The most interesting part of Comm 4473 was the study of late-night satire. I found the subject to be of particular interest and relevance to the class and our age group as a whole. Because of the tendency the young adults to rely on sources such as Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewarts’ satirical late night shows to obtain political information, it was interesting to learn of the implications that come with depending on these sources for politics.
Not only do these political shows allow young adults to gain political news in a new and more appealing way, they also challenge the traditions of popular TV and news outlets. Additionally, we are challenged and encouraged to learn more about politics by taking in political information from these sources. One piece of media that stood out to me over the course of the semester was that of Jon Stewart featured on the CNN show, Crossfire, where he challenged the hosts and their presentation of politics and news.
Having viewed this in a previous political science class, it was interesting to see it tied back to communication and analyzed through its purposes of questioning popular political news and media.
Not the most boring but perhaps an unnecessary aspect of the course was the focus on the presidential election of 1960. While a very important part of the changes that have taken place in political communication history and one with a profound impact, it is a topic that was a little redundant to me. This particular election and its debates have been poured over in previous and current communication and political science courses that I have taken. While I understand its importance and relevance to the course, I feel that the reading of The Making of the President and subsequent presentations were too extensive coverage of the topic.
Overall, I feel that the past changes in political communication deserves recognition and complete understanding, but a less extensive overview of historical events could be minimized. Lastly, a focus on issues that are up-and-coming and those that are exploding onto the political communication scene are the most interesting and relevant to the course.
Before I begin, I think I would be amiss not to mention the recent developments in the Osama bin Laden news cycle. As we know, The Navy SEALs managed to kill him by all accounts, and I spent a good six hours watching the real news getting updates on the whole ordeal. I feel it necessary to share a small portion of my mindset on the issue, since it does play a pretty large role in the political communication realm. When talking to my hippy-dippy ex-girlfriend, she texted me, “I like how Osama is a reason to start a fucking worldwide frat party.” While I am glad that the world is rid of a terrorist threat, a man willing to kill civilians to advance his hateful intolerance, my response to her was thus: “I was glad that they managed to kill a guy who spread hate, but singing ‘Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)’ in the streets was worthy of a douchechill.”
Whether the death of Osama bin Laden was the outcome of a carefully planned mission that was carried out on May 1st, or whether bin Laden’s been dead for a few days and President Obama decided to make the announcement coinciding with the 8 year anniversary of George W. Bush’s “Mission accomplished” proclamation for the sake of political vote pandering will be interesting to discuss. But as of yesterday, I think it’s less appropriate to celebrate bin Laden’s death as it is to celebrate, soberly, the elimination of a hateful man who sought to spread hate. If nothing else, let’s celebrate how hard President Obama got laid when he found out he managed to eliminate the number one face of terror during his presidency, something that hadn’t been done over 10 years. If he isn’t getting some, none of us should be either.
Perhaps the most interesting discussion I took away from this class was that of how soft news, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert managed to affect the news media and the citizens in our fine democracy. That their satire, be it of the news media itself or of the blowhard pundits that pontificate like Pharisees from their pulpits, can have such a profound affect on the voting public, how news stations cover the news and what journalists cover is fascinating. From the cancellation of Crossfire to Stephen Colbert’s ability to be adopted by college liberals and staunch conservatives alike shows the power of their pulpit.
Further, I think it’s important that I mention that from this class, I was able to determine precisely what the difference between what Stewart/Colbert do in terms of their comedy (satire) and what other comedians, such at Leno and Letterman do (pseudosatire) is. More importantly, the importance of understanding the difference between these two are, i.e. satire calls for change through comedy whereas pseudosatire fans the flames of apathy by giving up on the the tenants of democracy became paramount to me. Since I tend to consume my politics with the sugar of comedy coating its bitter political pill, to know what each’s goal is allows me to understand the political atmosphere and what the goals of comedy and democracy are. Rather than giving up on politics, this class has actually instilled a hopefulness that democracy can work, primarily because most of the comedians I respect actually believe in the tenants of democracy (save for late Carlin, who was as cynical as the come toward the end).
The paper that I wrote, on how comedy affects democracy, did precisely the opposite of what I expected it to do. Rather than further removing me from a democracy that I already haven’t been participating in (I think I’m the only person in class who didn’t vote in ’08), it made me proud to be part of a democracy. While it may have its flaws, it isn’t entirely hopeless, and researching and writing this paper, coupled with the discussions we’ve had about political comedy and its affect on democracy re instilled a pride in this nation that I had lost in the past few years. So thanks for assigning it!
This class definitely beat the expectations I had when first signing up. I’ve been on the brink of being interested in politics and not for some time. I always felt that it was important to vote (probably the only 5 year old who couldn’t wait to vote), but after the 2008 presidential election and before it I really didn’t pay much attention to politics. This class has definitely opened my eyes to more political news and how to access it, and of course pushed me to my addiction of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. There were many aspects I liked about this class. I loved when learning about the presidential campaign and elections of JFK and Richard Nixon.
It was so interesting learning about Nixon’s fight to the presidency and made me want to find out why after all that work he would ruin it with the Watergate Scandal. I always think it’s important to know what past presidents have done to make sure that we can learn from their mistakes. I love how television was such a big factor and now we have so many different networking systems that can effect a presidential campaign. I also enjoyed the days where we would watch news clips from old reporters and from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I also loved how we watched that video on the Egyptian revolution. I just like how everything was tied into our everyday lives and what was actually going on currently.
What I didn’t enjoy was the Sunstein book. I found it really really boring and repetitive. I probably picked this book because we just recently reviewed it and it’s still fresh in my memory. I’m sure the information was very important, but I think it could of easily been a article instead of a book. After reading the first chapter I could have stopped reading and gotten the gist of it. All in all I really enjoyed this class and it definitely was one of my more interesting classes at Mizzou.
Wooooooooooowwwwwwww…The most interesting that I learned in this class…I really don’t want to be that student who says “there have been many so many great things” just because that feels forced and phony, but in all honesty it is true. If I had to choose one thing in particular it would probably be the time we spent covering late-night comedy and satire in politics. That’s a broad subject, but there is no way to emphasize how important that information is. It is not just young people that are tuning out political news today for the likes of Colbert and Stewart, but older generations are as well. They tell it how it is and parody what is ridiculous and beyond outrageous. Not only did I find that to be the most interesting, but I think my classmates did as well. I cannot speak for them, but judging by how many people covered the satire topic for research papers that might be a fair assumption.
The most boring is quite easy. It is everything that came out of the Sunstein book. I literally would fall asleep at around 3 PM trying to read it. Sunstein just gets repetitive trying to hammer his ideas home. I understand that the best speakers have always had to repeat their rhetoric to get their message across to who was listening, (Dr. King “I Have A Dream”, Muhammad Ali “I am the greatest”, JFK “Ask not what you can do for yourself, but what you can do for your country”, etc.) but he really needed to give it a rest.
It’s probably too easy to pick on the book as a whole so one other thing that was irrelevant I believe to our course work might have been the way JFK won his debate against Nixon. It is irrelevant to me specifically because I really don’t put much stock in the way a man looks on television. I am typically more concerned with what these men are trying to sell me on and because people in 1960 didn’t necessarily see the way I see things I sat there thinking “a guy won a debate because he was more tan…” I understand it, I don’t agree with it, but it is how culture operates. Granted I somewhat fell victim to this in the 2008 election because McCain seemed like he was going to die at every speech he gave, but at the same time he was invoking more of the same policies that have already been in place with the Bush administration, which turned me off immediately. While television changed the debate forever I really didn’t think people should have personally declared a winner because Kennedy “looked” better when actuality he had a crooked spine and wasn’t necessarily the healthiest man in the world either.
In all honesty, I appreciate you being a great professor this semester because with some of this heavy hitting theories and material, the course could have been much more difficult to deal with. I mean that and you can quote me on it as well.
I find it interesting that despite the abundance of social media technology that can connect people, being a visibly active democratic citizen nowadays is much more rare than sixty years ago, or it at least appears that way. During the Civil Rights movement, student activists risked their lives at sit-ins and other protests in the United States, and their actions received an abundance of media attention. While we still have a number of protests today, they seem much more subdued than in the past. Even the most vivacious ones rarely make the news, possibly because they are often quite small. Interestingly, the last “protest” I remember being prominently featured in the news was Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity. While this event did draw attention to some problems with today’s politics, when one thinks of the Vietnam protests and the massive impact they had, Stewart’s rally seems to pale in comparison. Many people draw comparisons between the Iraq War and Vietnam, and rightly so. But difference in youth reaction to the wars is incredibly interesting. Of course young people did protest the Iraq War, but the numbers were hardly comparable to those of Vietnam protesters. I think this stems from a combination of the self-centered ethos promoted in the current age, along with the overabundance of digital information. If a young person does not want to pay attention to serious news stories, they can easily ignore them and thus never be moved to protest.
It is now more easy to be an informed democratic citizen, but it is even easier than before to ignore such information. And even if today’s youth are democratically active online, it is not being reflected in physical social activism within the democratic system.
According to Facebook, the ultimate arbitrator in all things Internet, 2,316,678 is the number of people who “like” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Colbert Report falls a little behind with 1,787, 316 “likes”. As far as political activism goes, clicking the “like” button is hardly a taxing endeavor. However, it does bring to light the importance of the Internet to the new political system.
Now liking a status or choosing to attend an online-based solidarity event isn’t exactly the same as volunteering to phone bank for your favorite candidate, organizing fundraisers to raise money for international relief efforts, or participating in a political rally in person. Participating in politics in “real life” is a time-consuming process which requires some measure of sacrifice–whether that’s money or time. Political participation as it exists on the Internet doesn’t necessarily require either.
However, that’s not to say that it is any less important than “real life” engagement.
The fact of the matter is that the Internet provides an enormous resource for political participation. It stems beyond just liking Facebook statuses and Facebook pages or retweeting what CNN posts on Twitter. Between Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs such as LiveJournal, Blogspot, and WordPress, the Internet provides a forum for political debate and action. The Internet offers instantaneous news which can be engaged with in multiple ways–the news can be consumed, it can be shared immediately, it can be commented on, it can be analyzed, it can be satirized in an Internet meme. The sacrifice here isn’t volunteer hours or money, but, ideally, time spent creating and spreading ideas. It might be seen as less of an activist participation and more of an intellectual participation, but it is participation regardless.
Take, for example, Oh No They Didn’t! Politics on LiveJournal. An Internet blogging site that is community-centric, ONTD_Political offers a forum whereby users can post news and discuss and debate through comments to one another. This is far more than simply liking a status on Facebook, this is actually the creation and dissemination of ideas with people around the country and around the world. It gives political engagement a more global approach–something that is not entirely possible in “real life” when the people you can engage with are simply the people closest to you geographically.
The Internet offers this global forum to political discussions, but to solidarity movements as well. During the Iranian elections a year ago and the Egyptian Revolution this past February and the Libyan situation now, the Internet has allowed the connection of many “participants” to these events. It is certainly not the same as being there, on the ground, taking part in the riots and risking life and limb for liberty, but that is certainly not something that is feasible to ask of citizens around the world. Living in Missouri, without the Internet to discuss what’s going on in the Middle East or to support Egypt and Libya through Facebook and Twitter and view YouTube videos from these areas, there is virtually no way I would be able to really participate. I am but a human who has not developed teleportation abilities.
Internet political participation allows for a wider forum for expression, a wider venue for support and solidarity, a larger base to spread awareness of events and issues that can then be capitalized on in “real life” (all essential to the functioning of democracies). That’s one of the great things about online participation–you can participate in discussions online and then take that knowledge back to your daily life and choose, then, to participate in “real” events such as rallies and fundraisers.
In my opinion, for the modern generation, the Internet is like a gateway drug to political participation. Forums, videos, tweets, and movements hook you online and tease out your interest until you’re suddenly motivated to join your local Democratic Party. Or vote. Or at least buy a “Pray for Japan” t-shirt. Every little step counts. xoxo!