|Photo: Jeremy Brooks (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-NC 2.0|
We have to admit it here and now: we are losing this battle. Truth has proven a mighty adversary and we can hardly hold the ship together. There is nothing “post” about him – he is very real. And just a quick heads-up to Vladimir’s crew: distortion does not work - we tweaked him, we warped him, we broke his code, we even accidentally completely zapped him a couple of times. Yet, truth keeps appearing out of nowhere, baggy pants and half-eaten kebab in his hand, to slap you hard on the back of your neck, yelling “duuuude” in a gush of greasy facts. Man, truth sucks! The most useless slacker we have ever seen. The worst part is that he owns your ass – how can you fight the enemy when he is sprawled on the couch, playing video games and guffawing like a monkey in a haze of pot? And his socks smell so bad.
We tried our best to make this work, even playing by the books. In his seminal essay “Empirical moustache” (date not known) Killpepper defines truth as a set of circumstances that hinge together to create a perfect image to be projected on a screen or run through a newsfeed. Basing his theoretical framework on a series of catchy, but vague terms, such as “government”, and using empirical tools, including pliers and hammer, Killpepper convincingly contends earlier statements by Douche (1735) and Bunz and Clown (1889) that truth is indomitable. On the contrary, Killpepper argues, truth can be rolled back if broken down to his basics by a series of targeted non-linear deviations, projected under a certain chronological angle from a coordinated multitude of vantage points. Only then will truth be unhinged from all argument, leave the coach and dissolve into ether, potentially washing the dishes first.
Taking these arguments further E&M liaised with the agents in Europe, making truth a thing of the past. In a series of closed interrogations with what can be identified as “satirical” media across the continent, but won’t, we tried to figure out what keeps them doing what they do, but couldn’t. Nevertheless, the results will be spread across a few E&M editions and backed by theory-based analysis to make them remotely engaging.
Agent I. Samuil Petkanov and Ne!Novinite (Не!Новините, http://www.nenovinite.com/). Bulgaria
Tell us when did you last hear about Mordavia? A country, which earned its right NOT to be depicted as a Turkish toilet and where just 25 years ago laughing could get you toothpaste torture in a konz.-lager (don’t ask), is not exactly the type of place you would like to end up with a big mouth and a small brain. Last time somebody laughed publicly was when they lynched the entire government for corruption (now that was a joke, wasn’t it?). Having been behind an iron curtain for a long time the country has developed a very raw fauna, where humor has degraded to its primordial state of utter bullocks and has permeated all walks of life. Even bathrooms, visited only by a small percentage of the population. Person of reference: Bay Ganyo, an odious Balkan hick, something like a Trump supporter on acid, who popularized the lifestyle of the new Bulgarian ruling class of the XXI century.
Raking muck in this corner of Europe, we came across someone by the name of Samuil Petkanov, no doubt a fake identity, as the guy used parchment and sign language to answer us, to tell us more about drug dealing, sodomy and doing satire in a post-Soviet country, certainly not missing on post-truth propaganda. In 2015 Petkanov successfully crowd-funded his campaign to become the first democratically created Bulgarian oligarch, aspiring to top the efforts of many successful leaders before him. Granted, he already possessed a fake news outlet, Ne!Novinite (the No!News), a minimal requirement to enter the ranks of the new Bulgarian feudalism, possessing about 99% of the country’s media.
You can find the product of our communication with Samuil below.
E&M: Present yourself and the media outlet you represent?
Samuil Petkanov: My name is Samuil Petkanov. 26 years old. Creator, owner and author of nenovinite.com – Media №37 in Bulgaria and №32 in the World. I am not a vegan.
E&M: ...Why do you do satire? Is that what you claim you do while laundering Putin's money? SP: Sometimes I do satire, sometimes I accidentally predict future events, sometimes I secretly wear Putin's G-strings and pretend I'm a defender of traditional values like divorce and orgies on a yacht paid by my electorate.
E&M: Why do you do satire? Is that what you claim you do while laundering Putin’s money?
SP: Sometimes I do satire, sometimes I accidentally predict future events, sometimes I secretly wear Putin’s G-strings and pretend I’m a defender of traditional family values like divorce and orgies on a yacht paid by my electorate.
E&M: Why is it important to you personally to be messing with people’s minds? How much are you bending reality?
SP: Otherwise it will be quite boring or frustrating. Today reality is mostly perceived with anger or sadness. People tend to forget that it’s also very funny. On the bending of reality scale, I think I might be a 6 out of 10 or in modern terms a Trump out of Chemtrails-Illuminati-Vaccines-Aliens-Conspiracy theory society. I’m mediocre. I’m just a catfish in a pond of nuclear weapons.
"Because opinions are like nipples - everyone has one."
E&M: Are you as biased and prejudiced as they say you are? Or are you open-minded?!
SP: I am open-prejudiced. And bias-minded. And this is human nature. I like to challenge my own opinions and sometimes change them or develop them. And an opinion is a biased and prejudiced stance on a topic. That does not mean that I can’t make fun of my opinions and believes. Because opinions are like nipples – everyone has one.
E&M: Are you sticking to some core set of values, would you stop anywhere if you think it is the right thing to do? Are you crossing any borders or just telling dad jokes?
SP: I like to poke at values. Not that I don’t have any. But they can be very different – you can value all life or you can value beating your underage wife with a stick, which is acceptable in your local society. Some values are stupid, primitive or limiting and there is no point if you bite like an old toothless sheep. You can bite like a radioactive snail with 10,000 sharp little teeth.
E&M: What is it that you do anyway? Text, videos, caricatures, collages, something we haven’t seen already a thousand times?
SP: For 7 years now I have been doing news parody. As a genre, it’s not something unseen, but in Bulgaria satire is not very advanced like in Britain, France or Saudi Arabia. And if you tell two jokes which you did not translate from an English or a Russian website, you can easily place yourself in top 10 all-time Bulgarian comedians.
E&M: When did you start doing what you do and why? Has your motivation changed over time?
SP: I started Ne!Novinite in 2009. For some years, it was a sporadic hobby – when I had time and an idea I wrote. After a while I decided that I should make time and push myself to write more. Today I publish about 4 or 5 parody news stories a day and earn from advertisements so much that I only need to work 2-3 other things.
E&M: Has the way you create content changed over the time you’ve been operating and how? Are you very boring or trying to keep afloat with new tendencies and social media?
SP: No. And yes. I am fluid as diarrhea so I tried and experimented with podcasts, video. And still I am working on painfully slow developed ideas to improve my work. I will fail but it’s OK.
E&M: Tell us about a piece or two that sum up your philosophy and everyday comedic routine?
SP: There is nothing special. I just read the news, read what’s the actual hype in social media, use my memory and create an absurd mashup of reality and imagination in the form of a text. You can do it too, just not so good. Or interesting. Or funny.
E&M: ...and what sums up the sense of humor in Bulgaria? What makes people laugh there? SP: Nothing. If you laugh in Bulgaria you are either retarded, gay or on drugs. And if you are on drugs that means you have money so you get kidnapped.
E&M: …and what sums up the sense of humor in Bulgaria? What makes people laugh there?
SP: Nothing. If you laugh in Bulgaria you are either retarded, gay or on drugs. And if you are on drugs that means you have money so you get kidnapped.
"I think almost all of my female followers are fake profiles that my wife made to see if I’m using my popularity like all others semi-famous Internet satirists do – to ask for pancake recipes and masturbate if you receive a smiley emoticon as an answer."
E&M: Do you readers/viewers/subscribers like you? How many of those you have? Who follows you anyway and why?
SP: Ne!Novinite’s Facebook page has over 50 000 likes. My personal profile has over 11 000 followers. Many of them probably don’t like me but are the kind of people that like to read things that make them angry and aroused. I think almost all of my female followers are fake profiles that my wife made to see if I’m using my popularity like all others semi-famous Internet satirists do – to ask for pancake recipes and masturbate if you receive a smiley emoticon as an answer.
E&M: What is satire’s use in 2016? Do we still need it in a ‘post-truth’ world?
SP: Yes. You must be prepared for the post-post-truth world. It will be like the walk of shame. And instead of chlamydia symptoms you’ve got from a stranger who you’ll never meet, humanity in the post-post-truth world will try to become friends again. Or cousins in some cases.
E&M: Is satire dead in Europe, aren’t you wasting your time?
SP: Dead satire is much more potent. It will be like a ghost. You hear a noise; you see something faint. You wonder: “what was this?”. You are scared. Your back is tingling. You feel it’s there even if you don’t believe in spiritual bollocks. You are getting confused. You trip. You fall. You smash your head on the floor. You’ve just broken your nose. Satire, bitch!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexander Neofitov is Bulgarian and is currently stationed in Poland. He did Politics & Security at University College London and specialised at Charles University in Prague for a year.
He is a think-tank activist and a policy analyst with interests in the region of Central and Eastern Europe. A longtime fan of surrealist art, he tries hard to reveal the truly absurd aspects of everyday life in Europe.