Non Satirical Essay

In January 2012, Stephen Colbert launched the Colbert Super PAC on his late night talk show, “The Colbert Report,” lambasting the rules governing formation of and coordination in political action committees. Surprisingly, Colbert succeeded where many authentic news sources have not in explaining the inconsistencies in and implications of laws governing PACs clearly. The episode garnered 1.3 million viewers, not including online audiences.

Political satire outlets have risen in popularity considerably in recent years. In fact, Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” were the two most-watched late night talk shows among 18- to 49-year-olds in the first quarter of 2013. “The Onion”, a well-known satirical newspaper and website with a political section, started with modest beginnings and now boasts 7.5 million viewers monthly.

This meteoric rise has led scholars and laymen alike to question the impact humorous news outlets have on politics. One thing is clear: Satire has made politics more accessible, leading to more informed viewers who have the potential to form more educated opinions and discuss those views with others.

This advantage of satirical news is particularly important today, when many serious news sources find themselves restricted by pressures to fill time and produce profit. Due to these pressures, many news outlets portray politics dramatically, and often will pay brief mention to less exciting but important political news. These selection criteria and overwrought portrayals mislead those who fail to realize what outlets have omitted and increase distrust in those who realize that events are only reported for their value as a “story.”

In contrast, political satire chooses reports based on comedic value, which—instead of deviating from essential information—often accentuates the news and underscores important issues in politics. Colbert’s super PAC is a prime example. Although the comedian seemed to be exaggerating, current PAC regulation allowed Colbert to do nearly anything he wanted with his committee, and he took full advantage to accessibly and humorously underscore his unrestricted freedom without deviating from facts.

Despite these advantages, some have argued that political satire encourages cynicism, trivializes politics, and promotes a narrow point of view (stemming from the predominantly liberal leanings of most political satirists and comedians). It is true that, when taken in isolation, political satire poses many drawbacks, and that the constant critique of political figures and media outlets can lead to skepticism.

However, viewers of satire are more likely to watch and read traditional news sources as well, according to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review. In fact, satirists often refer to other news sources to provide background for their critiques, as Stewart has done numerous times with CNN and Fox News, serving the dual purpose of communicating news and criticizing the current methods of political media. The same article also references research that suggests increased viewership of political humor does not distance the audience from politics but instead “increases knowledge of current events, leads to further information-seeking on related topics, and increases viewer interest in and attention paid to politics and news.” This more informed and interested audience naturally has more opportunities to share educated opinions with others and provoke discussion.

Arguments that satire actually increases narrow-mindedness because it panders to liberals also have their flaws. While there are few Republican and conservative viewers, data show that less than half of the viewers of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are liberals; in fact, 38 percent of viewers of “The Colbert Report,” as well as 41 percent of those watching “The Daily Show,” consider themselves independents. These shows have roughly the same percentage of Democrat viewers as the New York Times and USA Today and a lower percentage than CNN, all of which claim to be non-partisan news sources.

Moreover, humorists connect with their audience more effectively than news anchors do. While politics in news is often portrayed as a field separate from daily life, Stewart and Colbert easily relate their coverage to the average viewer. In contrast to Sunday talk shows such as NBC’s “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week,” which host roundtables of pundits discussing the political issues of the day in non-personal terms, satirists need to be personal for their comedy to be understood and entertaining.

Finally, instead of allowing experts to express their opinions as fact as some journalists do, humorists often challenge the views of experts to the audience’s benefit. For example, in October 2013, Stewart hosted Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, and criticized Obamacare for delaying compliance with the bill for big businesses but not individuals. He critiqued the fact that these businesses can lobby for their interests while individuals cannot. Although some coverage of this issue made news sources, Stewart presented it at length with an authentic source and in a comedic and memorable fashion. He caught viewers’ attention and demonstrated that experts are not always correct.

Taken together with traditional news sources, political humor at least molds a more informed public and at best increases political involvement and excitement. The humor provides the tools; viewers must decide whether to use them.

Anthony Thai ’17 is a Crimson editorial writer in Straus Hall.

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Letters to the Editor

There are many things in this world that I just cannot believe. The very first thing on that list is the number of poor, cynical beings who don't believe in something that is crucial to our survival. Some people actually don't believe in love! What's even worse are the people who don't believe in the idea of teen love, or love at first sight. Love is everywhere! Love is all around us! Every day, girls are finding their prince charming, or knight in shining armor. Everywhere you look, in stories, and in movies, there is love. The facts are right under our noses, and some people just cannot see them. Love, especially teen love, should be considered the most genuine type of love out there.

I mean, think of it – High school is where it counts! You're stuck in the next best thing from jail for six hours a day: what better way to kill time than to scope out the cute boys and girls? Who cares about science class unless we're learning about the chemistry of love? THAT'S what we should be learning: How to get the girl/boy 101, the basics of attraction with Mr. Brown. It's the only crucially important thing in this life.

And in English class – Who cares about all those boys trapped on an island? BORING! We should read love stories: books that show us the value of love and relationships. As Mrs. Stephenie Meyer proves in her wonderful novel, Twilight, a relationship is crucially important for our survival. The protagonist, Bella Swan, was depressed for months after her man left her. This novel obviously teaches us important values. She ignored her friends and family and became a zombie when her boyfriend broke up with her. That's why relationships are important, boys and girls. Oh, and the only work of Shakespeare that we really should study in class is Romeo and Juliet. Greatest love story of all time! Love at first sight, and they died for each other. How romantic! We should also analyze his sonnets (love poems. So cute!) instead of depressing plays like Hamlet, or Macbeth, Or The Merchant of Venice – I mean, who cares about money (unless it's your boyfriend of 2 whole months spending hundreds on you, like every man should)?

Also in class, let's just watch old animated Disney movies, like Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. Take Cinderella, for example: she fell in love with a man after one romantic night of dancing and music, and then was betrothed to him the very next day! Oh, and might I mention that this man just HAPPENED to be Prince Charming himself? High five Cinderelly! This is a PERFECT example of love at first sight! All the more reason to blindly follow your gut and jump into relationships, because you never know who'll turn out to be a handsome prince! Secondly, turn your attention to Miss Aurora from 'Sleeping Beauty'. She didn't even meet her prince before she fell in love with him, at least, not in person. They fell in love 'Once Upon A Dream'! Ah, isn't that just SO romantic? Relationships are just SO easy! Furthermore, Cinderella and Aurora 'just happened' to be teenagers, as with Romeo and Juliet (Coincidence? I think NOT) – Which just goes to show us how teen love is the most genuine, most true, and pure of any kind of love out there. That infatuation, the way two teenagers can be so smitten after only a few hours… Truly magical!

Love songs should be played more on the radio – in fact, why not just dedicate entire radio stations TO love songs? That's all anyone should want to hear anyways. There should be at least four to eight cute-lovey-dovey-sappy love songs every hour on any radio station. The more the merrier, I say. We shouldn't let anyone ever forget about love, not even for a second. Also, no one cares about the commercials on radio stations, or the news (Unless it's about shiny diamond rings, or chocolate, or flowers, of course). Also, those icky break-up songs should be completely banned from the radio stations. I mean, really? Why be so unhappy?

Like the king from Cinderella, who says "Love? Pah! Just a boy meeting a girl under the right conditions."  Inconceivable. How can he not see that that's exactly what love is! With all the facts right under our nose, it's so hard to believe that there are actually people in this world who actually think it doesn't exist, or worse, think that there is something better than love! As the Miracle worker, Miracle Max from the country of Florence says "True love is the greatest thing in the world. Except for a nice MLT- Mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe." Madness! Complete Madness!

I think it would do us all good if we took some advice from some of the great people of our time, like Stephenie Meyer, or Cinderella and Aurora. Teen love is all around us, if only you'd open your eyes and look! Prince charming is right around the corner girls. Teen love is the most genuine form of love out there, hands down. The poor cynical beings that do not believe are only bringing the rest of us down. Love is completely real.

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