A criticism of the let’s-point-out-late-night-comedy’s-hypocrisy genre which alternative media writers have occasionally embraced is that we’re not exposing hypocrisy where it matters. Why focus on the problems with how comedians talk about politics, as they’re so comparatively harmless? And why demand they provide such far-reaching and incisive material-they’re comedians, after all.
We do this because these talk show hosts, like any other given unfortunate facet of our time, are representatives of the larger dynamics that bring things ever closer to calamity. Want a fun-sounding avenue to vapidly distract yourself from the world’s crises? Want to act routinely amused by sleekly presented propaganda? Want an affirmation that the systems and cliques you’ve invested yourself in are good to stay with? Then turn on what one of my fellow critics in this area Loren Zoae calls the Celebrity Clowns.
No one should have assumed the political comedians wouldn’t become status quo mouthpieces after the major media was put in the ownership of a few large corporations. But the result has been too painful not to comment on. In what’s passed off as ironic and folksy observations about the world’s problems, modern late night “left-leaning” comedy presents politics through a lens that’s wholly distorted by the beltway views of the network bosses. The optics are a disconcerting vision of rich people in suits standing on a stage in front of millions, selling power-serving propaganda with the frame of satire and witticism.
I’ve cited enough examples in past articles about how the late night comedians serve the power structure; their smacking down of third parties, their aggressive pushing of the Russia narrative; their active efforts to bury the election fraud in last year’s primaries. I’d like to focus here on the template they provide for how we’re collectively dragging ourselves to collapse.
Which is to say by seeking out comfort at whatever cost. The trick the Celebrity Clowns use, like that of the ruling class’ other surrogates, is to make their followers feel righteous in sticking with the established system. To the uproarious applause of the studio audience and the praise of headlines, these performers “destroy” the designated villains while building up a sense of satisfaction among anyone who goes with the designated heroes. We’re made to feel good about ourselves as we nod to the denunciations of Russia, of Trump, of the unreasonable leftists who point out Trump wouldn’t even be a subject if we’d addressed our problems instead of trying to start a war with Russia.
Oh right, our problems. Like how virtually every aspect of daily life, from the computer I’m typing this on to the society I’m typing it about, has become overseen by a handful of corporations and billionaires. Like how the authorities that keep this arrangement enforced have become powerful on a dictatorial level in recent decades, having gained the ability to spy on every citizen, dominate both parties, steal any election, send psy op agents into any media outlet, and imprison or torture anybody who too directly opposes them. Like how as a result of this, we’re on the brink of World War Three among bigger catastrophes.
Also like how in spite of the confidence about the future the ruling class likes to profess, even our leaders and institutions know they can’t be relied upon. In recent years more and more of the super rich, including the man behind all those power-serving Washington Post headlines Jeff Bezos, have been preparing for the breakdown of society as we know it, eking out rural land on which to build luxury survival bunkers while stocking up on essential resources. Don’t let the smug proclamations of the Deep State’s surrogates fool you; even the elites know their system is close to failing.
So sure, the pundits I complain about rightly focus on the Trump administration’s destructive policies. But since they rarely, if ever, comment on the kinds of larger issues I mentioned, their effect is similar to that of the “four legs good, two legs bad” slogan from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Which is a story where the pig who’s enslaved the other animals on the farm deflects from his regime’s own oppression by rightly bringing up how the humans oppress animals-and gets the farm’s sheep to endlessly chant “four legs good, two legs bad.”
Then let’s find where to really look to for progressive leadership. Bernie Sanders? I love him of course, but he’s become too involved within the system to be a defining revolutionary authority. The alternative media writers? We’re freestyling this as much as you are. The best authority to trust is ultimately the authority of one’s own spirit, the urge that those in this movement inherently have to challenge injustice and try to make the world more compassionate. Listen to that, and the talking heads have no influence.