With phrases such as ‘fake news’ gradually seeping into popular culture, it seems that instead of delegitimising controversial politicians we are actually giving them and their actions the go ahead. A prime example of this is Sean Spicer, a man who was once referred to as the ‘modern day Goebbles’, but recently became a source of entertainment for Emmy-watchers. He was applauded by the crowd, despite having repeatedly lied throughout his job as Press Secretary and normalising his deception. While it is true that everyone loves a joke, this so-called ‘harmless satire’ is littered with dark undertones.
Firstly, ‘fake news’ should be a term which alarms us. Trump’s classification of critical press as ‘fake news’ is undeniably Orwellian. And yet, the widespread use of the term in a joking manner has allowed society to normalise it, thus granting questionable politicians such as Sean Spicer and Boris Johnson an open platform, to say what they want to say, and hear what they want to hear. Post-watershed satirical stunts of the Administration, most famously those by Melissa McCarthy, do not provide comic relief when one gets to grips with the state of affairs in the US. Charlottesville, for example.
The popularity of the term ‘fake news’ is not only a problem in the US. The notorious ‘£350 million a week’ promise by Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers during the run up to the EU referendum was, quite simply, a lie. In fact, David Norgrove, head of the UK Statistics Authority, said it was “a clear misuse of official statistics”. And yet, the public seem almost blinded by Johnson’s blundering buffoon routine. Funny as his hair may be, comments such as describing Obama as someone with an ‘ancestral dislike’ of Britain after coming out in favour of the Remain campaign, is not only anti- PC, but also, like Trump’s response to Charlottesville, should be met with unease rather than laughter.
Another area in which political satire is seemingly flourishing is the meme. While it is certainly encouraging that the famously disenfranchised youth are getting involved in politics, whether it be a meme of Kim Jong Un contemplating if he’s allowed to eat North Korea or Putin threatening death via his glasses, it must not be forgotten that the two aforementioned figures are running oppressive regimes in their own countries. This form of political satire is unavoidable on the typical Facebook newsfeed, and yet again has normalised what, when stripped down to its very core, is unquestionably frightening.
The figures mentioned are not only in significant positions of power, but also have huge influence. Their behaviour and actions need to be held accountable, but one fears that political satire loosens the belt of those who need it tightened the most. As the social phenomenon continues to grow, we lose any possibility of gaining integrity within the establishment, but rather allow it to resort to the casual dismissal of what it fails to resolve.
Image: Gage Skidmore