?
Wilson: Satire can be ‘fake news’ or ‘fake opinion.’ The classic example of satire is ‘A Modest Proposal’ by Jonathan Swift (for whom the website is named). That classic essay proposes that poor Irish children be made productive during a time of famine by being turned into food. The Swift, as it stands right now, does a lot of those satirical "fake news' style pieces that send up politically correct culture. But we plan on expanding to personal essays, opinion pieces, short fiction, songs, etc. As long as it's funny.
Banter: Though poking fun at the ideologically-possessed is tremendously amusing for those in your own camp, there must be some sizeable contingent of readers who don’t recognize the jape. Pragmatically speaking, how effective do you think your content is at leading people to realize double standards?
Wilson: My hope is that the site grows and becomes more ideologically diverse. There will always be people who don't get the joke, but I think for the most part we've done a good job of creating effective content that points out the absurdities of this new culture war and the double standards they create. The problem with the time we're living in is that the absurdities often outpace satirical possibilities. One great example of this is the story about the guy who is fighting to be recognized as the ‘trans-age’ of 49 because he doesn't identify as 69. How could you possibly satirize that? It's perfect as is.
Banter: Are there topics that you feel are too politically daunting and needlessly incendiary to satirize? How does this inform your editorial approach?
Wilson: I think anyone or anything can be poked fun at. But there are probably some areas I wouldn't touch. It's hard to say because those topics have not come up yet editorially. I'm not going to sit here and say that we will publish anything, but I guarantee you that we are more likely to publish edgier things than most places would these days.
Banter: As we progress through the digital age, doctored screenshots, fake accounts, and countless other unscrupulous tactics make it difficult to clearly know who is saying what, seriously. How explicitly do you think satirically published content must advertise itself as such?
Wilson: The future has a way of setting the past straight. Or the past has a way of setting the future crooked. Just think of how many times have people like your great aunt or stepfather have earnestly shared satirical content, only to be corrected by their friends and loved ones? It happens to the easily duped all the time. You might think these people are weak-minded and must be eliminated, but the believability of thing is kind of the point. There are some pieces from The Onion that would have appeared as clearly satirical ten years ago, but have since become prophetic. Of course, the Cubs winning the World Series and Donald Trump becoming president were hilarious jokes in Back to the Future II. The Simpsons, of course, inadvertently predicted many of today's realities throughout its illustrious run. Some people have said online that The Swift's satirical prediction that the ACLU will soon come out against the freedoms of movement, assembly, self-determination, speech, liberty, association, and thought will come true very soon. I hope they're wrong, but the point of that satire was that if we're not careful, it might happen! I think context is everything. The Swift is a satirical website, so you know what you're getting when you visit. But I'm all for a good-natured hoax once in a while, especially if no-one is permanently damaged and my side wins as a result.