Purim 5774

Israeli scientist isolates ‘satire gene’

Treatment could ‘usher in a brave new world’ where parody is appreciated by everyone, expert says

A frustrated reader of the Onion (laptop image via Shutterstock)
A frustrated reader of the Onion (laptop image via Shutterstock)

With only days to go before Purim, scientists have isolated a gene that they say enables its carriers to understand and appreciate satire.

In a press release Thursday, the team said its discovery could open the door to a revolution, perhaps some day allowing, through a straightforward course of gene therapy, people who are currently tone-deaf to satire to comprehend a genre of humor that had hitherto elicited in them nothing but incredulity and rage.

“This is an amazingly exciting breakthrough,” said Professor Ronald Shmulovich, director of molecular genetics at Mount Holyoke University, whose team discovered the gene.

“Contrary to the myth that biologists don’t have much of a sense of humor, I’ve always been a voracious consumer of satirical works, and I’ve always been bothered by the fact that there are people out there who simply don’t get it,” added Shmulovich, whose father lived in Israel in the 1950s, in a phone interview Friday with The Times of Israel.

“A few years ago I came upon this absolute gem of a piece while browsing the Onion’s website – now, let me see if I can remember the headline – ‘Supreme Court Rules Supreme Court Rules,’ and I tweeted the link, and people tweeted back stuff like ‘No frigging way, man’ and ‘fake!!!!!!!’ and ‘You’re an asshole!’ Then there was that time the Washington Post picked up, utterly in earnest, a satirical article in the Daily Currant about Sarah Palin becoming a host on Al Jazeera. That was just too sad.”

However, in the future, he asserted, with early screening and detection, people like the author of that unfortunate Washington Post report, and the editors of Iranian newspapers who chronically mistake the most absurd of satirical pieces for fact, will be able to receive treatment for their condition.

Shmulovich said his team was currently working on fine-tuning the treatment – gene therapy involves injecting “healthy” DNA into a patient’s cells – which he hopes will “usher in a brave new world where everyone can appreciate satire.”

But others weren’t as optimistic.

Dr. Kilgore Kraut, an expert in mass media and communications at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said it was preposterous to suggest that there was a genetic component to the ability to grasp satire.

“You guys are all a bunch of colossal asshats if you actually end up publishing a story about this so-called discovery,” an incensed Kraut said in an email to The Times of Israel on Saturday night. “I can’t believe you bought into this charlatan’s crap. I mean, God, there isn’t even a university in Mount Holyoke, Massachusetts. And Sarah Palin… come on, man, it’s perfectly plausible that she would join Al Jazeera. You just never know with a crazy chick like that.”

Kraut alleged that The Times of Israel, like most Hebrew media outlets, was far too intent on covering the achievements of Israelis and the tangentially Jewish to properly fact-check the stories that came its way.

“You guys should raise your standards a bit,” he said. “Admit it: You wouldn’t even be chasing down this story if it weren’t for Shmulovich’s father volunteering on a kibbutz for three weeks in 1953. He isn’t even halachically Jewish, for God’s sake; his mother is Innuit. And besides, don’t you think it’s a bit obvious, you know, with Purim coming up?”

According to Kraut, who described this reporter as a “gibbon with a GPO card,” Israeli journalists should “get your heads out of your asses” and start producing work that did justice to their once-noble profession.

“Look, I like The Times of Israel,” he added in a more conciliatory tone. “You do great analyses, and your news coverage is generally adequate. Some of your bloggers aren’t entirely sane, but let’s not go there right now. Still, I wish you’d tone it down with all the ‘Israeli scientist this’ and ‘Jewish actor that.’ Frankly, it’s a bit much.”

This fake story brought to you in honor of the Jewish holiday of Purim. Purim Sameach!

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