Why Satire Is the Best Way to Understand This Election
Inundated with news stories? Can’t always tell who’s telling the truth? Let satire help you figure it out.
How? Okay, let’s start with a quick question. Is the statement President Claims Avoiding STD’s Was His Personal Vietnam real or a headline from The Borowitz Report?
Right, it’s real (Donald Trump said it on Howard Stern’s radio show back in the late ‘90s.), but it could easily be from Andy Borowitz’s column in The New Yorker. Hard to tell because the news today often sounds like satire.
Since the news resembles outright satire, satire automatically becomes the best way to understand the news—and by extension, the events it’s trying to present with a straight face.
How Satire Can Help You Understand the News
The president is already pushing things to illogical conclusions. Donald Trump has suggested injecting disinfectant and sunlight to fight the coronavirus, nuking the eye of a hurricane to break it up, putting crocodile-filled moats next to his wall, and said POW’s are not war heroes. Each of these is a punchline, not a solution to any problem. I’ll show you how.
In reality, the president goes on at length by touting the advantages of using disinfectant. Disinfect this, disinfect that, he says. That satirist then says the president claimed we should even inject disinfectant and despite a 100% mortality rate, has refused to back down by claiming that by killing patient we’ve killed the virus. That’s satire. Dark, dark satire.
Instead, we have a president who went straight to mild satire by suggesting the public actually inject it. In understanding satire, you can better see how crazy his solution is because you’ve carried it out to its illogical conclusion (the president refuses to back down despite the mortality rate, combining two of his actual positions). Now, sure, you can come to that conclusion with rational thinking (even if the president didn’t), isn’t seeing just how silly his position is through satire even more shocking because it carries it beyond mortality to his resisting the results. The news won’t speculate on that, but satire will.
Satire calls out bullshit whenever it sees it. The news can’t do that. They’ll present both sides of an argument, and then they both come across as satire. In my book, A Vote for Jesus, the fake show Punch/Counterpunch serves as a prime example. They argue back and forth making ridiculous assertions until Righty drinks a glass of water while Lefty talks. The audience thinks it’s a great trick, but as satire, it doesn’t go far enough. So, what happens next? Righty pushes Lefty aside and pulls out an actual dummy. You might not like those shows where the hosts spit party-line bullet points like Gatling guns, but satire can help you understand just how bad it is—and how it has poisoned our elections.
Satire often sees what the public can’t see, or at least what the public won’t admit it sees. Good satire shines a light on what is right under the public’s nose. You can probably list ten racist things the president has done, or ten bad things he’s said about the military, or ten mistakes he’s made about COVID-19. Satire lumps them all into one scene without you having to memorize a boring list.
Satire attacks both sides but still pulls us together. Maybe you can’t tell from this list, but satire is neither left nor right. (In fact, historically, it was conservative, but has, in recent decades become liberal). In A Modest Proposal, Jonathon Swift attacked the rich for not helping the poor and then attacked the poor for being too lazy to feed themselves. Even in my own book, Jesus is hated by the left and the right (the right hates his policies of looking out for the little guy, the left hates his all-male staff, etc.) because the problem with the system isn’t the politicians, it’s the people who put them in office. It’s our shortcomings that keep us from picking good candidates. Good satire shows us our mistakes—not individually but as a society. By making it everybody’s problem, it pulls us together to find a solution.
Satire is easier to share than a news article. It’s even easier to share than a video of some candidate lying. Sure, in satire, your side takes its lumps, but so will theirs. Reread #4 if you don’t believe me. So, enjoy satire, and share it openly.
Satire explains things in the easiest way possible. Studies have shown that people remember things better when they’re laughing. Remember that funny teacher who taught you so much? Their class wasn’t easier—learning the material was. Satire can break down complicated issues so that they (and all the b.s. therein) is instantly understood.
Jon Stewart said that viewers had to know the news to understand his jokes, but that isn’t true of the nightly op-ed programs. They’ll make up the news for you—and what they make up may not be based on the truth no matter how straight-faced they deliver a QAnon conspiracy. Remember that saying “It’s funny because it’s true”? Well, satire is funny because it’s truth exaggerated to its breaking point, but it’s the truth nonetheless. These days, when the news resembles satire, turn to satire to understand the news. Satire opens your eyes to a deeper truth, making it a much better way to understand the madness that is this year’s election.