When I, as a relatively politically informed, intelligent young American wish to watch the news, I do not turn to CNN, nor to Fox News. My main source of broadcasted political information is The Daily Show. One may scoff at this assertion, writing the program off as useless comedic drivel with no real value. Yes, the show is broadcast on Comedy Central- it is, at its heart, a comedic show. But honestly, when it comes to the news, I would rather laugh than cry. When so much of the day-to-day happenings of the world do not encourage a particularly optimistic worldview it is important to be able to laugh at the sheer absurdity of modern political happenings.
Satire occupies a necessary position in the political process: it points out specific shortcomings and contradictions present in society. Without the social and political commentary provided by satire, some of the faults of the government would go unnoticed and be able to continue. Satire brings a spotlight into the broken places of government and society. Just as Voltaire used satire to make comments on society during the Enlightenment, programs such as The Daily Show do not allow the government to escape from its criticisms. A society devoid of detailed analysis and criticism of the government cannot be a truly informed, democratic one.
The line between what is constitutes “news” and what constitutes “entertainment” is a very thin one, and programs such as The Daily Show toes that line very carefully. Too much focus on reporting the news, and the comedy aspect lessens. Too much emphasis on comedy, and it loses reliability. After watching an episode of The Daily Show, I leave feeling informed and able to converse on recent news topics, but not disheartened by the state of affairs.
These satirical programs allow viewers who understand the highly sarcastic humor of the show to feel as if they are a part of the chosen few, the intellectual elite who can understand the humor. It sets up a dichotomy between “us”- the viewers of the program, and “them”- those who share different political views. This makes the viewers “in the know” feel good about themselves and their intellect, while those who do not quite get the humor or are not in agreement with the views feel degraded and left out. In an ideal world, this political satire would be accessible to all Americans, but with the extremely divided state of affairs when it comes to political ideology, it becomes nearly impossible to curry favor from both sides of the line.
Many people are tired of being constantly bombarded by news from stations such s CNN with their 24-hour reporting. Because these satirical shows are limited to only an hour of programming per day, they can do away with trivial, “filler” news pieces and focus on the major issues of the day. The Daily Show often uses clips from news sources, CNN included, to report on the news and, as it is not reporting live, can depend on having the most reliable information instead of grasping for whatever information it can find at the time.
All of these factors contribute to the importance and reliability of satirical news programs and prove their importance in the political system.