Thursday, 5 August 2010

Is this a satire on 4x4 drivers in Aberdeen's Press & Journal? Surely not!

Is this column in today's Press and Journal a carefully-encoded hidden-in-plain-view satire on Aberdeen motorists?

Now, it's (sort of) clear from the tone that the article is intended to be 'lighthearted' and we shouldn't fall into the trap of taking it too seriously, but it's certanly a spellbinding and hilarious insight into the lives of 'two-car' families and '4x4' (= 16? Yes?) owners and what these people find important in life. More telling is the fact that Aberdeen's journal of record has paid someone to write it. We remember some satirical spoof personal adverts making it through under the noses of the P&J subbies, it's amazing that their regular columnists are now pulling off the same trick.

The article contains all sorts of encoded satirical jibes, and some quite explicit ridicule. Satire is at its best when it is subtle, so we think that the author went over the top at times with his too-candid derision of motorists. For instance, the writer's assertion that some motorists are uneasy at the prospect of being personally physically exposed to the wind (ie - going outside) is clearly a nonsensical characterisation of drivers. It is not credible, and so fails as satire and falls into the category of hyperbole.

The entire premise of the article is built around the conclusion reached by the author and his wife that it was a good idea to take two cars on one journey for just two people with the same starting point and destination. There were, inevitably, hilarious consequences. Genius! It's like the Keystone Cops!

For us, highlight buzzphrases included:
"The driver['s]... essential contact with the car's energy".
"Reminiscing about... petrol pump attendants".
"Time to work out a modus operandi for filling up the tank"
And the marvellous oxymoronic:
"filling up the tank in an environmentally-friendly fashion" (!)

We also note that the writer implies a puffed-up indignance at being sniggered at by filling station kiosk attendants. This provokes a bit of cognitive dissonance; if we are not to take this lighthearted column too seriously, how are we to react to the author taking himself so seriously? It is obvious that we are being invited by the skill of the writing to join with the kiosk attendants in having a damned good laugh at this popinjay.

But the real clincher comes at the end where the author seeks and finds narrative closure by showing his hand and telling us that he found it necessary to puchase a branded air-freshener for his car - "Forest Walk!" At that point, we became certain beyond dissuasion that the column is definitely satire.

So, we can see that the intended message of the P&J's naughty satirical columnist is, obviously - "why don't these motorists just actually go for a Forest Walk? You know, in one of those forests". No need to purchase anything, and because of the great work done by Aberdeen Greenspace and the council, no need to use any petrol at all. The outdoors is, surprisingly enough, accessible by foot. Who'd have thought? Oh no, wait a minute, they can't possibly enjoy the outdoors, can they? Owing to their crippling fear of the wind.

This anti-petrolhead volte-face by our local paper, which has so often in the past been guilty of slavishly parroting the PR line of the motoring lobby, is welcomed by us here at Other Aberdeen. We look forward to reading more in the same vein from Roddy Phillips, P&J (Fifth-) Columnist and honorary psychogeographer of Other Aberdeen!

No comments: