@rsharp brought up an interesting ramification of the revalations about the spread of fake news yesterday. In addition to being a sad reflection on the state of critical thinking and source-checking (or lack thereof) among the SM-fed news consuming public, it’s also thrown up an interesting contrast to a revered political tradition: satire.

As Rich pointed out, the best working definition of the difference between fake and satirical is one of disclosure; satire makes some attempt to disclose that it is, in fact, satire. The Onion, America’s Finest News SourceTM, is a perfect example. People may be fooled for a little moment, which is part of the joke, but basically no one treats it as a journalistic source. The Daily Show is on the other end of that gulf, clearly only delivering funny commentary on actual current events (important or trivial).

So, if that uncanny valley is going to be increasingly bridged, either as part of a disinformation campaign (by whatever actor) or as profit-driven clickbait (the NPR case is something that started as a Leftist attempt at the former and ended up as the latter), does that make satire less effective? Does it accelerate the declining confidence of the wider public in the trustworthiness of journalism as a whole (or is it simply a symptom of this)?

, any thoughts?


Maybe, but one could argue the opposite. I wrote a chapter in a book about The Daily Show and Colbert Report. As the GOP started their strategy of challenging any inconvenient fact, arguably in the mid to late 90s (but certainly after Bush was elected in 2000), these two shows emerged soon after to fill in the void with more hard-hitting news coverage (at least over time). Satire can be an effective way to swim through the mire (or miasma, if you prefer) of half-truths and lies and find a deeper truth in the process. Satire is always a powerful tool against power and might become a necessary one if hinted at authoritarian tendencies continue to proliferate.


@rvanheertum I most sincerely hope you’re right, and given how the Bush II administration elevated the Daily Show from late night comedy to mainstream political entertainment (and news) outlet, there’s plenty of hope.

Who looks most likely to jump on that void? John Oliver?


John Oliver and, of course, Bill Mayer is still around as well. And Rachel Maddow has been taking her tone a little in this direction of late, at least in my mind. The Internet could also give us a bunch of less established, but far reaching, personalities to use the same strategy. We shall have to see.


I heard something kind of interesting about satire recently – it was about how The Colbert Report broke a lot of barriers by appealing to both sides of the aisle. His hyper conservative character spoke to both conservatives and liberals. Basically people hear what they want to hear and believed that Colbert was making a joke, but was also kind of serious to whatever their point of view was.

While entertaining, not super effective for illuminating the masses.


@courtney do you remember where you heard that? I’d be interested in reading the piece.

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