Thursday, September 8, 2011


Interesting that The New Yorker, a magazine long associated with parody, particularly in its Shouts & Murmurs section, has itself become the subject of a parody. The Times reported that the Church of Scientology has published a parody of the magazine which they have passed out in front of New Yorker headquarters (“Scientology Strikes Back at The New Yorker,” NYT, 8/31/11). What incited the parody is a 25,000-word exposé of Scientology written by New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright back in February. However, what distinguishes the Church of Scientology parody from your typical Shouts & Murmurs piece is the amount of time, effort and money that has obviously gone into it. The New Yorker may parody the Times, as it has done  on numerous occasions, but it doesn’t go to the trouble of having its parody printed up on Times newsprint, using  typeface close to that used by the Times along with other symbols (the Scientologists expropriated Eustace Tilley for their purposes). Nor does it hire people to hand out its parodies in front of the Times offices. Nor does it attempt to go after particular Times staff members, such as the church does when it “singles out editors, fact-checkers and other New Yorker staff members who worked on the article by name and prints their photos.” Parody and satire are fun—there have been satiric versions of both the Times and The New Yorker that have been printed up as gags over the years—and also function as means of social criticism. To this extent, the church has every right to parody whatever it likes to. However, parody becomes a form of intimidation when the parodist creates a garish mask of the subject he or she is parodying and shows up at that subject’s front door.

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