Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fake Satire is an even worse threat than Fake News

When you just can't even and it's the current year.

Remember when certain Democrats, including President Barack Obama himself, tested out the idea of “false balance”— "giving equal weight to unsupported or even discredited claims for the sake of appearing impartial"*? That kind of fizzled out. But in its place has surged the idea of “fake news.”

“Fake news” seems to be whatever runs counter to the prevailing narrative being pushed by mainstream—particularly legacy mainstream—media outlets.

President Obama is even concerned about the apparent proliferation of the “fake news” scourge. As he said in a recent interview:

One of the challenges that we've been talking about now is the way social media and the Internet have changed what people receive as news. I was just talking to my political director, David Simas. He was looking at his Facebook page and some links from high school friends of his, some of whom were now passing around crazy stuff about, you know, Obama has banned the Pledge of Allegiance.

That interview appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, which was recently found by a jury to be responsible, along with a “journalist” whose work they published, for

libel, with actual malice, against UVA administrator Nicole Eramo, who oversaw cases of sexual assault at the school when the Rolling Stone article, titled "A Rape on Campus," was published.

The spectacular, destructive failure of that infamous article prompted a lengthy post-mortem which suggests that,

The most consequential decision Rolling Stone made was made at the beginning: to settle on a narrative and go in search of the story that would work just right for that narrative.

That sounds like a decent definition of “fake news” to me.

There’s also this: in “selling” the Iran nuclear deal to the citizens of the United States, Barack Obama employed the services of “aspiring novelist” Ben Rhodes, who helped build “an echo chamber” of “experts” who “were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.” Those “experts” became sources for “clueless” reporters who were then, either inadvertently or intentionally, pushing Obama’s preferred narrative.

Isn’t that “fake news”? Whether it appeared at the Washington Post or True Nooz Storys (I made that up but it sounds like a “fake news” site, doesn’t it?), the fact that it’s fake is now indisputable.

And what about all of the media outlets that uncritically presented Mr. Obama’s assertions that “If you like your plan you can keep it,” and “A family of four is going to save twenty-five hundred dollars a year on their health insurance premiums”? Aren’t those in fact guilty of spreading “fake news”?

Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know for a fact that mainstream legacy media outlets were actively working with the Democrat party in order to push narratives that helped that particular party’s cause. “Fake news” is obviously a very serious problem. It seems that mainstream legacy media outlets are more than happy to push stories that advance their preferred narrative, whether those stories are true or not. We need to be able to trust our “journalists”. Most people don’t.

Even worse, we can’t trust our satirists.

Fake satire is an even bigger problem. Satirists should be unafraid in their exposure of lies and mendacity, in holding a funhouse mirror to the stories that those in power are pushing, reflecting the truth back at us in a (hopefully) amusing way.

Two of the mainstream legacy media’s favorite modern satirists, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, recently appeared at a fundraiser during which they lamented the fact that they were unable to prevent the election of Donald Trump as President. Using their powerful satirical insights, they— well, they insulted Donald Trump and smugly denigrated the concerns of his supporters. Unfortunately for them, “This whole process has not been fun” because “Who can make jokes to a sobbing audience?

LOL it's like how can you even satirize the world today, amirite?

At one time Colbert hosted a show on Comedy Central, in which he played a bombastic right-wing blowhard, intended as a parody of right-wing political talk shows, and a satire of current events. The show secured him a “rabid fan base”, and allowed him to interview powerful political figures like Ambassador Susan Rice:

Rice is known as a dead serious diplomat at the United Nations, but the appearance on Colbert's show offered her an opportunity to show her lighter side. Still, she noted afterward, she heeded the advice of others and was careful not to try to be too funny.

"The hard thing about this is to remember that you are not the funny one and that you have to take the opportunities embedded in his weird questions to get the message out," she said.

Okay, fair enough. So the guest attempts to get their message out, almost in spite of “his weird questions.”

Except, thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that Mr. Colbert was working with the Clinton Global Initiative to spread their narrative:

John, I hope you got a chance to see the The Colbert Report's two special episodes i had them do about CGI U that we taped in St. Louis this weekend. This is the link to last nights with a sketch about commitments and the monologue and WJC interview aired Monday. Hope you enjoy and looking forward to your feedback. Next will be your Colbert appearance! -Craig

Stephen Colbert isn’t a satirist, he’s a propagandist. I wonder if his audience is sobbing about that, now that they know?

Ironically, Colbert the propagandist had some harsh words for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange when he appeared on his show in 2010:

Let’s talk about this footage that has gotten you so much attention recently. This is footage of an Apache helicopter attack in 2007. The army described this as a group that gave resistance at the time, that doesn’t seem to be happening. But there are armed men in the group, they did find a rocket propelled grenade among the group, the Reuters photographers who were regrettably killed, were not identified…You have edited this tape, and you have given it a title called ‘collateral murder.’ That’s not leaking, that’s a pure editorial.

So Colbert the propagandist is Colbert the hypocrite.

Like Colbert, John Oliver also started off on the mugging, f-bombing Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Now he has a show on HBO during which he— well, he spreads Democrat propaganda. For instance, here he is explaining why Trump’s scandals far outweigh Clinton’s.

In doing so, he relies on information provided by the Democrat-controlled Executive Branch of the U.S. government. For instance, the idea that the FBI concluded that while Clinton was “careless” in handling classified information on her private email server, she didn’t break any laws when she did so. This was disproven time and again—and it even prompted the head of the FBI, James Comey, to assert that in fact he’d made a special exemption for Clinton when making that finding:

To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.

That scary bit of information—that one of the two major political party nominees for President—has essentially been determined to be above the law, should be ripe for satire. Instead, the narrative is advanced. And, oh, by the way, Trump won’t release his taxes!

But even after Comey’s statement, we learned that one of the reasons for not charging Clinton— that she didn’t intend to break the law (and good luck using that defense for anything, under any circumstances, if your name’s not Clinton yourself)—fell apart as more emails were released. For instance, we now know for a fact that Clinton instructed a subordinate to strip the classified heading out of an email so that it could be sent via insecure channels. She also had her housekeeper (!) printing classified material for her.

One would think that these facts would be ripe for satire. But, no, Trump University. Trump steaks. Oh— and DRUMPF!

Back to that discussion between Colbert and Oliver. Colbert reveals some depressingly telling information about his election special:

What made the telecast even more challenging was the fact that Colbert and his writing staff had to jettison much of their preplanned material when it became clear which way the electoral winds were blowing. “We had guests and pretaped pieces for one of three eventualities: Hillary Clinton wins and we know; Hillary Clinton wins and we don’t know, because it’s not called until the show’s over; or Donald Trump wins and we don’t know, because he has such a narrow path to victory.”

Satirists who are so completely and devastatingly out of touch with reality cannot effectively satirize reality. All they can do is "punchdown against anyone of a perceived lower social status than their audience who dares have opinions outside their pat-themselves-on-the-back herd." Which is what they do, creating propaganda designed to advance a certain narrative and congratulate a very provincial, small-minded audience that thinks it's actually highly sophisticated and broad-minded, if they do say so themselves.

Especially without a functioning mainstream legacy media, satire is crucial to our survival. If these two are among the best (and they are— have you seen Samantha Bee and Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah?) then we’re in deep, deep trouble.

*More cynical definition: That non-Democrat ideas were so far removed from reality, or at least from the mainstream, that their counterpoints shouldn’t even be presented, because that would give the impression that they were equal in value and weight to the Democrat ideas.

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