Comedians have learned to cover Donald Trump better than news networks


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/04/comedians-have-learned-to-cove.html


#2

The court jesters could always get away with calling the king on bullshit.


#3

Jake Tapper aside, I don’t think what our news needs is more sarcasm. What we need is less Trump.


#4

( leaps to his feet )

Oh yes! Righteous! Preach it, brother! A billion times this!

Seriously, this is just why so much of the 24-hour news coverage seems broken to me. it is not factually wrong, but it seems to be only talking about itself and its sources. It is not only comedians. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s quote “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it” is a good example of the sort of statement that makes you and I better consumers of statements.

And this is what we must become. it would be good if Goodle and Facebook could filter out all the ‘bad things’. There are lots of idiots out there who can wave their dick in front of a webcam, and without some moderation, they would dominate the web. There are people who shout louder, and need to be turned down a bit. But anything more than basic moderation will edge into control and propaganda.

Can you misuse satire as propaganda? I expect you can, but it is hard. Try doing Neil deGrasse Tyson in a silly voice. Does it hurt him or you? Now try doing Trump. There ya go.

Satire may not be the answer. But it does get you a better class of question.


#5

This is great.
But the loony Right dont/wont watch these shows. Theyll just accuse us of being in an echo chamber, the one they’re not in!.
The irony in the article though is that Fox news has been running on opinion as news now for so long that facts are almost irrelevant. And from the outside it seems like actual comedy to the critical mind.

How has comedy challenged or changed the Trump fan base since the election?
(if it is the only real media challenge to his bull)
How can we cut through his bull all the way to them?


#6

And this is exactly how #45 got elected in the first place. Blue voters watched the satire, and figured he didn’t have a chance.Red voters watched the mainstream outlets, and thought they made him look like a reasonable option.


#7

You’re right about the “loony right” - it’s those in their margins that the message may reach


#8

I’m laughing on the outside and crying on the inside.


#9

I’ve been very taken with the Confucian “Great Learning” since I first heard of it in the same place as everyone else. It’s sage AF; the more I think about it, the more I’m sure that the cultivation of the person is, indeed, the root of everything besides.

But what’s always nagged at me is the concluding line, translated by James Legge as “It never has been the case that what was of great importance has been slightly cared for, and, at the same time, that what was of slight importance has been greatly cared for.” Not “it shouldn’t be the case” but “it never has been the case”. I often think, are we 100% sure about that? It’s come to a head with this Darkest Timeline business, but for a long time politics has been preoccupied with total bullshit, dismissing important stuff with single-sentence platitudes and spending millions of hours on abstract tribal chanting about “public vs private sector” or “Benghazi”.

If you assume that what’s important in politics == what’s actually important, that leads to a direct contradiction of the Da Xue. But perhaps what this points to is that we no longer believe that politics is the Big Serious Focus of Society. If we’re paying ten times more attention to Star Wars and Facebook than to elections, perhaps we should acknowledge that those are the important things right now. Perhaps it’s John Oliver, not Donald Turmp, who will feature in the historical holo-records of the future.

It’s all very strange. At any rate, it looks like we need to take many steps back and figure out “wtf is actually happening” before we can answer “what do we do next”. Clearly, just reading the New York Times isn’t sufficient to get a grip on this reality.


#10

As Maza puts it, “Political satire has something that TV news lacks: A really low tolerance for bullshit.”

Sports reporters are frequently like this as well. They don’t feel have to kiss the arses of multimillionaire players and coaches and obnoxious billionaire owners for access, so they’re more likely to call them on their BS. The sports department is often the last one in corporate-owned newsrooms that still fervently believes in the journalistic mission of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

When a sports reporter moves over from sports to politics he usually brings this attitude with him, as we see with Keith Olbermann and Charlie Pierce.


#11

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

I have noticed that sports reporters are usually the ones who will dig into things more than the other reporters.


#12

I just mentioned this in another thread, but I notice Sean Spicer used the “no evidence” line about Trump’s collusion with Russia. There’s a lot of equivocation going on there (people equate evidence with proof), but basically he’s turning around a favourite phrase used by journalists to talk about the Obama wiretap claims. I saw one person (I wish I could remember who) say that the Obama wiretap claim was absurd but journalists have to take it seriously - like if Trump said aliens had landed on the national mall yesterday and the news was saying, “there’s no evidence of that.”

So much is baked into that phrase. “Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack” except to the extent that we can expect we would have that evidence. The example of the spacecraft on the national mall is chosen to remind us of that - if that had happened we’d surely know. If Trump has been wiretapped by the administration, surely the FBI director, or the CIA director or the head of national security would have some knowledge of that. If Trump colluded with the Russians during the campaign, we might not yet have a smoking gun, but you’d expect that at this point we’d see some ties between his campaign and the Russian government, which we have.

This is a long winded intro to get to the point: Comedians are better at covering Trump because comedy is about novel phrasing. If you call Trump a shitweasel one day and get a laugh, you can’t just keep calling him that day after day and get the same laugh. One of the biggest jokes everyone is doing is coming up with new nicknames for people every single time they bring them up.

Serious news uses the same phrase over and over and over, and Trump and his surrogates simply adopt the phrase. This has always happened, but on a much slower scale. Trump stole “fake news” from the real news in just weeks.

Serious news can mirror the success of comedy in this regard without trying to be comedy. All they have to do is use plain language. Don’t adopt catch phrases or jargon, simply say what you mean. What’s stymieing them is that they don’t feel like they can say what they mean, because they feel it would be an insult to the office of the president to tell the truth about the person who is president.

The big difference is that using a silly voice for someone only hurts that person if they are self-important. If you are famous enough for people to make fun of you using a silly voice the response we are all looking for is that you laugh along with them (or politely smile if they actually aren’t funny). If you can’t do that, it reveals you to be humourless, and that’s one of the worst qualities you can possibly have if you want to be popular.


#13

I had people mock my accent when I was at school. That hurt, and I don’t think I was self-important. But that is perhaps not the point.

Suppose the aim is not to hurt the person but the message? You can take out the huckster’s delivery, and replace it with something chosen by you. Indeed, you may not know the delivery, and just have the written text. If you can pervert the message by changing the delivery, then the message was weak: if you cannot then the message was strong. I have wondered in other posts what government might be like if everything was done by e-mail rather than face-to-face - you can have text and diagrams and arguments, but no hectoring, no weeping for the cameras.

Maybe, even a little automated moderation, to take out shouting capitals, quotes, and grandiose rhetoric. Allow diagrams and graphs but not pictures.

I might be a politician in a world like that.


#14

In addition to the equivocation that you point out, there’s the additional fact that Spicer’s words can be rephrased as “there’s no evidence that is available to the public”, while similar statements about the “tapp” of Trump’s phones cannot be so rephrased.


#15

Doesn’t that give you hiccups?


#16

Personal mocking to your face is certainly a different category than mocking of a politician. I’d also say that mockery that is intended to remind someone that they are not accepted (targeting ethnicity, race, religion, gender expression, etc. - accents can be an example of this) is a different kind of mockery.

But I think the difference of being in school matters too. Lashing out in anger when someone calls you a name is something that I would expect from small children and that is regrettably expected from young adults, but I hope that most people grow out of it eventually.

I actually think they are kind of playing on that difference. They are trying to suggest that there may be evidence of the tapp that isn’t available to the public. They are trying to say, “who knows?!?”. Trump and Spicer (and many others) are perfectly willing to make opposing arguments simultaneously: 1) if we apply the “no evidence” standard to the tapp then we should also say there’s no evidence of Russian connection; 2) if we admit there may be as-of-yet unknown evidence of the Russian connection then there might be as-of-yet unknown evidence of the tapp.

If I were back in philosophy class I’d get a rhetorical beatdown for constructing such an argument, I’m either admitting the Russian connection to defend the tapp or admitting there was no tapp to defend the Russian connection allegations. - so which is it?

But we’re not dealing in the world of logically consistent arguments here. The point is the muddy to whole idea of what evidence is. I think it’s somewhat successful because you keep hearing people in the media saying “no evidence of” without actually have a clear idea of what they mean and all the hidden assumptions they are building in (what counts as evidence? are we only talking about public evidence? etc.)


#17

Yep.

This is the nice thing about the British reply to the allegations that the Home Office was spying on him for Obama. The usual “We cannot confirm or deny any allegations that may or may not relate to operational intelligence” would have fuelled the paranoia engine. What it needed, and what it got was “No. Really, no. Grow up, you guys”.

Hey, once in every fifty years my country does something half-way right. And then Brexit. Sheesh.


#18

And sports reporters have no problem calling bullshit on refferees’ calls


#19

Not always, I’m sure they were summarily executed from time to time, like Devin Nunes in 3… 2…


#20

They do, and it’s like fingernails on a blackboard to me. I think I may be autistically sensitive to it.

Anyway, I think this is a good point. Rhetoric succeeds when you nod along without thinking, but comedy succeeds when you think something surprising.

As to whether it can reach Turmp supporters, I think it can, if they’re watching in the first place. If you think someone will make you laugh, you’ll follow along even if you disagree with the premise – no one thinks a horse actually walked into a bar – and if the laugh pays out, you won’t bother to go back and feel mad at the political argument you just listened to.