Offense, distrust, anger and hatred. These are terms that can be used to sum up many conversations that happen on social media today.
You will find people who you agree with wholeheartedly but equally so you will find people who say something you find offensive or disagree with completely. How we react to these people is very important. How we engage with these people will determine whether the conversation becomes just that or whether it turns into a war of words.
The question I have been asking lately has been one of the place satire has in reacting to views that are wrong and need to be shown to have no place in our world.
Is satire the best approach to make fun of politicians or does it only succeed at angering the people it pokes fun at, therefore rendering any potential useful discussion obsolete?
Well I think it is the best approach.
I think the power of satire to ridicule those opinions which are prejudiced and wrong is critical. I think it is where people holding these views can be held accountable when others won’t.
Coming from Northern Ireland I have seen how satirists like L.A.D. and Pure Derry and before them, the excellent PortadownNews have paved the way for the sometimes (OK pretty much all the time) absurdness of our political process to be shown for all it stupidity.
Shows like The Thick of It and the Daily Show who for me are the best examples of satire in the UK and the US, have shown us all how crucial satire is to political discourse.
But what power does satire really have? Doe it change anything?
Well maybe not, but if satire is to be used to change the opinions of the politicians it makes fun of then it is probably fighting a losing battle. If they were to achieve that then great, but more often than not it doesn’t work and to make that the purpose of satire is to sacrifice the real ability it has.
Which is to highlight absurdness.
The point of satire is to hold those in power accountable when their views become ridiculous. When other powers can’t or won’t. It is to be the voice of the ordinary person who is frustrated or irritated by current political processes. It’s best serving when it doesn’t resort to name calling.
When it does then it loses some of its power.
Satire can be angry. In fact it could be argued; is most useful when it is.
Satire should be intelligent. In fact it needs to be. It’s intelligence could also be its weakness. There is a ‘Jam’ sketch where an unintelligent women wins an argument simply because she is so stupid to realize that she is wrong.
Sometimes when satirists face views or people that don’t see the weakness in said views it can be frustrating because it can feel as if they are hitting their head against a brick wall. This is when satirists needs to be most vigilant and remain focused on their goal. Frustration and then anger can set in; the satirist can say something unhelpful and suddenly they have lost support. With social media allowing the satirists and those they poke fun of to have a greater openness and dialogue, the satirist needs to remain vigilant against getting sucked into a slagging match.
They have become just as bad if not worse (because they should know better) than those whose views they seek to ridicule.
The view of the politician who is wrong becomes all the stronger for it as they can play the victim card.
This is also a reason why intolerant views should not be censored. Only when in the open can they be properly seen and dissected for what they are.
We need good satire. As Steve Coogan pointed out this week on the Daily Show, if you want to win an argument, using humor is a great way of getting people to see your POV.
Politicians with absurd views or with actions that need to be checked will never go away. The satirist who strives to stop them is wasting their time. Their job is to resiliently and ruthlessly continue to bring to light the absurdness. To highlight it through intelligent humour so that the normal person can see how absurd it is.
Satire needs to be intelligent, patient, resilient and impartial. (Although not at the expense of highlighting one side if they are more insane).
We need satire as much as we ever have.
Because we’re all happier when we’re laughing.