Taking the Sting out of Babylon's Cultural Quarrels

April 27, 2022

Ever wonder what the cultural weather will be in a few years, months, or days? Just ask the meteorologists at The Babylon Bee. I'm joking, of course. The Babylon Bee is a satire site, and prudent readers never, ever take a word they say seriously. But they do have a strange knack for nearly predicting future events -- for instance, the recent news of Twitter employees literally crying about Elon Musk buying the company. That may be because "humor is [taking] a little bit of truth... and magnify[ing] it," said FRC President Tony Perkins.

Reality is stranger than The Bee's fictitious spoof; the tears came from "Twitter's top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde," who is described "internally as Twitter's 'moral authority.'" Yet an unbiased outsider would find in Musk's public statements no cause for concern -- unless they implied he would reinstate the Babylon Bee's account. Twitter suspended the Bee's account last month for naming Rachel Levine "Man of the Year" (no truth there!), it's latest scalp in a long line of deplatformed conservatives and Republicans. Perhaps Gadde was "worried Elon Musk will turn Twitter into a place where terrible people post bad opinions and fight with each other all the time," or perhaps because she spilled her milk.

Babylon has targeted The Bee for years, although it would have created less racket by using one. In 2018, alleged fact-checker "Snopes" duped Facebook into temporarily censoring a "false news" story titled, "CNN Purchases Industrial-Sized Washing Machine To Spin News Before Publication." (CNN+ must be the sock lost in the dryer). "The prevailing worldview of our society can't stand up to... ridicule, logic, questioning -- but especially ridicule," Babylon Bee Managing Editor Joel Berry explained. "That's why it's such a powerful tool."

Berry explained, "a joke can get a message out there in a way that catches people off guard" where a long-form, think piece would fail. "The right wants the Left to keep talking -- and we invite it," said Berry. "The Left wants the right to shut up because, when the Left talks, people are kind of repulsed by their ideas." Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon quoted G. K. Chesterton to explain the site's philosophy, "humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle."

"We do hope that at some point we'll see a reversal of... some of these suspensions," said Berry. "A decade ago," said Perkins, Twitter "declared itself to be the free speech wing of the Free Speech Party." But it grew so close to government, added Berry, that "it became a de facto arm... the government was using to squash dissent... almost laundering their censorship." Musk plans to reverse course and "bring all ideas into the light," said Berry. "It's a huge threat to people who thrive in secrecy, thrive in darkness."

"Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed," said Jesus (John 3:20). But "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all," and to have fellowship with him we must "walk in the light" (1 John 1:5-7). Freedom of speech enables truth to shine forth and expose wickedness, and humor is one of the most powerful spotlights.

This is especially true because "God has a sense of humor," said Perkins. Consider Elijah mocking Baal (1 Kings 17:27), Isaiah mocking idol-worshippers (Isaiah 44), or God mocking nations and their rulers for haplessly conspiring against him (Psalm 2:4). Laughter is healthy because "we're all a little silly... we're all sinners," said Berry. "Whether consciously or not, people are acknowledging when they laugh at some of the joke, that we're all a little silly." "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8).

That's why it's healthy to laugh even at ourselves; it is a sign of humility, of recognizing our own shortcomings. Taking yourself too seriously is a symptom of self-righteous Pharisaism (even if you are your own god). "If we can't laugh together about something, that's a real sign that our culture isn't healthy," said Berry. "My most rewarding days [are] when I see a Leftist, or a progressive, or an atheist laughing at a Babylon Bee joke... the cleverness of it, or maybe subconsciously acknowledg[ing] some of the truth."

Perhaps Elon Musk will return a healthy humility to Twitter. But don't hope in that. "Put not your trust in princes..." Berry quoted. "When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob" (Psalm 146:3-5). "Ultimately, our trust is in God," he said. "He uses powerful men to accomplish his purposes one way or the other. And that's where our hope lies."