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Opinion: Is laughter really the best medicine?

The+Babylon+Ag+is+a+new+satire+page+attempting+to+mimic+the+style+of+the+Babylon+Bee.
Photo by Robert O’Brien

The Babylon Ag is a new satire page attempting to mimic the style of the Babylon Bee.

Editor’s Note: “Natalie” is a pseudonym to protect the source’s identity.

Humor and satire have long served as corrective mechanisms which keep us from becoming the absolute worst of humanity — grumpy cranks. In the likes of “Borat,The Interviewand so many similar parodies of power, political satire drives much of its humor from its placement from banal modernity, using humor to make a point about the world in which we operate. With all the personal and societal problems on and off campus, it is all too easy to get bogged down by pessimism. Hence, “The Babylon Ag” was born. 
The Babylon Ag is a satirical social media platform loosely inspired by the “Babylon Bee,” a  controversial, evangelical personality site that is like the Christian version of “The Onion.” Recently, the Babylon Bee seems to have lost its sting — if it had any in the first place — especially from the increasingly hateful commentary that left no one smiling. 

 

With satirical sites like the Babylon Bee and even the Babylon Ag, there is a fine line between being funny and being major douchebags. In the end, the joke’s on us if a good laugh is at the great expense of another.

So, is laughter really the best medicine to unite students?

The Babylon Ag seems to think so. The comedic news personality believes in bringing back a more bemused attitude about student life, or in simple terms, reviving a lost sense of humor. While some humor provides insight or useful social commentary, there is just as much humor that is used to hurt and put others down, and unfortunately, the Babylon Ag leans toward the latter. 

Economics junior Daniel Pate is one of the students behind the Babylon Ag’s production. 

“The Babylon Ag is a satire site at Texas A&M, focused on bringing satire back to [A&M] and students of all backgrounds. We’re not really a political satire site because we [do not] want to be part of the polarization on campus,” Pate said.

Whether The Babylon Ag’s content is winning over readers or not is questionable, to say the least.

“We just want to bring individuals together and find common ground in satire,” Pate said. 

Upon first glance at Babylon Ag’s Instagram page, the titles immediately jump out as obvious clickbait with some funny headlines like, “President Kathy Banks Approval Rating Now Breaking Even With Morbius Rating” and “Aggie Spirit Buses to Save Gas By Cutting Holes on Bottom for Students to Run with the Bus.” Babylon Ag’s posts seem to find satire a mode of expression and an underrated form of power. 

“A group of us were just thinking, ‘You know, what [Texas A&M] really needs [is] satire and making A&M funny again because this whole campus has been polarized left versus right, conservative versus liberal,’” Pate said.

Pate is not the only one tired of the constant political gridlock. In the same way religion and race have become hot-potato subjects of debate, politics also often lands people in trouble and is usually avoided altogether. A study conducted by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern’s Benjamin Page sought to discover what everyday people thought of politics and its effectiveness. According to the study, “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” 

“The Babylon Ag is not a right-wing or left-wing site. It is not political at all. All it does is put a humorous spin on things on campus or outside of campus,” Pate said.

“We created this page to get individuals to stop talking about right/left-wing and to stop seeing politics in everything.”

Yet, the Babylon Ag’s content seems to contradict what Pate claims. With headlines like, “Segregation Back in Style: As A&M Declares ‘Latinx’ Only Graduation” or “A&M To Change LGTB+ Pride Center To Homeless Shelter Because No One Goes There Anyways,” the Babylon Ag seems to also be treading the thin line between funny and offensive that exterminated the Babylon Bee in the first place.

One title reading, “Judge Kentaji Brown Enrolls in A&M Biology Class So She can Understand Gender” was one of the many titles biochemistry junior Natalie, who preferred not to give her last name, was not amused by. Natalie is transitioning to female, and given the seemingly exhaustive path ahead of her, to reduce her struggles for the sake of a cheap joke is hurtful. 

“Not funny. Didn’t laugh,” Natalie said. 

“But in all seriousness, it is not okay to cover up insensitive posts with shallow attempts to be funny.”
When asked about these conservatively charged agendas behind these posts, Pate explained Babylon’s primary intentions.

“We like to reference current events to ensure we’re getting optimal outreach. The [Babylon] Ag’s primary goal is humor, and we choose the events that have the best comedic potential,” Pate said.

“The Babylon Ag is still in its early stages, so if there does appear to be a political skew, that will probably dissipate as time goes on.”

Given the unsavory nature of engaging in serious political debate, we cannot take for granted the idea that satire can be a powerful force of unification. To mock leaders like President Banks and other administrators for their constant overreach is to claim victory over them. In other words, it’s a way to let Aggies laugh all the way to the bank. 

One thing Pate would like readers to be able to take away from Babylon Ag is to not take political nuances with the utmost conviction.

“Basically, just keep on laughing; don’t take things too seriously and don’t be political about everything,” Pate said. 

Whenever you write about Texas A&M, you write about such diverse, young and vibrant people with all their wins and losses. Satire is capable of bringing about good, but only if it is handled properly. Being a student at A&M is like being in a great drama, and when jokes are not relying on tired tropes or stereotypical attitudes about people who do more harm than good, it certainly doesn’t hurt to let Aggies have the last laugh. 

Unfortunately, the Babylon Ag seems to be confusing the line between what is a knee-slapper and what is just straight-up hateful, and that in itself is no laughing matter. Even though the execution was not funny, the intention behind bringing humor to a time of such polarization is commendable and, hopefully, the Babylon Ag will continue to improve its satirical comments in an appropriate, funny manner. When applied properly, laughter can be the best medicine in bringing people together, but when done incorrectly, it only further feeds into the toxic culture that drives us apart.  
Neha Gopal is a journalism junior and opinion writer for The Battalion.

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