My last article was a lampoon of a real vigilante group that was established to hunt out ‘fake’ beggars and homeless people, taking photos of them to use on posters that name and shame them. The group have already ‘outed’ one genuinely homeless person, and have drawn much criticism from the police, charities and councils for their ill-conceived aims and methods.
The characters I portrayed have made up names like ‘Mr Vinnie Dicktive’ and so on. The reference to phrenology and character divination is also a sideswipe at the government, as is the reference to ‘no causal link between ‘the homeless and homelessness’, but it also serves to highlight the bigotry, hypocrisy and downright irrationality of the vigilante group.
Some people have expressed concern that my satire may be mistaken for ‘fake news’. However, I expect that most people can recognise a parody of a group and distinguish it from ‘fake news’. I occasionally write satire because sometimes, the best thing to do when confronted with those who are nasty, irrational, prejudiced and ridiculous is to ridicule them. I’m certainly not going to apologise for that.
My friend, Hubert Huzzah, has this to say about satire and ‘fake news’:
1) Fake News is bought, paid for and advances against the interests of the people it is aimed at.
2) Satire is created by [and for] the people who Fake News is aimed at.
For those who don’t know me, my occasional bouts of satire fall into the latter category.
However, what really angers and upsets me about some of the responses to the latest article is this. The article I wrote just previously to the satirical piece was absolutely heartbreaking. It was so harrowing to write that I wept while I wrote it. The article was about two ill and vulnerable homeless citizens who died in sub-zero temperatures last week. Ben had been discharged from hospital, forced to return to a tent as his only shelter from the elements, after being treated for pneumonia. Rob had throat cancer, and was sleeping behind the shutters of an Argos store.
People expressed their ‘shock and surprise’ that these two poor and ill homeless citizens hadn’t survived Siberian weather conditions. I felt that those comments reflected a general public numbness and detachment to the terrible circumstances of homeless people, which horrified, appalled and disgusted me. And also made me very angry.
There is something really horrifically wrong with a so-called civilised, democratic society in a very wealthy country that abandons sick and disabled people, leaving them with no effective shelter or money on the streets in sub-zero temperatures. And there must be something missing from people who then express ‘shock’ and ‘surprise’ that their fellow citizens have died in those conditions.
I was accused of having ‘bad taste’, by one person. I pointed out that I am not part of the vigilante group going around harassing and photographing homeless people and making posters that claim they are somehow faking their homelessness. This group says that they will not invade the privacy of other citizens, by ensuring they aren’t captured on any of the photos, indicating clearly that they think homeless people have less right to respect and privacy than others. The point of my satirical article was to highlight the ‘bad taste’ , spite and prejudice of the ‘Killing with Kindness’ campaign. If it made you feel uncomfortable, well good, it was intended to.
Remarkably, my satirical piece has drawn more attention, response and anger than the previous very serious article about real people, in very real and unforgiving circumstances within the context of inhumane political and public indifference to the plight of our poor fellow citizens in this country.
Please don’t just walk on by, we are better than this
From the abstract to the concrete: urban design as a mechanism of behaviour change and social exclusion
Two very vulnerable homeless men left to die in sub-zero temperatures
People are faking their homelessness and poverty for money, says petty urban bourgeousie
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16 thoughts on “Sometimes satire is appropriate. Calling it ‘fake news’ isn’t”
The problem for the actual homeless is the beggars who get in their cars at the end of the day after paying the car park fees all day. They may be sleeping in them but it is unlikely.
I see you have borrowed a copy of the phrenology and rune casting book from the ‘killing with kindness’ campaigners.
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Well said, Kitty and I appreciated your satirical article as well. I’m surprised more don’t recognise satire for the way it is intended to be taken, but hey ho, we are all different.
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I’m sorry if my previous comments upset you, as I now see you had the best of intentions, so perhaps I ought to explain my reaction more clearly.
I follow a number of blogs and so can’t always read them all as carefully and thoroughly as I’d like. Scanning through your previous post and given your normal attitudes and perspective, I at first took the article to be a factual report, and was horrified as is only to be expected. I then began to notice the ridiculous elements, crystal balls etc., and wondered why this obvious exaggeration, but took it to be a comment on the irrationality of those involved.
This made me re-read the article whereupon I paid attention to the silly names of the vigilantes. At which point I dismissed the whole matter as someone’s idea of a joke, though IMO one in very bad taste, and assumed the whole business was imaginary.
The only source I can find given, is a link at the end, to a Liverpool local rag, although further investigation showed that the alleged events took place in South Devon! Confused? You could say so!
With so much rubbish and exaggeration getting published, when something clearly makes no sense, it will simply be dismissed. I enjoy satire, but I regret your talents lie in other directions. So please keep up your usual Good Work and stick to what you do so well 🙂
Um, thank you for your free advice about where my ‘talents lie’. I don’t write to showcase my talent. If I did, I would’t be writing about the topics that I do.
I cope with relentlessly researching the impact of Conservative policies and writing about the harsh and often harrowing realities they shape – and those who advocate those – in my own way.
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I have no doubts as to your sincerity, only concern as to your effectiveness. I will leave it at that, although it’s your blog so I don’t doubt you will get the last word 😉
Isn’t that the whole point of independent media?
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You missed Ian Duncan smith and co, are they not fake beggars getting money under false pretences retrospectively I have three interesting fitness to work cases coming up who miracle cure for long-term degenerative conditions is so good, I am going to suggest they write a article of to the Lancet about how there five week training has come up with cures that mega-millions of research has taken seemingly long inroads to start to get results when a nurse has come up with a cure, somehow I think the lancet will be waiting for a long time or am I being satirical as well!!!
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I read your article and had no reason to disbelieve any of it: these people exist: they are out there: and worse! Figment of your imagination they might or might not be but after eight years of coalition and conservative governments and observing and experiencing personally the extent of their abominable behaviour I can see and feel all too clearly now, in a way that ‘taught history’ couldn’t help, how the German nation sank into the depths of depravity in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s dragging the disbelieving element of the population with them. I ought to be grateful I had this opportunity to see and feel how it all begins: I just hope we can stop it before we see how it all could so easily end.
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To be honest I find myself wondering how anyone can believe that fake beggars who, as the commenter Barry Davies suggests “get in their cars and drive home after paying the parking fees all day”, exist. Begging is not exactly lucrative, the true crux of the reason people dislike beggars comes down to the psychological abhorrence of the concept of “something for nothing”, these people see beggars as “sat on their arse all day expecting handouts” but this belongs in a wider, and largely ignored, context.
They are the homeless they can’t get a job they have no address, no means to keep themselves clean, no clean clothes, no bank account, no references, no cv, no means to make and print a cv even if they had anyhing to put on it…. so tell me great wise ones of the mighty nation if Great Britain… how are these people supposed to get the jobs that might elevate them in your eyes?
These people aren’t going to a car after paying parking fees all day, if begging was your means of support you couldn’t afford to own a car never mind pay to leave it sat in a pay and display carpark all sodding day, get real.
Apologies almost lost my cool by the end of that.
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No need for apologies as far as I’m concerned.
Basicically, people need to pay attention to Maslow’s hierarchy: if people cannot meet their basic survival needs – food, fuel and shelter – then they won’t be able to meet psychosocial needs – such as looking for work, and holding a job down if they get or have one. It’s common sense that many people seem to be incapable of grasping