The Importance of Political Satire In Paranoid and Dangerous Times
The year of 2017 will have classes taught about it if we manage to survive as a species. In my entire life or looking at history or experiencing politics, I have never witnessed such insane things happening in the government and how it’s reflected in popular culture. Everyday that I turn on the news is a new experience of “Is this really happening?” It is happening, and that’s why it begs to have people to react to it in various ways. Some of those ways is comedy and satire. They both go hand-in-hand.
If you happen to turn on any late night television talk show recently, you’ll notice that they spend most of the time breaking down the news of the day. The news of the day is usually President Trump doing multiple things so badly that they can’t help but cover it. There’s almost no room to report on anything else since he takes up everything you see.
What one story would take up a few weeks or months of news in days past, Trump’s news stories seem to snowball over anything of importance. Every day is a new story that could be covered for a year. It almost feels like a procedural TV show with an arch that is touched on each episode. Each episode deals with a new murder, but there is a conspiracy that the characters have to deal with. But that’s what Trump wants. He has no famously told his staff to think of each day as an episode of television where he has to win at the end.
Here’s the structure of the White House reality TV show:
New plot for one episode = Trump tweeting something insane. Repealing good things. Talking without a filter in front of people.
Ongoing arch = Trump dealing with the Russian plot that he got himself into because of corruption.
This is where the 1st amendment comes in. It’s important for satirists to take our leader to task. The more controversial things a leader does, the more the people will have a say in what’s going on.
Satire isn’t just something you watch or read for entertainment purposes. You can’t turn on The Daily Show, John Oliver, or Colbert for pure entertainment and no information. It’s meant to teach as well as entertain. It’s meant to make you laugh, then for you to go online and read up about what they’re talking about. I get more information through satire than I do watching the news. It doesn’t matter what medium of 24/7 news I watch, I’ve always learned more through comedy than through other media.
The best satire comes from the most dire of circumstances. The better the satire, the more murky waters or political reality we have to trudge through. The more that those political people try to question or down right tell the satirist to shut up, the more that their voices get stronger from that oppression. If political figures, who spit nonsense are the unstoppable object, then the satirists are the immovable object with our voice backing them.
Satirists fight misinformation. On both sides of the aisle, people will believe what they’re told. Sometimes they do it blindly. So blind to the point that they will repeat talking points they were just given. If you question them with another viewpoint, they will double down on it. It’s confirmation bias. Satirists aim to make it funny, but also try to show the entire argument. It never works to tell someone they’re wrong without hearing their point. It’ll never work. Go up to a 75-year-old conservative and try to change their mind with a completely opposite opinion. It won’t work. They’ll cling to their opinion like holding onto a wooden log in the middle of the ocean. You could be in a boat urging rescue, but they won’t give up the wooden log.
“Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful” – Molly Ivins.
Young people like myself rely on satire to get most of their information. Satire will take the full brunt of it all, bottle it up, then release it to be more digestible. I’ve taken hours worth of information, bottled it, and then given speeches with jokes and images to classrooms. All I got from the reception of the speeches was, “I never knew that” or “I’m going to look that up when I get home.” Satire makes you think, and therefore inspires people to search around to fill their brains with facts.
One of the biggest misconceptions about satire is that it’s solely used for mockery. While it can be used as such, it’s more so used to inform the public. It should inspire friendly debate between people instead of inspire fist fights at a rally.
Satire shows us what is happening in our surroundings. Whether it is political or otherwise, it gives us what we need to understand with a bit of comedy. If something is serious and can change our lives, it’s the satirists duty to try to deconstruct it.
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Jeff Sorensen is an author, writer and occasional comedian living in Detroit, Michigan. You can look for more of his work on The Huffington Post, UPROXX, BGR and by just looking up his name.