The Left has a post-truth problem too. It’s called comedy.

As I gear up to teach about memes and fake news in a “Media Aesthetics” class, I am keeping track of good background articles so I can bring my students up to speed.

Satire, like fake news, creates a sense of community through rejection. It delights in tearing down institutions but is useless at constructing them. Jonathan Swift said that satire was a mirror in which viewers discovered everybody’s face but their own; its pleasure is the pleasure of othering. The act is inherently tribal as well as political, and social media exacerbates the tribalism. Left-wing friends eagerly post John Oliver’s latest screed with THIS in all caps, hoping for mutual virtue-signaling. Right-wing friends post pizzagate fantasies to prove how deep their anger runs. The content is more or less irrelevant—at least beyond which side is the object of derision. In a recent survey by Pew Research, 14% of respondents admitted that they intentionally shared fake news. The left and the right in America are in a contest of competitive virality: comic bits vs. fake news. Stephen Marche, LA Times

6 thoughts on “The Left has a post-truth problem too. It’s called comedy.

  1. I don’t know that the comedians should be “blamed” for this election though.

    Donald Trump WAS and IS a candidate who fell so far below the bar for normalcy and decency I think it’s reasonable that comedians found him ridiculous; they weren’t wrong.

    I just started listening to a policy podcast called The Weeds by Vox. It’s a pretty fascinating commentary on where we are and how we got here… and the ways that journalism succeeds and fails in this age of post-truth.

    • Comedians are allowed to make jokes; they were doing their job. A lot of journalists weren’t doing their job, some because they were smug, but others because their jobs have simply disappeared, and the public largely can’t recognize the difference between serious reporting, comedy, talk show fluff, routine PR spin, and partisan wishmongering. Mr. Trump would be thrilled if there were even fewer journalists around to keep an eye on his doings, and if the public stayed confused.

    • Eric Glicker Talk radio has mobilized conservatives for some time. And yes, a quick rehash of what’s trending in social media is a great way to fill a chunk of the local TV newshole.

    • Yes. Journalists too were so convinced Trump was a joke and Clinton was the Chosen One that they reported each other’s smugness rather than actually observing and reporting on the mindset in Flyover America.

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