Humor in the news is more important than ever, said Kyle Mann, editor-in-chief of the Babylon Bee in a speech to Hillsdale students on Sept. 8.
“Satire is prophetic,” Mann said. “It simply takes people’s beliefs to their next logical conclusion. When you look at the worldview of progressives, their entire worldview demands that they progress, that they keep pushing…so if we’re taking their current beliefs and pushing them to the next logical conclusion. Well guess what, they’re going to inevitably fulfill our satire almost each and every day.”
The Babylon Bee is a satirical, Christian news source founded in 2016. It is often compared to The Onion, a satirical news publication founded in 1988.
In the speech, Mann focused on the power humor has to “help people see that they’re not alone in the world.”
“The blessing side of it is really that, because we have all these targets, there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to make fun of,” Mann said.
Mann touched on the politics of the Bee itself, and the “void” that it fills in the world of comedy.
“How did nobody think of creating something similar to The Onion, commenting on the headlines and news of the day with satire, in a way that doesn’t necessarily hate the right?” Mann asked. “We’ll make fun of conservatives, but it’s done in a way where it’s clear that it’s coming from within the movement.”
Mann showed slides of popular Babylon Bee headlines, most of which were met with resounding laughter from the crowd. He showed one of his favorites from the beginning of quarantine, which read: “Inspiring: Celebrities Spell Out ‘We’re All In This Together’ With Their Yachts.”
Mann went on to describe the left’s current inability to make good jokes about politics due to the seemingly permanent effects of the Trump administration.
“They saw it as a drama, this serious drama where they were these freedom fighters,” Mann said. “And so, they were unable to tell a funny joke because they were taking it so seriously.”
Mann circled back to his points on modern news stories being so close to satire, and explained the role the Bee helps to play in such an already comedic news cycle.
“When people are able to consume news and information with this layer of comedy and satire, it helps them to kind of avoid the anxiety in the stress that comes with consuming news,” Mann said.
Mann also discussed the negative responses the Bee receives, including its initial problems with demonetization, and the many times its stories have been “fact-checked” by snopes.com.
In fact, the Bee was threatened with demonetization at the same time in which Mann quit his previous construction sales job.
“I got a notice on my phone that our Facebook page is going to be deplatformed and demonetized because we committed the sin of sharing fake news and misinformation,” Mann recounted.
The headline which brought the publication its initial pushback read: “CNN purchases industrial-sized washing machine to spin news.” Mann then shared a handful of other articles which were fact-checked. He said this pushback only encourages the Bee staff to continue joking.
“I mean, who’s a better target for a joke than someone that’s sitting there glaring and saying ‘you can’t joke?’” Mann said.
Mann ended his speech with a call to action for young conservatives everywhere.
“There is so much of a hunger and thirst for this kind of content,” Mann said. “Whatever God has called you to do, whatever you have been gifted in, let’s go out and create that kind of content.”
“I had never heard of the Babylon Bee, so it was all new for me,” freshman Jack Walker said. “I was thoroughly entertained though. It seems like they’re doing something very good for a market that is starved.”
John J. Miller, director of the Dow Journalism Program, was also pleased with the event.
“Kyle Mann writes great jokes, but he also has a strong understanding of what satire can accomplish,” Miller said. “He quoted G.K. Chesterton: ‘Humor can get under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.’ He has thought deeply about these things and it was great to see him share his ideas.”