What’s happened to America? That is the question that hangs at the back of most people’s minds these days. Yet if one looks deep enough he realises that nothing has changed since the days of old, that nothing new has happened to America. The nation that believes itself to be the primary defender of democracy is the same as it ever was. So what what gave rise to this perception of change? Is it the people? As can be seen in the previous article, Americans world-wide celebrate the fact that the under-achieving political establishment is publicly mocked on tv, an unprecedented act in its own right. Or is it? In other countries political comedy is an integral part of the culture and has been so for decades. The main cause lies in politics being as controversial as they naturally are; and the more controversial something is, the bigger potential for humour it carries. The important thing to notice though, what most people forget, is that political comedy does not presuppose free media.
It would be nice to give us a definition of free media at this point. Free media are not media that tell the truth (as most people believe), they are the media that are free to tell whatever they wish to tell – be it true, false or completely nuts. And in that the American media are less constricted than one would believe. The reason why there is so much violence on American news, the reason why the war in Iraq was portrayed with a patriotic spin, is nice and simple. The American public wants to feel great, it wants to feel good, it wants to feel in the right. Who would like to listen to the fact that thousands of people died because of a cock-up which one himself involuntarily caused by voting for the wrong guy, having the choice of the wrong guy or another wrong guy in the first place. To quote Stephen Colbert, the American public does not want to hear the truth. He said it as a joke, yet it is reality. This evidently causes a problem in a population that’s highly politically active.
So having distinguished that free media do not create truth by definition, I believe it’s time to go a bit farther in the line of thought. Political Comedy, of which Daily Show is a prime example, is not a challenge to the establishment, it is not a white knight who wishes to topple the government and change the rules of the game. It is quite the opposite – it is a tool that uses the current rules of the game to its own advantage. Criticism does not have to be right, it is simply a never-ending, one-sided attack against an enemy that can not defend itself. It would be a good idea to look a bit deeper into the motivations of political comedy in America. Why does the Daily Show attack president Bush and his government? Well, it’s simple, Bush has simply run out of favour, he is not wanted anymore. And the American political scene understands that very well, they are already preparing the stage for another political campaign, one that will exchange a foolish president for a less foolish one. Will that be enough to change the politics of America? I seriously doubt it since that was never the goal of the ones who dictate the rules. The establishment does not want to change the politics of America – they want to change a president who has lost his usefulness. They are prepared to use any means necessary, political comedy is undoubtedly one of them. That does not mean that the people involved in it are not trying to cause change, but it does mean that their efforts are utterly pointless in the long-term. Free media are a potential force of change, political comedy is simply comedy.
It’s also important to understand that when someone voices your own opinions, he might be doing so with ulterior motives. What you want to hear always sounds sweet, and as such is much more dangerous than that which sounds wrong. Many Americans are hearing what they want to hear for the first time in many years, which makes it hard for them to distinguish the truth from the propaganda. The motives of political comedy in this case are more important than the message it portrays.
So what is wrong with America? Why is everything propaganda – why are there only ever two sides (if even that)? The problem with America is simple – my friend Monochromatic Knight has summed it up in his nick. America is the monochromatic nation, the Star Wars nation that only ever sees anything in black or white. The nation of extremes is not prepared to change its worldly and political views, it needs them to be as polar as the rest of their lives. The world of abstract truths, half-truths, and lesser evils is too difficult to grasp by the wider American public. And as a consequence, what America needs is not comedy, it is not negative propaganda, which is just as carefully targetted as anything done by the ‘other side’. What America needs is good old liberalism, they need to be reminded to see the world in all the beautiful shades of gray. Once Americans open their eyes and understand that the truth is not always the opposite of a lie, they will finally be saved.