The Role and Power of Satire

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of John Oliver viewers and Vox Americans, you’d be left with a perfect circle.

– Jacob Sugarman, They’re not eviscerating Trump: John Oliver and Stephen Colbert will never save us from fascism

This was tough to read, but I think Sugarman makes a good point: Our “Comedian X DESTROYED person Y,” reactions amount to so many impotent rush hour amens as we read another bumper sticker confirming our own views. Political criticism has become so pre-qualified in terms of its viewership that few people who don’t already subscribe to a commentator’s view will give it any credence.

I don’t think Sugarman is saying satire isn’t valuable. For example, Jon Stewart’s recent parade of late night cameos shed light on the Zadroga Act being used as a political toy, when it wasn’t being neglected altogether, which shortly resulted in it’s getting passed by Congress, securing health care provisions for 9/11 first responders. The issue here is the hyperbolic, clickbait-y, internet responses to each new comedic segment, especially as it relates to Trump’s campaign, which, though it has made comedians a lot of money, seems pretty well satire proof in terms of persuading anyone (Ironically, even Sugarman’s own headline participates in exaggeration with the phrase, “save us from fascism.” That word is getting tossed around increasingly in relation to Trump’s campaign, but cooler heads who actually lived through fascism would have us tap the breaks there as well.).

Comedians have a canny skill for spotting inconsistencies and following them to their most absurd conclusions, sometimes bringing legitimate clarity to society’s issues. For our part, though, we could be a bit more responsible about how we elevate their role, and inflate their victories.