On April 4, the Campus celebrated its annual tradition of releasing an April Fool’s issue. As none of the information presented in the issue is true, the articles were not uploaded to the website this week. Be sure to check out our video about the making of the April Fool’s issue!
Even though the articles were a joke, the editorial board sincerely addressed readers. Here are our thoughts:
As you hopefully have figured out by this point, none of the stories in this issue are true (and if you haven’t, don’t let us burst your bubble — gullible was removed from the dictionary!). Editors at the Campus use April Fool’s Day as an excuse to take a break from our usual blend of hard-hitting journalism, deeply profound opinion pieces and revealing profiles of the student body in order to poke fun at ourselves and the community as a whole. We do this not to alienate any particular group or have a cheap laugh, but to add a new perspective of our lives through the lens of humor.
Satire has always had an important role in presenting news from a new angle. Satire is sometimes the sole way to communicate the truth in societies where more serious news is subject to the heavy hand of government censorship. But it also plays a role in the information era, in which we are bombarded by an unending stream of superlatively negative news reports. Perhaps as a way to escape this or perhaps because of it, more and more people mine their news from comedic avenues like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, while publications like The Onion serve as both a welcome commentary on serious issues and a check about the mundane reality of everyday life. Shows such as South Park serve society by testing limits, targeting every possible group and daring them to take it seriously. Satire preserves the First Amendment and the principle of equality by reducing hypersensitive matters to absurdity.
This is not to say that satire has no limits. Several weeks ago we criticized the posting of “flying spaghetti monster” posters created in response to advertisements for the Middlebury Christian Fellowship because they served no broader purpose than belittling the beliefs of a set group of students. True satire builds on reality in order to build a dialogue; it cannot discriminate and cannot disparage. The Onion recently found that line when it hurled an out-of-context insult at a child actress. Similarly, problematic attitudes towards topics like race and gender cloaked in satire can serve to glorify unhealthy attitudes. Websites like “Bros Like This,” which refer to women as “slam pieces” and worse, even if intended to mock a particular culture, merely reinforce misogyny.
The April Fool’s edition of the Campus is one of our most-read throughout the year, even among students who have long since figured out the joke. Its comedic value comes not only from surprise and initial credulity, but from the need to laugh at ourselves. By presenting issues that we often treat as grave and even dire in a more entertaining light, we gain a more holistic perspective. Satire, in short, can show truths through humor. We believe that our purpose as a campus organization is both to inform and to entertain. In exercising our right to mock, we hope to maintain an atmosphere where not all discourse has to be serious.
We continue this tradition of satire in the hopes of entertaining our long-time readers, but also with the goal of expanding dialogues around the more serious matters from which students may have stayed away throughout the year. If any of you read this and laugh, we have done our job well. But even if you don’t, and you read an article about the STI epidemic and decide to get tested, read about divestment and decide to become involved or simply realize that the mere fact that there are no sacred cows on this campus says something extremely important about liberal arts and liberal society, then this issue has served a broader purpose.