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Polvaulting - The Future of Satire?

24/04/2013 13:37 BST | Updated 22/06/2013 10:12 BST

If you follow world news, you've probably heard of the current global stalemate between North Korea and the US right now, dubbed the North Korean Missile Crisis. On 9 March the nation's capital and center of political power, Pyongyang, issued a statement including the following sentence: 'Now that the US is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country.'

Strong words upon the delicate global climate, and it is suggested by some commentators that new leader Kim Jong Un, afforded a virtual dictatorship at the age of 28, may be too young, volatile and downright delusional to keep his filial predecessors' uneasily neutral relationship with the outside world. It was his father Kim Jong Il who established a 'military first' policy to strengthen the country, leading it to now have the world's fourth largest army of 1.12 million citizens and a nuclear weapons plan. This, of course, brings us to the current situation.

But it is how this story is being reported by the media that I believe to be of additional interest, and the real centrepoint of this post. North Korea's self-isolation from international relations since its split from the South in 1948 is too mottled and complex a history to be related in brief here, but suffice to say it is tied in closely to its autocratic-like Kim leaders. The bizarre deification of its bizarre leaders, its antisocial foreign policies and seeming complete lack of self-awareness of itself, makes the country a ripe choice for ridicule by external critics. This can range from the humorous take-downs of the overly pompous, such as the Tumblr devoted to 'Kim Jong Il looking at things', dry comment pieces on the country's technological (in)abilities, to a myriad of US political cartoons lampooning their leader.

Which brings us on to Polvaulting, a young website that seeks to marry all these things in a blend of topical satire on certain world news stories. Its North Korea story is named 'Boy Dictator gets the Bomb', and is told in dialogue format accompanied by vibrant, enjoyable cartoons to illustrate the story. Now, let's be brutally honest, perhaps the dialogue itself is not faultless - I had issues with portraying Kim Jong Un as an idiot speaking broken English, as a 'too easy' play to low humour - but what it's doing might just be a revolution in how to engage the non-media savvy younger generations into world current affairs through the art of satire.

For a start, the Polvaulting story is not a straightforward relaying of the facts. It takes the bare premise of the facts as its starting point and then builds a surreal but humorous play on hypothesis around them; of what might happen if a rogue American General gave the order to attack North Korea, involving various characters from Barack Obama, Kim Jong Un, basketball-player Denis Rodman and, most amusingly, Donald Trump flying the Trump plane out to join the bombers. Perhaps it may all seem a little silly, but most good satire is (it using the format of ridicule to sharply expose the follies of others), and crucially it makes you want to read the real story afterward. Which is where you click on the 'actuality' box on the right to achieve a brief but succinct account of the whole affair.

It's still early days yet, but I was moved to rather admire a piece that tries to creatively engage its readers rather than just bombast with a ballast of facts. And perhaps where that is to to most come into play, is in the little used but potentially very interesting function of the 'continue dialogue' option. Inviting readers to create their own story dialogues based on modern world politics? That could, indeed, be a future of social interactive satire.