I don’t want to give Fiction Press (FP) any more publicity than it deserves (which is why I’m taking themediaslut‘s lead by not hyperlinking it), but after reading the various responses to the issue, I feel compelled to make a point.
I will make the point later. First, a quick background for readers who have no idea what I’m talking about.
A blog was recently created, very obviously for the sole purpose of earning money through blog advertising. The blog’s title is “Fiction”, it’s tagline “We create news… and stories”.
Each day, a juicy tabloid-style local story appears in the blog:
“Homosexual Men BULLIED Completely In MRT”
“5 Singapore Girls Earns $8000 In Youtube, Just By Dancing!”
You get the idea.
The blog got a lot of hits because of its titillating headlines.
Then, themediaslut wrote a post to question the ethics of such an endeavour:
I should credit Fiction Press blog is their creativeness in coming up with fake news about Singapore
However, what they are doing is bad for the blogosphere and it seems Ping.sg members are becoming unwittingly supporting them.
Yes, the make-up headlines are getting the hits, but it is like the boy calling wolf.
The post is great because it said what I had thought since I discovered FP, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it.
The author of FP wrote all these sensational stories with no clear indication that the stories are fake, save for the title and tagline, which are too subtle to serve as proper disclaimers.
Most readers supported what themediaslut said, although some did try to play devil’s advocate. (More about that in a while.)
The response from FP itself was quick, I have to give the author that. He has made a public apology (on his blog), removed all FP posts to date and allowed a clear disclaimer.
All the post in the blog are made up. They are totally fiction and is not related to any person. And from today onwards, we will put [Fiction] in front of our pongs. Once again, all the posts here are completely fake and untrue.
We’re refining our posts’ appearance. The posts will be up soon. Sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.
— Fiction Press
And now, my point.
Among those that commented on themediaslut’s posts were some who thought that FP shouldn’t be judged too harshly.
After all, asks APLink, what’s wrong with a bit of satire?
Should creative writing be blasted, what is considered satire, should Singaporeans lighten up … is it just easier to agree with TMS than to think about the loss of a small piece of humor, in reality there is both drama and humor don’t we need to balance both ???
Well, here’s what I think.
FP stories cannot be even remotely called satire. Satire is only satire when readers actually can recognise it as satire because of its wit or humour.
FP stories read like The New Paper stories, except with bad grammar. (Not that grammar in The New Paper is 100% credible, but that’s a can of worms I would be well-advised not to open.)
Many readers have read FP stories and thought them true. (Myself included, although only once and for five minutes.)
So, how can anyone call it satire?
I cringe when I read comments from readers likening FP to The Onion.
The Onion is one of the best satirical publications there is. To mention FP and The Onion in the same breath is sacrilege of the highest order. (Yes, I know I just did it myself, but it had to be done.)
Satire requires irony, sarcasm, wit and humour, all of which are lacking in FP stories, so please do not even use (do not even think) the word satire in any conversations involving FP.
APLINK is correct in questioning Singaporeans’ ability to laugh and graciously accept jibes at our culture. I feel, too, that we could do with more humour. But I believe that this discussion should be taken somewhere else. Somewhere where FP isn’t used as case study, because it doesn’t deserve that accolade.
If you want Singaporean satire, there’s already TalkingCock.com. We don’t need another Singapore satire website. Singaporeans don’t write satire very well, if you must know the truth. Most don’t even know how to laugh at themselves yet.
So, there’s my point.
I do not fault FP for this outrage. If people can’t tell the difference between satire and bad writing, then it’s the people’s problem. FP can go on creating fake stories to earn advertising dollars for all I care, as long as a proper disclaimer is in place, and as long as it stops slandering innocent parties.
But I would urge readers not to give it your readership unless the quality of writing improves. Because there must be something wrong with you if you want to read a news story which is neither entertaining nor true.