x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Is Katie Price suing Jordan? Just think about it for a second

What does it say about the media, and the public, when people can't tell parodies of news from the real thing?

'Irony is wasted on the stupid," Oscar Wilde said. How lucky he was to live before the age of the internet.

Oh, irony. Friend to few, and enemy to anyone with a broadband connection, a keyboard and a delicate disposition. In the age of social networks, 140-character news bites and rabid online insomniacs, there is no place for you anymore. You're like a knife among 10,000 spoons.

Pockets of resistance remain; the brave few fighting to keep irony alive. But they are increasingly up against a new breed of internet trolls, who come equipped with a bellyful of bile and a massive chip on the shoulder. And, obviously, no sense of humour.

Two weeks ago, the "news" website ThePan-Arabia Enquirer ran an exclusive story that claimed "British glamour model and renowned children's author Katie Price [aka Jordan] yesterday issued a warning to government officials in Amman over the name 'Jordan', claiming that her celebrity profile was now enough to secure its full global trademark".

"I can't believe that them Jordanese folk have been using my name for so long," the model was "quoted" as saying.

You did not need to be familiar with the vacuous Ms Price's career to realise this was a spoof. Metaphorically speaking, the authors couldn't have posted signs to make it any clearer that the Enquirer is a satirical website. And yet, just for good measure, they did. Literally, with a banner hailing it as the "finest source of made up news from the Middle East".

Sadly, such subtleties are wasted on people who are determined to be offended at all costs. In the comments section below the story, all hell broke loose. And as we know, hell hath no fury like a deluded troll scorned.

"Katie Price should get an education before she starts suing anyone. The name Jordan is older than her whole ancestry and is mentioned in the Bible, not to mention the fact that the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has existed well over 40 years prior to her birth!" said one of the more restrained, if clueless, posts.

Others did not stick around for common sense to make an appearance. "This is sick! She should get some help! Get educated first!" Indeed, ignorance, it cannot be stressed enough, is never bliss.

Even after several posts pointed out the painfully obvious humour behind the article, the incredulous anger persisted.

At this point, the authors might have even afforded a chuckle at a job well done (perhaps a little too well done). And that would have been that. But never underestimate the power of ignorance. The controversy made its way to several websites and, incredibly, into the mainstream media as well. Minus the irony, it goes without saying.

Earlier this week, Al Khaleej newspaper ran Jordan versus Jordan as a straight story, together with reference to "multiple" sources that had already covered the kerfuffle. A newspaper editor, somewhere, should be feeling very embarrassed right now.

This is not the first, and unlikely to be the last, case of Chinese whispers becoming "news".

In 2002, The Beijing Evening News, the Chinese capital's largest-circulation newspaper, ran a story claiming the US Congress had threatened to move out of Washington unless a fancy new Capitol, with more bathrooms and better parking, was built. Memphis or Charlotte were potential alternative destinations. As with Jordan-gate, the guardians of the Onion satirical website would have no doubt wept tears of laughter.

Ten years on, irony continues to take a battering.

In the classic British comedy series Blackadder the Third, Baldrick, the hapless resident dogsbody, was asked if he knew what irony was. "Yes, it's like goldy and bronzy, only it's made out of iron."

It is a sad indictment of modern society that many people's grasp of irony is no firmer than poor Baldrick's. The more information that is available to us, the less tolerant, self-aware and good natured we become.

And that is the biggest irony of all.



On Twitter: AliKhaled_