"The Civilian is not a force for good." Ben Uffindell, founder of The Civilian website, was very clear in his discussion with Steve Braunias that The Civilian isn't trying to push an agenda or change the world. Steve introduced Ben as a "much loathed and somewhat loved enfant" to a crowd of WORD Christchurch attendees on Saturday night. Steve talked about his enjoyment of Ben's work, but also his fear that Ben would "be heralded by one and all as Mr Fun-Times".
Ben's place on the political spectrum was an early topic of discussion: "It's not about staying impartial, everyone has opinions...I try to be friends with everyone, which doesn't work out at all." Throughout his life he has held the breadth of political views so sees "why people believe what they believe." Although he doesn't know where he stands on the political spectrum anymore. "I'm trying to be the devil's advocate." He aims to "create chaos on the page" and "people will take from it what they want." He has had people from different ends of the political spectrum interpret his articles according to their own views and beliefs: "Satire's supposed to challenge us, but no, it doesn't. People use it to reinforce their own ideas."
The discussion covered various topics:
- The Colin Craig lawsuit. Steve said that Ben "handled that with breathtaking aplomb."
- Free speech: Ben believes that "to be as open as possible is good for our discourse." He worries that "People get far too concerned about things that are said and not enough about things that actually happen."
- Bertrand Russell: "Far be it for me to argue with Bertrand Russell, though it's a lot easier now that he's dead."
- The Canterbury earthquakes: "It had to move you and if it didn't, you're a bit soulless - sorry."
- His first parody: The Lord of the Rings while at Intermediate.
- Other projects: A novel about lepers that he hopes to complete one day.
The most surprising quote of the night came when Ben claimed "I feel like the Pope." He explained that he sees why things are funny, then has to try and communicate that information to the wider world. He did a good job on Saturday night.
- Read more WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival posts
- Read our 39 quick interviews with festival guests including Steve Braunias
- Our page on WORD Christchurch
- Find New Zealand political satire in our catalogue