Satire, stripping away sugar coatings

I think you can still get access to the satirical video through this blogsite, with its accompanying commentary: desmog.  It seems that the oil company Suncor did NOT like the spoof done by sumofus of their promotion of the Alberta oil sands.  The original site, which I viewed just an hour ago, is now marked “page not found”.  In the blog, I encourage you to watch first the original video ad and then the spoof.

But how is this contest between the oil companies and their opponents relevant to TOK?  In this case, I’d suggest that the video provides a splendid example of satire:  it mimics the kind of voice, kind of images, and emotional appeals of Suncor’s political/economic advertising campaign. It imitates them in order to bring sharp attention to a smooth and ingratiating presentation of information — information that the satire replaces with counter-claims, even while maintaining the same smooth presentation.  Humour can often be generated from the sheer incongruity between subject matter and its presentation, and often has a very hard edge.  Mockery can strip away sugar coating to bring attention to the knowledge claims under the surface…in order to contest them.

So here’s a general knowledge question for you to think about, even while you’re laughing at funny take-offs:  In what ways can humour, and especially pointed satire, expose biases and methods of persuasion in the presentation of knowledge claims?   More broadly: can imaginative presentation conceal truth — and reveal it?


  • Lena Rotenberg
    June 25, 2014

    Brilliant post, Eileen! And brilliant video as well. I wonder to what extent folks even pay attention to the words anymore, when the text is narrated with the mellifluous tones we now associate with “political” issues and campaigns. The contrast between desirable and disgusting images was startling, however, and shook me out of the almost hypnotic trance the voice was leading me into. Quite interesting to be made aware of that, thank you! (I placed quotation marks around “political” because I believe that many such issues are resolved with the strategy, “Follow the money and you’ll find he truth.” Or, “Cui bono?” as the Romans would have phrased it.)

  • Eileen Dombrowski
    July 23, 2014

    Thanks, Lena, for your comment. I, too, wonder about whether words are the most effective ingredient in communication — and not just in promotional videos as slick as this one and its spoof. If we want to evaluate knowledge claims in TOK, we have to look at how they are actually conveyed, and that involves more that just statements in language.

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