News is a joke. I don’t mean that as some type of sad commentary on the state of the “free press”. I literally mean that news has been turned into a joke as anchors and journalists alike are racing to be comedians and in the process turning a once honored profession into a punchline. This would be funny if there were no real life implications behind the decisions journalists have made to be jesters. Watching grown adults say things like “throw shade” while interviewing supposed “terrorist experts” and using memes to reduce human suffering into one-liners is an indication of an industry that has gone to the dogs.
However, perhaps blaming the mainstream media is a bit too convenient. Yellow press dealers are just supplying what the customers demand of them. We as a society are turning ourselves into a parody; social activists taking selfies at marches, protesters sipping Starbucks and anti-globalists using iPads–we are twisting ourselves into one hell of a farce. I’m not judging; I’m using a Toshiba to write this article while listening to Phil Collins on my iPhone as I simultaneously write against the system of materialism that is suffocating humanity. We are entangled in a zeitgeist of outrage and trends; social media has warped our sense of togetherness into a quest to exalt our own egos.
I wonder where all this started; how did we get into this age of injustice being used as a shtick? This thought led me on a journey to a time not too long ago where I used to view the iniquities of the world through the prism of identity and used the pains of others as a political football. This was during the apex of my partisan parrot days; I would rush to watch Rachel Maddow, Chris Mathews and the liberal elites in mainstream media as I took part in news being used as a source of entertainment. Except back then, I did not realize that I was being entertained; I was the culture warrior who was doing my part to take on injustice one Tweet and one Facebook rant at a time.
My SJW highlight would come every weekday from 11:00 PM to 12:00 AM as I would let Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert roast Republicans for their pernicious policies and their malicious intentions. So what if I got the occasional chuckled and guffaw; “satire is the tool of the powerless used to speak against the powerful” I would tell myself echoing Molly Ivins. I could not get enough of the satirical potshots that comedians cum Walter Cronkites were dishing out. I would DVR Bill Maher on Friday nights so I could watch him lambaste conservatives the following day while eating my lox and bagels in the comforts of my luxury apartment. The adversity and anguish of people from Flint Michigan to the West Bank turned into a laugh track and I saw nothing wrong of it.
All changed when my luxury apartment became a thing of the past and I myself got caught up in the same injustices I used to rant against from a distance. Lattes replaced by Folgers, Starbucks morphed into soup kitchens–all the sudden hardship was no longer a punchline. It’s all fun and games until the game becomes one of grief, fatigue and anguish. The very same people I used to watch on TV being plowed over by this system of capital greed and systematic gluttony became my next door neighbors. My weeknights were no longer blocked off to watch Stewart and Colbert–blocks and sidewalks became my new status. Saturday mornings no longer set aside for lox and bagels over mimosas–indigence had me mourning on Saturdays instead. All the sudden, injustice was no longer something to laugh at.
Look, I’m not trying to be a killjoy here nor is my intention to tell people to stop finding humor. To be honest, laughter is needed most when we are being tested by life’s slings and arrows. It is an imperative to defiantly laugh when we are greeted with hardship for a life without smiles is a life of abject hell. However, it’s one thing to laugh at our own circumstances but quite another thing to make light of the misfortunes of others. Moreover, the free press was always meant to be a last line of defense–the check on power when power begat corruption and spread strife upon the people. But mainstream media has inverted news into a mockery as a collective of news hounds go about selling sensationalism and outrage in a rush to garner headlines instead of speaking truth to power. The fourth estate has become the zero plantation where a bunch of craven fools peddle outrage and memes in order to appease their corporate masters.
When I posted the Molly Ivins quote about satire a few days ago, Craig Lamascus made a most profound retort. He noted that satire actually normalizes human suffering into an accepted fact of life. He is right! People like Bill Maher, Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert give allowance to injustice by turning injustice into a gag and a pun. As long as we chuckle at the misfortunes of others, we are never really able to grasp the profound nature of their struggles. Human ordeals and affliction become abstractions to shake our heads, get a chortle and then move on to the next injustice. We end up going on a hunt for injuries, not so much because we care but because we want something else to be outraged about and the next thing to send a hashtag tweet about.
Besides, where was the outrage of Bill Maher as Obama transferred over $14 trillion dollars by way of Quantitative Easing and bailouts to the same Wall Street gnomes who imploded our economy in 2008? Where was the indignation of Jon Stewart when Obama was destroying two nations as he continued the illegal and immoral interventionist wars of Bush? Where was the courage of Stephen Colbert as 44 greatly expanded the Orwellian policy of allowing NSA, CIA and the alphabet soup of intel agencies to spy on American citizens? Where was the valor of these comedians when Obama declared it constitutional to extra-legally assassinate American citizens without so much as a hearing based on hearsay?
Now all the sudden, because there is money to be made in stoking Trump outrage, they find their courage? How convenient! These people are useful idiots at best; at worse they are being paid handsomely by corporations to continue befuddling us. Bill Maher and his cohorts are no different than the assholes at Fox News; to each side a demagogue is given so that all sides are equally blinded by rage. This is how the status quo wins all the time; as long as we are blinded by our differences and our outrage is diverted at each other instead of uniting to take on the root of injustice, the elites will continue to rule roughshod over all of us. This is how 1% are able to lord over the masses.
There is much money to be made for comedians who decide to don the hat of “truth teller” and turn to the camera in order to fight injustice. Except they are doing no such thing. Bill Maher is a partisan hack and nothing else for he keeps presenting the excesses of the system and the iniquities that hobble the masses through the prism of partisan politics. They all do this, from Colbert to Noah to Oliver, all these comedian who feign to share news are really sharing propaganda and bullshit. They had nothing to say as Obama was bombing the hell out of Syria and Libya and transferring wealth from the 99% to the oligarchs who are bleeding this world. Now all the sudden they find their voice and courage when Trump is perpetuating what Obama started.
These comedian activists are not so much speaking truth to power as they are splintering the people into cauldrons of grievance. This is why the system of injustice loves them–they are doing a great job of dividing the people so that the elites can conquer us. But who has time to ponder these things or actually think about solutions when there is so much reveling to be had as we make fun of covefe! Bill Maher and Donald Trump most likely are texting each other and congratulating each other at this precise moment. This whole covefe kerfuffle is benefiting both of them as they get more ratings and eyeballs while the rest of us get our eyes squirted with injustice. When will people realize that both sides are playing us?
As if on cue, the media jokers and jesters, following the lead of comedians like Maher, are right back at it as they snobbishly lampoon Trump’s idiotic Tweets last night and his mangling of the English language. They are dedicating air time to the way our ogre in chief spelled coverage; in the process they divert our attention from the endless wars that our military-financial complex laden government keeps declaring throughout the world. We chuckle even as we slowly get chocked by economic policies that cater to Wall Street at the cost of the citizenry. At the front of this carnival are the barkers like Maher and his lot who will pile on while they use the very injustice which are kneecapping our nation and the globe into a punchline to giggle at. This is what happens when a society lets comedians be our moral compass. Little do we know it, they are using all of us as punchlines–the aristocratic punditry laugh at us all. #2MaherJustice
“All satire is blind to the forces liberated by decay. Which is why total decay has absorbed the forces of satire.” ~ Theodor Adorno
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This is the complete opposite of satire, this is the type of conversation I want to be a part of instead of turning the pains of people into punchlines. Five minutes into this Ghion Cast video and people will realize that this is not a clip meant to sensationalize but one meant to speak against the very constructs that divide us as a people. Watch and share as you see fit.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.