Many Filipinos don't have satire gene

Posted at 04/26/2013 7:32 PM

A "statistically significant" number of Filipinos lack a gene that lets them detect satire, a new study claims.

Scientists at the prestigious Asian Research Institutes for Understanding Humor and Silly Walks (ARIUHSW) yesterday announced that many Filipinos apparently lack the Satire Gene (SG).

According to the institute's spokesperson Dr. Soon Tu Ve Hung, SG deficiency "prevents people from distinguishing the true from the ridiculous."

He said "we conducted the study following a series of baffling incidents. They seemed to show otherwise intelligent Filipinos were reading humor articles and acting as if they were true."

Nancy Binay satire, TIME cover

A week ago, humor blog So Whats News claimed senatorial candidate Nancy Binay had obtained a Supreme Court order "protecting" her against any debates or discussions that would make her look stupid. The satirical piece was passed around online as if it were real news, which had scientists scratching their heads.

"It was clearly satirical, a joke," Dr. Tu Ve Hung said. "I mean, think about it. Would Nancy Binay even KNOW what a Supreme Court is?"

The Binay story came in the wake of an incident where one newspaper unthinkingly screencapped a badly photoshopped joke TIME cover and splashed it on its front page as if it were real. The fake cover showed a goofy picture of President Benigno Aquino.

"That was so evidently a satirical picture", the institute spokesperson. "Anybody could see that. Even Nancy Binay."

Two years ago, a local columnist used a bogus report about how gullible Filipinos are from another humor site to provide "evidence" for an essay. Ironically, the essay castigated Filipinos for being gullible.

"That one clearly had no Satire Gene," said Dr Hung.

Three years ago, an editor ordered the broadcast of a report that accepted at face value a crude, ineptly faked psychological report of a presidential candidate. "Technically that wasn't satire, but it was hilarious." Dr Hung said.

Two hypotheses

As to why many Filipinos have no SG, Dr. Hung said: "We are working on two hypotheses: one is that Filipinos have no sense of humor. This is impossible. All you have to do is look at Congress."

The other theory, he said, is that "the country is such a big joke that what is supposed to be weirdly hilarious is considered normal."

He added: "Obviously, this makes it tough for humor writers in your country."

The ARIUHSW spokesperson said the study was finished in one day last week "somewhere private in Manila" but declined to give details of how it was conducted, as well as how many respondents were tested. He also refused to define what "statistically significant" meant and gave vague and evasive answers to other questions.

Challenged to identify the so-called "Satire Gene", Dr. Hung replied, "oh, look, it's time for lunch."

There has so far been no official reaction from the government but some tweets allegedly from Malacañang officials said the government planned to address "this serious deficiency."

"Daang Matuwid is not exclusionary, Filipinos dserve 2 know what a joke is," the alleged tweet said.

Meanwhile, Senator Bong Revilla denounced the report and said he would ask the Senate to immediately conduct an investigation on the institute. When reminded that Congress is currently not in session, he said "ay."