Comedy can be a teachable tool.
Bad and vile comedy can cross a line. Good comedy can teach us about something we haven’t thought of.
There are two news pieces that are good cases about how comedy can teach us in different ways.
The brilliant Daniel P. Finney of the Des Moines Register writes a thought-provoking piece about comedians dipping their feet into politics. You can offer a political opinion, but there are consequences when it crosses the line.
It is a stark reminder to me about the role of journalists. Unfortunately, there are a cadre of journalists who continue to blur the lines between “reporting” and “commentary”.
The takeaway quotes are below from Finney’s column:
“When you stake out the moral high ground and say you are the party of inclusion and diversity and the other party is not, you’d better make damn sure the people who are carrying your message are morally sound,” said Rachel Caufield, an associate professor of political science at Drake University who has taught a course on political satire. “Racial slurs and faked decapitated heads are not the way the left are going to reach the center.”
Whether we like it or not — and for the record, I don’t — comedians are now treated as thought leaders and news sources in this country.
And the fake decapitated heads and racial slurs do more than just besmirch the images of a couple of rogue comedians. They undermine the message of liberals and Democrats.
–Daniel P. Finney, “Comedy is killing the political left”, Des Moines Register, June 7, 2017
The statement underlined is the various reasons I am a small minority of viewers who chose not to watch individuals like Jon Stewart, Colbert, Trevor Noah and others. They are comedians who are treated as “news sources” because viewers do not trust the mainstream media.
Is it wrong to assume that these are the same viewers who feel obligated to “support” the mainstream media that is being “attacked” by the current presidential administration?
Do these viewers support the media and at the same time loathe them enough to get their “news” from Samantha Bee and have her affirm their beliefs?
It is clear that viewers want “affirmation” for their beliefs, not information that they need. That comment comes from (surprise!) noted hot sports take aficionado Colin Cowherd., who has been saying this for a decade.
I need information to learn what is going on. I can form my own opinions privately, without the help of a comedian. Especially unfunny comedians like Maher who has become increasingly bitter and acrimonious because he isn’t the “go-to” guy that Colbert, and Stewart before him, was.
The recent arrest of Reality Winner, or whoever her real name is, for allegedly removing classified information from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet, is starting to pick up some traction. Attorney Mark Zaid, who represents whistleblowers, said that Winner isn’t a whistleblower. She had grudge against the President and decided to use her grudge as retaliation.
I don’t know much about this story, so I’ll refrain from forming an opinion until I understand more about what took place.
Which leads to this question….
“Do government workers believe in the policies that their elected leaders come up with?”
Government employees are hired to carry out government policies. That should be a simple task, but it’s not. With any change in leadership, policies can fluctuate and change quickly. That puts government employees, regardless of in a conundrum.
This question popped into my head while watching one of my favorite television shows, “Yes Minister”. “Yes Minister” (and its successor “Yes Prime Minister”) details the inner workings of the British government and the comedic attempts by Sir Humphrey Appleby and the Civil Service to thwart (Government) Minister Jim Hacker’s pursuit to enact policies for the public good.
In the episode, “The Whisky Priest”, Hacker is alerted about an illegal sale of arms to an Italian terrorist group. He plans to tell the Prime Minister, but Sir Humphrey attempts to discourage and obstruct Hacker from telling the Prime Minister.
In the pivotal scene in between Humphrey, Hacker, and Bernard Woolley, Humphrey’s dialogue about what his job is and what the role of government paints a picture of what government workers go through on a daily basis when elected officials try to create policies that goes one way or another and then expect government employees to believe in it and enforce those policies.
Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.
Hacker: Even if you think it’s wrong?
Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but… frightfully well carried out.
“Yes Minister” unveils several questions about how, and who, actually runs the government.
Do the elected officials run the country or is it the bureaucrats who dictate the daily operations on Capitol Hill, state capitals, and in City Hall? If citizens do not trust politicians, should we trust bureaucrats and government workers, who clearly has more knowledge about what goes on?
When you finish “The Whisky Priest”, I encourage you to watch several more episodes and ask yourself “Do we really know what is going on in our governments, and do we care to know?”