Extending our arts and culture moment, from Retraction Watch:
Death camp dog satire retracted when German journal wasn’t in on joke
Totalitarianism and Democracy has removed a paper claiming that German Shepherds belonging to guards at the Berlin Wall descended from dogs used at concentration camps, after learning that the paper was a work of satire, The Guardian reports.
The paper, and its author, are the creation of the anonymous group “Christiane Schulte and friends.”
This isn’t the first hoax we’ve seen in publishing: Don’t forget journalist John Bohannon, who submitted hundreds of fake papers to open access journals, and more recently conjured up a studythat showed chocolate helps you lose weight. (And, of course, a paper in a Romanian magazine that listed porn star Ron Jeremy and Michael Jackson among its references.) Like many other hoaxers, the group say in a statement their purpose was to shine light on problems in academic publishing. More.
Well, they got our attention.
Retraction cannot, of course, matter much for the Christiane Schulte and friends’ purposes. They seek to satirize “the ‘animal turn’ in postmodern theory: the attempt to interpret historical events through the perspective of affected animals.”
Yes, anthropomorphism harms both humans and animals. For one thing, key events are only “historical” to a human. For a dog? He just did what he does when he is awake.
It ends with the animal becoming a “moral agent,” blamed for what he was merely taught to do (and in the worst cases, with humans being seen as not moral agents, which is far worse in the long run).
From an artsie’s (O’Leary for News) perspective, satire only works when internal clues enable us to interpret it as such.
Satirists must walk the narrow wire between parody (which must sound entirely genuine, but the reader gets the joke) and burlesque (which makes no pretense at accuracy, and is not intended for a discriminating audience).
Satire usually has a moral purpose, as is evident in this case. But that moral purpose obligates the writer to offer the reader a clue. The point of satire is to leave the reader in momentary doubt, which is why it can work as a moral teaching device.
A hoax is a different animal altogether, as the purpose is deception; satire and hoax should not be attempted together. It’s too confusing, as this case shows.
Of course, some people don’t “get” satire. That doesn’t mean we should never engage in it.
When I was in first-year U, the ability to “get” satire was an informal IQ test: A student who genuinely did not realize that Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (to raise Irish children as food) was a satire was simply unsuited to higher literature studies.
Today, with that test no longer in use, precious little asshats, who would probably need a trigger warning to even read Proposal, rage unchecked on many North American campuses.
See also: Anatomy of an undetected hoax
and (on the arts side) Turning animals half into geometry Pause for thought
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