This tweet appeared amidst a Tweetdeck sea of grief and eulogies, prompted by the death of Steve Jobs. I caught my breath a little. And I was caught in two minds.
On the one hand it was classic, no-holds-barred Mash satire. Funny, frankly.
On the other the Mash tweet “broke” at the same time as news of Jobs’ death was breaking for many people. It wasn’t just topical satire. It was real time. I wish I had grabbed an image of my Tweetdeck screen at the time to show the context in which the tweet appeared. Too early? Too disrespectful?
I thought about it but decided not to retweet.
And I thought nothing more about it until I saw this xkcd cartoon, entitled ETERNAL FLAME. I have included both the animated gif version and a static image showing the rollover text.
On reflection this is all about context.
The context in which the Mash tweet appeared was created by me.
Twitter is primarily a professional tool. It is a highly efficient means of accessing and disseminating relevant information. And its efficiency in this role is a direct result of the people whom I’ve chosen to follow.
Given the industry in which I work this highly efficient information transfer network contains more than its fair share of evangelical, earlier-than-early adopters of just about any object that Apple decides to produce. It’s not surprising therefore that, on the morning of Thursday 6th October, Tweetdeck resembled a 140 character wake.
The Daily Mash doesn’t share this context. Its church is much broader than mine. As you can see from the image above, more than 100 people took a different path to me and did retweet it.
It is also the nature of Twitter that you see Daily Mash headlines out of the context provided by the full content of each article. If you read the Mash article in full you’ll see that there is no disrespect for the man. Indeed, Paul Stokes, founder of the Mash was kind enough to confirm this for me.
We don’t make fun of tragedy on the Mash. Yes the headline might bring some people up sharp, but the piece is probably as close to an affectionate tribute that you’ll ever get from the Mash.
The Mash piece was written by site editor Neil Rafferty and is modestly described by Stokes as…
…a brilliantly constructed and perfectly judged piece that summed up in a few hundred very funny words what other commentators struggled to get to in thousands.
A sentiment echoed by at least one Mash reader…
Which begs the question what exactly was the Mash article satirising?
Looking at it again I think the Mash anticipated and highlighted the ridiculous over-reaction of a small but vocal group of Apple devotees. It’s one thing to admire the man. I personally think it was a little over the top for people who had never met him to gush publicly and uncontrollably to the extent that they did about the extent to which he had changed their lives. Maybe it wasn’t actually that far fetched for some commentators to compare the reaction to the death of Jobs to that of Princess Diana.
This (over?) reaction, not the man, was the subject of their satire. A point I missed because of the insular context I had created for myself.
Satire is about providing much needed balance. Indeed, it often fills a vacuum left by the serious coverage of an issue in this respect.
When it came to balanced serious coverage of Jobs’ death, one article stood out from all others for me.
Unlike so many of the tweeters who provided my initial context, Stephen Fry had actually met Steve Jobs. And, unlike said tweeters, his measured assessment of the man and his contribution was both heartfelt and objective. It is a dignified and insightful piece of writing.
The Mash, xkcd and Stephen Fry all read the context better than I did.