In a column published Wednesday on The Huffington Post, author Amber Day argues that more Americans are turning to satire to become politically educated â€” and that its a good thing for the country.
"The pull toward the ironic, I believe, is directly related to the increasingly manufactured quality of contemporary public life, Day writes. As these conditions have escalated, so too has the desire to poke holes in the spectacle, challenge the truth-value of statements made by elites, and shift the way in which issues are framed.
Day posits that the role of satirists in the political discourse is important because it helps amateurs and professionals take the discussion out of the hands of scripted authority figures, creating a new stage for political debate.
Political parody, irony and satire have not only surged in popularity in recent years, but they have become complexly intertwined with serious political dialogue, Day wrote. In questioning the status quo and the standard political messages reverberating through the echo chamber, new and provocative discussions are being heard, which ultimately help foster a more meaningful and honest debate in the country.
According to a 2008 Pew Research Center study, "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart was named as a journalist that most Americans admire. But, Stewart isnt a journalist â€” a fact that he has repeated often â€” hes a comedian.
In 2008, New York Magazine reported that Stewarts show had roughly 1.4 million viewers per night, while another satirical show, "The Colbert Report," had 1.3 million. In 2007, the Pew Research Center stated that 16 percent of Americans regularly watched "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" â€” numbers comparable with viewers of "The OReilly Factor" on Fox News.
Following the release of a 2004 study, CNN reported that viewers of "The Daily Show" came ahead of David Letterman and Jay Leno viewers on a political quiz. According to the study, they also knew more about election issues than people who regularly read newspapers or watch television.
Additionally, in a 2006 study researchers at Indiana University found that "The Daily Show" contained as much substantive news coverage as network news.
It is clearly a humor show, first and foremost, assistant professor of telecommunications at Indiana University Julia R. Fox said in a news release. But there is some substance on there, and in some cases, like John Edwards announcing his candidacy, the news is made on the show. You have real newsmakers coming on, and yes, sometimes the banter and questions get a little silly, but there is also substantive dialogue going on Its a legitimate source of news.
As political satire becomes more prevalent, the line between real news and satire often becomes blurred, making it harder to separate truth from fiction.
On Feb. 1, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was duped by the satirical website ChristWire.org. On the site, a fictional article stated Sarah Palin needed to lead the way in calling for an American-led invasion of Egypt.
As the largest recipient of foreign aid next to Israel, the United States has a tremendous investment in keeping Egypt stable and relatively terrorist-free, the article stated. Upon her direction, other Western nations are sure to join us.
After the information was found to be satire, Maddow acknowledged the mistake on her Twitter account.
According to The New York Times, Maddow isnt alone in falling to ChristWire.orgs satire. The Atlantic Wire has identified instances of organizations like NBC Los Angeles and The Huffington Post also being fooled by the website.
Sarah Palin has often gained unwarranted attention for political satire pieces, including recently when she was falsely quoted as saying she would deport Christina Aguilera for her performance of the national anthem at the Super Bowl.
Unemployment is at 9 percent, yet we have to suffer through a performance by a foreigner with a poor grasp of the English language? Palin was quoted as saying on the satirical site.
Both Us Weekly and Time fell for the satire, with Us Weekly apologizing for the mistake with an Oopsiesour bad. According to Business Insiders The Wire, Time.com claimed their reference to the false quote was intended as satire. Time also clarified the issue on its site.
After the Aguilera story broke, Yahoo News put together a list of additional instances where Palin has been falsely quoted. Her most famous misquote â€” I can see Russia from my house! â€” was actually said by comedian Tina Fey, and was listed as one of the Top 10 quotes of 2008 in the Yale Book of Quotations.
According to the BBC, two Bangladeshi newspapers apologized in 2009 after publishing articles from the satirical publication The Onion claiming that the moon landings were faked. In December of last year, a satirical article claiming that President Barack Obama would agree that he is a Muslim in order to compromise with the GOP also duped two Saudi newspapers.
Despite their ability to fool regular news organization, satirical sites often contain some measure of truth or thought behind the farce.
In 2010, Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" testified before Congress on the issue of immigration. While his testimony was mostly satire and drew the ire of some (including Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz) his prepared remarks actually dealt with the issue of farm workers.
The satirical powerhouse, The Onion, which recently launched two new television series in addition to its printed newspapers and website, takes its work as seriously as any major news organization. A profile of The Onion on This American Life breaks down the process of choosing stories and writing headlines â€” exploring how 600 ideas become 16 satirical pieces featured in the paper.
No matter what role satire plays in politics â€” whether it be creating discussion, educating or even misinforming â€” it is important enough that people fight for the right to laugh.
In 2009, Brazil passed a ban eliminating anything in a broadcast that degraded or ridiculed the candidates, parties or coalitions. However, the Brazilian Association of Radio and TV stations fought the ban, gaining the support of the Supreme Court.
It is precisely during the electoral period that civil society in general and the electorate in particular most need a free press, Ayres Britto, the vice president of Brazils Supreme Court, told a Financial Times blog.
It does not fall to the state or any of its organs to define in advance what can or cannot be said by journalists or individuals, the Supreme Court decision said.