If politicians criticize and categorize political satire as ‘fake news’, satirical journalism cannot halt attacks on freedom of expression and democracy.
Image Credit: Swadeology
Why is it happening?
Strong democracy requires robust discourse and debate. However, debate need not be serious at every turn. In fact, democratic progress relies upon a daily influx of satire and free speech to question and challenge those in power. Nonetheless, under President Trump, the term ‘fake news’ has been embedded in worldwide vernacular. Mr Trump repeatedly denounced U.S. mainstream media services, including established networks like CNN, and lashed out at satirical shows such as Saturday Night Live for portraying him negatively.
The vilification of satirical news media influences the perception of well-recognized media platforms. Across the political spectrum, 65% of Americans believe the media publishes false news stories. Thus, by promoting a rejective view on satire and mainstream media, Mr Trump’s ‘fake news’ phenomenon increases suspicion and social unrest.
As ‘post-truth’ was the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2016, the increasing importance of accuracy and reliability of information sources requires politically challenging comedy, cartoons, and television — the very mediums the fake news debacle seeks to devalue.
Why does it matter?
Satire is accessible, informative, and serves the majority of millennials as a primary news source, whether in the form of memes, video commentaries or online articles. If this source is renounced as fake and unreliable, it may leave a generation disillusioned and apathetic towards knowledge of world news.
For example, ‘The Colbert Report’ is an established news source, especially for the 18–29 age category. It utilizes satire to provide a witty and digestible source of local and international current affairs. Humor is a factor that can shape millennial votes. If millennials do not continue to, or are prevented from engaging with satire and comedy, it will likely signal that this generation are distancing themselves from politics.
Satire matters because it subverts and questions people in authority. Comedy and satire provide a social check on the government. It encourages observers to challenge and question policy. Conflating the proclaimed post-truth era with mainstream news outlets and satire runs the risk of depriving journalism of perspective.
What can you do about it?
It is imperative to understand the difference between fake news and satire. Millennials can read a range of sources, like The Onion, that presents accessible information in a satirical and accurate way. Watching shows such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Mock the Week, or Maz Jobrani’s comedy sketches is a simple way to develop judgement through humor when reading global news articles and opinion pieces.
Millennials are encouraged to support the industry of political satirical comedy. Not only will this help promote an undervalued voice in politics, but it will provide respite from the realities of the current global political situation. Millennials can show their appreciation of comedians and satirists by supporting the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Stand by those providing the world with access to political debate.
If millennials can learn to question legitimacy and truth in the content they read by challenging biases, evidence, and opinions, the next generation of writers, satirists, and politicians will develop a mechanism to see through empty political rhetoric and the infamous fake news.
Anoushka Raval briefs from Birmingham, UK.
She is a candidate for a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations at the University of Birmingham, UK.