IntroductionSatire, the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to exposeand criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context ofcontemporary politics and other topical issues.
Here is an attempt at defining its features:- Thediminution of someone, of something, of an event, to increase his ridicule;- orthe exaggeration of someone, something, an event, to increase his ridicule. Inpress drawing, it is the process of caricature;- orthe juxtaposition of people, things, events, of unequal importance, whichdiscredits the whole because of a flagrant imbalance;- orthe parody that aims to imitate, by more or less subtle mockery, the techniquesor the style of a person, a thing, a place, in order to ridicule himah1 For a long time attributed to the Greeks – . As Greek writers referredto earlier forms of satire themselves.
itis now believed that satirical aspects to writings can be found since the firstinstances of organised governments.. As Greek writers referred to earlier forms of satire themselves.The paternity of satire is credited to the Greek poet Archiloque ofParos. The son of a freed slave and a very poor man, who was very proud of hisorigins. It is said that this pride was the cause of his first poem. Indeed, hewas promised a girl named Neoboule, whose father canceledcancelledthe wedding a few days before its happening, having found a better party forhis daughter. Archiloque was so outraged that he wrote the first satire in anew poetic meter: the iamb.
It is said that Neoboule’s father and his daughterhanged themselves after hearing this very virulent poem. Legend has it that thepeople targeted by Archiloque contracted skin diseasesah2 .Aristophanesah3 , a poet of the Greek Classical era , however, is thefather of satire the way Socrates is of philosophy, as the quality of his works,such as “The Knights”, still resonate in our century asworks of genius.”Politics, these days, is no occupationfor an educated man, a man of character.Ignorance and total lousiness are better.” ? Aristophanes, The KnightsI speak of Latin satire as the Satirical genre was defined in theirculture with works of Horace and Juvenal that set its image and features for adurable time.In medieval times satire was a window to society where comedic shows wentfrom town to town showing a ridiculous and invented peopleah4 .
As well as small fables called “Fablio” that often-portrayedwomean, theirlovers and their jealous husbandsah5 .The Renaissance and Classical period saw the revival of political Satire.,Shakespeare and Moliere famously included features of satire in their comedies,”All the ills of mankind, all the tragic misfortunes that fill the historybooks, all the political blunders, all the failures of the great leaders havearisen merely from a lack of skill at dancing” (,Moliere). The writer Boileau ah6 wrote what can be described as satirical works,inspired by the Latins; those were attacks on contemporary writers that heridiculed.The 19th century saw the rise of cartoon politicalsatire cartoons. As Tthefirst installations of free speech in western constitutions (France, USA,Netherlands) made explicit obvious criticismpossible even if it was stilloften censored. The abundance and low cost of print permitted the quickreproduction of drawings, and in a still largely analphabetic society,political cartoons became accessible and reached all layers of society.Those cartoons then became the first source of political commentary ofthe masses.
, Iitis believed that, already at the end of the18th century the American revolution,would not have seen the day or at least be as successful were not for theomnipresent cartoons ridiculing the British overlordsah7 .With the arrival of radio, cinema and television satirefound new avenues to explore and so it did.,Ttheworks of Charlie Chaplin are probably the greatest achievement of the genre.,Oon tvTV the creation of what is consideredthe first English satirical news program —”Thatwas the week that was” in the 1960’s — startedan international demand for such shows. Stand up, as well, and probably evenmore radically so, created a space for socio-political satireism.History shows us that satire has been present and influential throughoutthe existence of organised power structures, I would like now to focus on itscontemporary components.1.
Contemporary Satire: The TrumpEraSince the election of Trump, “the valve opened”. Laughter has become”the antidote to anxiety,” the New York Times summarized. The”stand up” comedians who animate the “Late night shows”, aninstitution of American television, are letting off steam. And with them acountry wondering how long the tragicomedy will last – and how, especially, itwill end.The comedians have suspended all restraint. During the campaign, DonaldTrump was the target of an average of 40 weekly jokes, according to a study bythe Centre for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, Virginia,on the four major satirical evening shows. Between January and April, more thana hundred per week were directed at him.
The comedians are served by the news. As Trevor Noah, who works onComedy Central, said, “Every morning we say, ‘I cannot believe what Trumpsaid yesterday!’ And at night we remember even more clearly: “What was hesaying yesterday already? “It often is enough to quote. In his last interview, for example, in theplane bringing him back from Paris, the President explained that he was now infavour of a “transparent” wall on the Mexican border, in case thetraffickers would throw drug bags over the fence, which would fall in someone’shands. “He thinks in comics,” admired Seth Meyers, on NBC.It’s no longer parody, it’s comic fighting, a rawness rarely seenbefore, since maybe the Latin authors. On CBS, Stephen Colbert showed hismiddle finger directly (although through television so not so directly,something that I will address later in this paper) to the Ppresident.
Another obscenity earned him a complaint with the Federal CommunicationCommission (FCC), but the Telecommunications authority did not impose apenalty. The next day, the show had an additional 18% audience, reaching 3.06million viewers. After the revelations about Donald Jr.’s Russian contacts, Mr.Colbert apologized to his brother Eric Trump: “We thought you were thefool” (of the family).Trevor Noah, who took over the Jon Stewart Daily Show, the precursor of Americantelevision satire, has done the unthinkable. In mid-June, he organized a realexhibition in New York of the presidential tweets, set in museum settings.
“We are living a special moment in history,” he said. “Perhapsthe last moments in history”. Thanks to Twitter we have unprecedented access tothe complicated inner life of an American Ppresident,whether we want it or not. New Yorkers queued for hours to visit.Saturday Night Live (NBC) is back in the spotlight thanks to AlecBaldwin, theah8 most trump-like wig wearing comedian, and MelissaMcCarthy, whose caricature of Sean Spicer, the White House spokeswoman still onguard, is a source of irritation to the Ppresident.
Saturday’s show (eleven million viewers) recorded its best season intwenty-three years.From his studio in Los Angeles, Bill Maher (HBO), a virtuoso of the mixbetween opinion and satire, has also registered a rise in audience, 68%compared to 2016. His monologues are centred on Trump – “Agent Orange, asthe Russians call it “. Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, is at 36 years old,the second most powerful man in America -” just behind Putin “. Butalso directed towards the Democrats, especially their claim to want to”rise” when the opponent is wallowing in the gutter. “You haveto hit even lower,” he says. Trump proved it: we have passed the pointwhere voters are concerned about big issues.
What they want is to be directed.So just show that you have balls! “Libertarian’s left wing, Bill Maher finished the season, exhausted.”It’s fun to see the wheels come off one by one from the Trump car,”he said. Until we remember we’re sitting in the back. “For the academic Sophia McClennen, professor at Pennsylvania StateUniversity, comedians have found a more effective angle than the press to coverthe Trump presidency. The media, she told Vox, “seem to think they have to take thenonsense seriously if they want to be taken seriously.
” Now, the searchfor truth is sometimes best served by satire: “When the untruths are soabsurd that we cannot help but laugh. ” 2. Argument for thegrowing importance and success of political satire in our day and age.According to a 2002 Pew Research Center study, the american audiencesfor most forms of television news fellah9 considerably between 1993 and 2002, with the audiencefor nightly network news down 46%, network news magazines down 54%, local newsdown 26%, and CNN down 28%. The reasons for this decline are many.
,Tthemore agreed upon researches point to a shift in technology as well as a shiftin mentalities. The arrival of internet with social media, as an example,brought most of the youth to secondary news outlets.However, in my opinion, the most interesting argument is the following “Themetaphoric wall between the editorial and business sides of news has dissolved(Underwood, 1993), as have any clear distinctions between the public andprivate spheres, public affairs and popular culture, and information andentertainment.” This grave quote indicates a dissolvement of the trust betweenwatchers/readers and news outlets and so logically a diminution of thepreviously mentioned individuals reading or watching. The second important argument is the overall dissolve of trust betweenthe average individual and institutions, whethergovernmental and private.
, Ppollsare clear: western democracies are disabused,the trust level has never been so low since the end WW2. Conspiracy theoriesare present in all layers of society and in every groups. “9/11was an inside job”, the “fakemoon landing” and more are not simply a product ofone’s wandering imagination they are, at least partially, believed by millionsof individuals.This is where satire becomes an answerah10 .
3. The trustworthy comic.John Stewart arrived number one on an online pole done by the Timesasking who was the most trusted news man in America, clearly showing adistinction with a purely comic activity. Another pole, not only online thistime (where the sample is younger and the reactions more skewed) shows Stewartas being the 4th most trusted news anchor in America. Every Daily Show episode was seen by about 2million people in 2004. The Gguardianreported that the Colbert report brought 10% of the news to adult Americans, onpar with the Wwall SstreetJjournaland USA today. John Oliver’s show is seen every week by 4 million people, addto that millions of online views.
The public, especially young adults, watching those shows are not simplylaughing, they are informing themselves whichin turn begs the questions:- Towhat extent do the humoristic arguments put forward by comedians influence thepolitical landscape?- Canjournalists pretend to be comedians et andcomedians pretend to be journalists?- Andif yes we agree on that, shouldthe leniency given to the realm of humour be given to what seems to be in fact journalisticprograms dealing with polarised issues?Before giving a possible answer to those questions, I would like to givea brief overview of who exactly this public is. The National Annenberg ElectionSurvey took it upon themselves to answer this question, and analysed the DailyShow’s demographics (this research can give a good estimate of other satiricalnews networks as both John Oliver and Mr. Colbert started their televisioncareers and learned their trade on the Daily Show) and some observations wereto be expected, that is, 40% percent of the viewers are between 18 and 29, moresurprisingly, 27% were above the age of 44. The data also suggests a liberalmajority, as well as a higher than average level of education, attention tonews and political knowledge. In our post-trump world, ithas, however, been reported that the reach of Colbert’s late night show hadsuccessfully reached traditionally conservative republican regions, what iscommonly called the “deep Ssouth”.
It is important to understand those demographics as, today, theboundaries between age and politicalah11 leaning on satirical shows, are blurred, more so than on traditional newsnetworks. And so, the reach of political satire is wider. 4. Theeffect of satire on political action and participationa.
AngerI would like to go about in what could be called an inversed manner, notstarting with the possible reaction of an individual agreeing with the contentof a jocke butwith a person against itah12 .The study realised by Hsuan-Ting Chen and Chen Gan at the ChineseUniversity of Hong Kong studied the sentiment of anger originating from satire,as anger is one of the main actor that leads to political action. The studyshowed that there is no clear relationship between political involvement andsatire when the satirical content is addressing issues of no prior interest tothe individual. It showed, as well, a correlation between anger and counter attitdudinal(against ones held belief) satire.
The issue here is that anger can lead tonegative political action, riots, violence etc. Examples are many and recent,the Charlie Hebdo attack is one of its most tragic componentconsequences.An interesting point being made is that the showing of satirical contentagainst one’s ideology is more likely to cause anger than if the satire ismatching one’s ideology even if the subject is outrageous.I would like to add to this study (and it says so as well in theirreport) that the research was done in Hong Kong and related to questions ofindependence from or alignment with Beijing’s government. Those questions are,indeed, more likely to create a sentiment of anger, in terms of intensity andparticipation than most discussions in our western societies. b.
EngagementResearch shows that satire is a source of political interpersonalconversation. However,thatis one of the rare case where researchers agree, the scientificdebate, today, centres around two important opposite concepts. Tthefirst being that satire is a positive motivation to engage in politicalparticipation; the second is that satire creates asentiment of scepticism towards the political world and the efficiency of one’sparticipation. It appears that, while the latter is not untrue, the positive(augments political participation) outweighs the negative on this instance.c. ResponsibilityNow that we have a clearer idea of the effects of political satire, onemust wonder: if satire has the power to work as a news network, if not moreso than a real news network in convincingpopulations of political action, s.
Should they be checked, alike news networks, and if yes what wouldthe results be?As I do not have the means to consider every satirical production,I will focus on the ones reaching the most individuals. Those are Americansatirical television shows.Research found, after examining the news stories and interviews in 52episodes of The Daily Show from early 2005, that The Daily Show might have thepotential to educate viewers about political issues and world events. Thisstudy found that of the 222 news stories in the examined episodes, more thanhalf addressed political topics.
The pew research centre found that the Daily Show and Colbert Reportscore higher for accuracy than CNN or Fox news, although Fox news, in the samestudy of accuracy, disinforms more than it informs. It can then be said thanSatirical shows informs more than the most watched news network in Americantelevision. Some have theorised that the satirical shows were partly to blamefor the lost of confidence in news networks. Which is an interesting argument ifit was nothowever it is not invalid:, as one cannot accuse the person thatfinds the lies or mistakes to be the cause of one’s failure.,Tthelies and mistakes are the cause of that failure.
John Stewart, as have many other comedians, famously stated that all hewas trying to do was make people laugh. ,A statement that can be reproached as non-ethical, while it mightbe true to his vision, it is not true of the content of the show or of theinfluence that it holds of its viewers. ah13 JohnOliver, the most successful satirist working today, has faced the truth andagreed to a role of influencer. ConclusionSatire has existed for more than 2 thousand years and it is here tostay. With its amount of controversy, outrageousness and counter-productivenessIt is the ultimate, sometimes tasteful expression of freedom of speech and acrucial actor in all nations where humans don’t like towantto reflect on take powerand establish a distancewith political activity to seriously.The effects are on the one hand, that hHumourbrings about a certain quality of information, as well as being a source ofpolitical discussion and reaction. It runs the risk, on the other hand, ofangering the extremist and the religious orthodoxy less prone to enjoyinghumour directed at them.
It is partof the public life. It gives a certain leeway of expression butmost importantly, when it is good satire, it strips down the corrupt andenlightens the curious.