October 28, 2009

Lesson: On the Internet, Satire Is at Your Own Risk!

Greetings. When it comes to the Internet -- no matter how long you've been involved -- never assume that you completely understand the social dynamics of cyberspace!

Yesterday, in Is Net Neutrality a Communist Plot? ("Declassified DoD Film"), I announced the availability of a "a long-lost U.S. government film that appears to shed unexpected light on accusations of a linkage between communist/Marxist ideologies and Net Neutrality."

My assumption was that the YouTube video in question was so obviously "over the top" that it would be immediately recognized by all observers for what it was, a satirical emulation of classic old U.S. government military training and information films.

I created this in reaction to the very real recent trend and false meme of some anti-Net-Neutrality "analysts" and media observers, who are now inanely and disgracefully "red-baiting" -- by asserting that Net Neutrality and its proponents are "communist" and/or Marxist inspired.

While I didn't explicitly mark the video as satire, I genuinely felt that the satirical nature would be obvious, I and didn't want to spoil the surprise for viewers.

Though the vast majority of viewers -- whether they agreed with my support of Net Neutrality or not -- seemingly "got the joke" immediately, apparently this was not universal.

To my surprise, I received a few queries, and discovered at least a couple of links, that indicated confusion about the true nature of the piece.

At least some persons thought it was a genuine U.S. Defense Department film. A couple of people expressed concerns that other people would think it was a legit military production. One expressed the view that it appeared "entirely authentic" in production values, but he was bewildered by some aspects of the content.

I did put considerable effort into giving the video a reasonably realistic feel, but I've never claimed to have the filmed propaganda editing skills of Leni Riefenstahl, so I've frankly been very surprised by such reactions. Of more concern to me is the possibility that there are additional folks out there who -- somehow -- assumed the "film" was real despite the included absurdities.

So to anyone who was confused by this effort, I apologize. To be honest, I still don't quite understand how the video's film could be interpreted as other than a spoof, but my apology is sincere nonetheless. I'll add something to the associated YouTube page to indicate explicitly that it's a satire.

But I also believe that there's a broader lesson here. When dealing with very large, and especially global audiences, any assumption of a "universal interpretation" of content may often be unwarranted. We after all see the world through the unique lenses of our individual minds, and no joke is guaranteed to be received the same way -- or even recognized as a joke -- by everyone, everywhere.

Perhaps very much something worth remembering.


Posted by Lauren at October 28, 2009 02:27 PM | Permalink
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