In last Thursday’s paper, I wrote an opinion column about Bill Gates for our science and tech section. This piece was not well received.
An opinion column in our newspaper is denoted by a picture of the author, and contains an editor’s personal thoughts on a matter. Originally, I planned on writing about the fact that, in death, Steve Jobs seemed to suddenly rocket up to the status of god. It seemed bizarre to me that Jobs, being little more than the head of a company who made popular gadgets, was being remembered personally, as if anyone who owns an Apple product had a private connection with the man.
I admire Bill Gates more than almost anyone on the planet, and seeing this display of affection made me wonder if Gates would be fondly remembered if he suddenly passed. In my opinion, Gates’ legacy would be incomparably massive compared to that of Jobs, but from what I could gather, it seemed that people’s love for their Macbooks had overshadowed anything Bill Gates had ever achieved.
What really irked me was the fact that Gates had pledged to donate the majority of his billions to philanthropic endeavours, making much more of a contribution to humanity than Jobs ever would. With his commitment to eradicating malaria, a disease which isn’t prevalent in North America but nonetheless affects hundreds of millions of people per year, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Steve Jobs was being remembered as “an amazing person,” while this living embodiment of charity and innovation was being forgotten by people who choose sides in the “Mac vs. PC” wars.
Now, here’s where things get tricky. Instead of just ranting, I decided to write a satirical piece parodying a rabid Apple fan’s justification of why Steve Jobs would be worth defending as a person, despite Bill Gates’ innovations with Microsoft in addition to his devotion to charity. I wrote it as a sort of obituary, as if someone was picking sides between two people’s deaths the same way they picked sides between companies.
The arguments necessary to take this stance would be ridiculous, so I wrote some ridiculous things. Why should we be remembering Steve Jobs when Bill Gates had donated billions of dollars to fighting malaria? “Because,” I satirically argued, “no one you know ever gets sick with malaria. His charity work was obviously just a ploy to make people like him more than our saviour, Steve Jobs.”
My words were taken as literal, and despite making my arguments extra insane to make the satire obvious, people interpreted me as an awful person for mocking Gates’ efforts, quoting malaria statistics at me as if my ignorance was actual.
Perhaps my attempt at parodying the posthumous deification of Steve Jobs was poorly done, and perhaps it wasn’t exactly clear what sort of piece I was trying to write. But after indicating the fact that the piece was supposed to be satirical in the comment section of our website, I was told, “That was not satire, it was rude.” I was also politely invited to “please die,” amongst other things.
I understand that perhaps the piece missed the mark, but having to explain a joke before you make it just defeats the point. I don’t regret trying out something new, but if the consequence of writing in such a manner is having people take your words literally despite your explanations, then it’s not worth it.
Articles of this nature will be relegated to our April Fools’ Day “spoof” issue, which will hopefully require no warning labels or explanations.