The Babylon Bee has only been around for three years, but during that time it has expanded its fan base rapidly with a brand of newsy satire purportedly aimed at conservative evangelicals. However, rather than critique that audience, The Bee often plays to their ignorance and tribal prejudices.
Consider, for example, the case of teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. This week, Thunberg provided an extraordinary, passionate, and visionary indictment of global political inaction on climate change at the United Nations. So how do you suppose The Bee used their bully pulpit? In the article “Marionette Strings Clearly Visible During Greta Thunberg Testimony,” Thunberg is described as a hapless puppet controlled by shadowy interests — Al Gore is referenced.
But to what end? What’s the point supposed to be? That environmentalists are part of a shadowy cabal aimed at global domination? Frankly, the only point I can see here is the mockery of a teenager who is speaking in defense of the environment (or what Christians call environmental stewardship). And that, in turn, encourages climate change skepticism and a tacit moral affirmation for the unsustainable status quo.
At the same time, the main satirical news site, The Onion, published their own satirical news article on Thunberg: “Nation Perplexed By 16-Year-Old Who Doesn’t Want World To End”. Notably, the focus of this article is completely different as it highlights the incredulity of a general population toward a teenager who, rather than complaining about the world, has dedicated her life to save it:
“Instead of going around the world and giving speeches in which she urges people to save the planet, shouldn’t she be commiserating with her friends about how pointless life is and how we’d all be better off dead? I just don’t get it.”
In this short article, The Onion critiques political leaders and a general public that are not especially moved by the climate crisis while enobling one brave, driven young Swedish prophet and the generation from which she comes. The problem, it is clear, is not the idealism and prophetic fury of Ms. Thunberg and other idealists of her generation, but the cynicism and inaction of the adults that are trading away the future of the planet for filthy lucre (and economic prosperity bought on the backs of future generations is indeed filthy lucre).
Satire is driven by values as it uses incisive humor and absurd situations to unmask the present and prompt us toward a better future. The contrast between the values that drive The Babylon Bee and The Onion could not be greater. The former is a grotesque and mean-spirited cynicism that pawns off environmental responsibility with a conspiratorial wink. By contrast, the latter constitutes an invitation to set aside that cynicism and join Thunberg in envisioning a world of climate justice and true environmental stewardship.