Monday, June 20, 2011

Fool Me Once

It’s an axiom as old as tale-telling: the truth is best told in humor. The Greeks knew it in their classic theatre; you could get to the real issues and get your point across if you made ’em laugh in The Frogs just as powerfully as you could in Oedipus Rex. Shakespeare knew it, too, most prominently with his Fool in King Lear, who was the only one who could speak candidly to the king and tell him exactly where he was wrong without facing retribution, and the audience became that much wiser.

We see this being proved today in our political discourse when comedians like Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are the most aggressive interviewers on television, and when they go on other networks, they keep it up. A great example of that was yesterday when Jon Stewart went on Fox News Sunday and told Chris Wallace that Fox viewers are the “most consistently misinformed media viewers.”

Mr. Wallace, who apparently has little appreciation for irony, went immediately for the false equivalency meme by saying that Mr. Stewart’s network isn’t exactly a shining example of journalistic standards. True, but then again, the network Mr. Stewart works for is Comedy Central. They don’t sell themselves as a news outlet. (Hint: they give that away by calling themselves “Comedy Central.”)

BooMan ponders the question as to whether or not Fox viewers are misinformed because they watch Fox News, or whether they’re misinformed first and then come to Fox for reinforcement and reassurance that their beliefs are real. Either way, Fox News knows how to get ratings, and they know that there’s a market out there for outrage and sensationalism, just as there’s one for penis and fart jokes.

Footnote: Go here for the entire interview.