Contemporary Political Satire

Satiric news is often controversial by challenging current politicians. Consider online satiric newspaper The Daily Mash’s attack on Brexit supporters: “Can we please hurry up and commit economic suicide? ask Brexit Tories”. This headline uses metaphor (Brexit as economic suicide), hyperbole (hurrying towards suicide) and irony (ironic use of ‘please’). Moreover, a key genre characteristic is that satiric news is inherently ironic, and, thereby, inherently figurative.

An important question is whether the power of satiric news (e.g., The Daily Show, De Speld) resides in individual linguistic utterances or in genre characteristics. As academic research has paid little attention to language in inherently figurative genres, we do not yet know how figurative language in satiric news is used across media to construct criticism, and which kinds of figurative language lead to which responses in which people.

Deepening and broadening earlier work on figurative language in public discourse (‘figurative framing’), we conduct a comprehensive and systematic investigation of language use and effects in contemporary satiric news across media.

To this end, we combine methods and insights from communication science and linguistics in three subprojects. Through systematic review and meta-analysis, we establish whether an inherently ironic genre like satiric news functions similarly across online vs. offline media and modalities (textual, audiovisual). Through content analysis, we study how figurative-language use in satiric news differs from regular news. Through lab experiments, we determine the roles of figurative language, genre knowledge and medium in the impact of satiric news.

Taken together, this project presents an integrative picture of satiric news in contemporary society. This knowledge informs societal debates on satire (freedom of speech vs. responsibilities of individual satirists). Furthermore, this project offers a new approach to studying inherently figurative genres from an interdisciplinary, multiple-methods approach. For more information, please visit the project website.

Funding source:
NWO Vidi grant

Team members:
Christian Burgers, Britta Brugman, Ellen Droog