IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019 - 6

of minor issues, each of which was
not considered sufficiently important to warrant a committee of its
own. But the compound's response
of universal derision served to
diminish, a nd then completely
de molish, the political pretensions
of the person appointed as (or who
had triumphed in getting himself
appointed as) chairman:
When this coveted prize, over
which our giants had fought,
turned out to be miniscule, the
camp hooted with derisive
delight. ... the victor, was not
merely embarrassed, but downright sulky about it. He promptly
announced his resignation,
indicating that now that he
understood what the job involved, he saw that it was too
small for a man of his stature. At this the camp hooted
once more; [the victor] never
acquired political prominence
again [1, p. 33].

Satire has been used proactively
throughout human history as a
means of mocking the pomposity
and pretension of others.
Thus was a supposedly powerful man, aiming to the most powerful, even in such a meager context,
brought low: by and to the ringing
sound of derisive laughter.
And so, while the Shantung compound could provide a basis for
studying the evolution of an institution, to see if it satisfied Ostrom's
institutional design principles for sustainability [2]; or even for an approximation of Ober's thought experiment
for Demopolis [3] (although the com-

6

pound's occupants were a normal
distribution of the population, not
just those preferring to avoid tyranny - and yet they did), this single,
small incident raises some important
questions in a contemporary context about the social mechanism of
expressing civic disapproval through
the medium of satire, and the technological development of deepfake
videos which threatens to subvert
the subversive nature of satire itself.

film, and stage performance. In contemporary times, satire is well-represented though alternative comedy,
graphic cartoons, and in particular,
in the U.K., the magazine Private Eye
(https://www.private-eye.co.uk/).
In particular, satire has provided
an essential social and psychological function: there are arguments
that satire acts as a social leveler,
satisfying a popular need to ridicule,
if necessary, leading figures in politics, arts, or religion when their policies, ideas, or opinions (especially of
themselves) are wildly out of touch
or grossly inflated. Furthermore,
it can serve as a useful tool for critique, holding up the proverbial "mirror to society," challenging citizens
to reflect on their values and, perhaps, prejudices, while pressurizing
administrators to justify or amend
their policies. In the latter respect
it is a form of dissent, which allows
"allows critics to expose inconsistencies between core values and current practices" [4, p. 4]. Indeed, in
some national constitutions it is specifically marked out as a legitimate
form of dissent [5].

Satire
The derisive, mocking laughter that
accompanied the Shantung Compound's would-be leader's unfortunate fall from influence and political
power (if not grace) was, presumably,
motivated by schadenfreude (one person's pleasure derived from the misfortune of another), a pleasure made
all the more amusing by the irony that
the man should have been the unwitting author of his own misfortune.
However, satire has been used
proactively throughout human history (or at least since Roman
times when the rhetorician
Quintillian (c. A.D.35 to
c. A.D.100) first deployed
the neologism, al though
the linguistic/humorous
device featured heavily in
the writings of Horace and
Juvenal), as a means of
mocking the pomposity,
pretension, and superior
aspiration of others, without waiting for misfortune to fall
upon them. Indeed, satire appears
to have been common across both
time and cultures, and the English
language features many literary exponents, including (in the U.K.) authors such as Pope, Swift, Dickens,
Huxley, and Orwell; while in the
U.S., Heller's Catch-22, Chaplin's
The Great Dictator, and Kubrick's
Dr Strangelove, and Carlin's comic
monologues demonstrate that satire
can be delivered through literature,
IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

Deepfake Videos
The early pioneers of photography
were not averse to distorting and
manipulating images [6], and yet
there is an old adage that "the camera does not lie," even though a camera lens rarely (if ever) reproduces a
scene in the same way that a human
eye perceives it. Nevertheless, despite
the fact that the noun "photoshop"
made the transition to verb, such
was the ease and ubiquity of the
process, there remains a tendency
to believe or trust a photograph, and
by extension, a video. This tendency
would, at least partially, explain the
rise of social media influencers and
their successful exploitation of video
on YouTube channels and Facebook,
despite the fact the content is often
sampled, distorted, or manipulated,
∕

DECEMBER 2019


https://www.private-eye.co.uk/

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - December 2019

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