By Nicholas Elbers
“Canadian Doctor Loses License For Not Wearing Mask While Euthanizing Patient,” reads the headline.
Another one reports, “Canadian Dentist Now Offering Euthanasia As Alternative To Cavity Filling.”
And, “New Canadian Operation Game Just Has You Murder The Patient.”
Straight news or fake news? It might be hard to know, given the rapid and distressing pace with which the federal government has pushed its euthanasia policy. In fact the headlines are from the popular humour-satire site The Babylon Bee, which has been taking jabs at the Trudeau government’s promotion of “Medical Assistance in Dying” and at the moral absurdity of euthanasia itself.
It’s perhaps fitting that runaway MAiD has become the target of jokes in a foreign satire site. Just over a month ago Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to condemn the emerging trend of offering euthanasia to veterans suffering from PTSD, while at the same time his government has been setting the stage to provide euthanasia for the sole reason of mental illness.
A staff writer for The Babylon Bee told The B.C. Catholic that this tension created by government hypocrisy is just one of many places that staff writers at The Bee find their inspiration.
“When you have a satirical idea pop into your mind, it’s sparked by a small mismatch,” said Sam, who asked that his last name not be published. “When you sense hypocrisy your satire senses start to perk up. There is a kind of short circuit that happens in your brain when it’s trying to reach for something that isn’t there.”
Satire doesn’t have to be funny to be effective, he said, citing Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal, one of the best known examples of sustained satire in the English language in which Swift suggests that hunger in Ireland could be solved by eating babies.
But for The Bee, which bills itself specifically as a humour-first site, a good joke should be grounded in truth. Sam sums up the Bee’s philosophy in a quote by G.K. Chesterton: “Humour can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.”
Satire can be understated or it can be grounded in exaggeration, and The Bee’s Canada-euthanasia posts have been based on the latter, said Sam.
One article he worked on, entitled “Canadian Life Alert Just Euthanizes You When You Push The Button,” offers a good demonstration of what he’s talking about. The piece describes how Canadians using the Life Alert bracelet – which can call for medical help with the push of a button – can be simply killed by hitting the button.
The article takes the idea of “dignified death” to an uncomfortable extreme, hitting a particular nerve when the fictional spokesperson for the program says, “old people don’t want us to make such a fuss over them when they break their hips. Now, they can go straight from undignified fall to dignified death!”
The reason The Bee’s jokes resonate is that “they get at a suppressed part of you,” Sam said, in this case offering a subtle, or perhaps not so subtle, way to offer a moral critique of a topic that many find off-limits.
In another article entitled “Canadian Healthcare System Introduces Punch Card Where On Your 10th Visit You Get Free Suicide,” the humour works because of its absurdity, said Sam.
“It’s funny to make a punch card for things that shouldn’t have a punch card,” Sam said with a laugh.
That article is of special interest to him because it takes aim at the Prime Minister himself, quoting the PM in one of Sam’s favourite lines: “‘Canadians are team players,’ said Trudeau. ‘It’s important for every citizen to make sure he’s not wasting taxpayer money to sustain a life that’s not worth living. And now with this punch card, they know that with each hospital visit, they’re one step closer to the end!’”
“Euthanasia can make sense if you have a mechanistic worldview,” Sam said, referring to euthanasia proponents’ highlighting of the cost-saving potential euthanasia can bring to the medical system.
The decision to take on a particularly Canadian issue was rooted in the collective Christian values of The Babylon Bee’s staff. “We all knew we need to talk about euthanasia,” Sam said. “We believe that because people are made in the image and likeness of God they have inherent value. Euthanasia is untenable to us because it is an affront to God.”
The issue results in complex feelings for the satirist. “I feel for Canadians,” he said. “I would rather we were all out of a job than for things to continue.”
That’s because ultimately the goal at The Bee is bigger than trending on social media. “I don’t think that if we tell the right joke we will fix the world – the Lord is the one we should put our hope in,” he said. “As much as we believe the next joke is a moral obligation, it’s not what I put my hope in, which at least for me defuses some of the intensity.”
“People repenting of their sins and coming to Christ is what I care about. It’s what I’m rowing my boat towards.”