In his LA Times oped column Sunday http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-dalrymple20may20,0,4049624.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail"> ("Pope Rosie? Pray for us"), Anthony Daniels, writing under his pseudonym Theodore Dalrymple, takes popular culture and its impact on society to task.
Daniels, long a conservative voice with Manhattan Institute think-tank credentials, offers his conviction that many people take their moral and political opinions from celebrities like Bono, Rosie and Jon Stewart. And it's ruining our ability to think seriously, to boot. Damn you, celebrities, and your insidious sucking out of our brains!
Seems the non-political famous are less credible than the reasonable team that sent the country over the Iraq precipice, or the judiciousness of the Justice Department that has given us Alberto Gonzalez's point of view of honesty, or the scientific integrity of the White House which uses non-scientific politicos to rewrite actual scientific study,, or the pundits of William Kristoldom who got it wrong a thousand times but keeps getting asked for his opinion, or... Oh, you get it. Blame for dulling the mind is the fault of those who don't know better as opposed to those who should know better and don't.
I'm sure there are some who might may question Darymple's take on the credibility of Bono and O'Donnell's influence and the effect they leave upon the populace. I'll leave that to the their fans to deliberate.
But when you try to discount the very nature of satire, that means war!
"...hardly surprising that many young people, in particular, derive their political opinions as much from news presented as comedy as from more straightforward presentations."
Since he did not include O'Reilly, Limbaugh, et al, as celebrities, I gather he means that they fall under the "straightforward presentations" category. If Darymple is giving a pass to the half-truths, cherry-picking distortions and outright lies that are camouflaged as straightforward news and opinion of talk radio and TV, but finds troubling the offerings that at least admit to being entertainment or "faux" news, then his presence as an authority as to what an audience should be buying morally or politically competent is in itself a deception of the public.
Dalrymple throws in a 2000 election campaign study by the Pew Research Center that found that 21% of 18- to 19-year-olds got their political news and views from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." I'd be more concerned about the 18-90 year olds who get their political views from the talk radio and the Fox opiners.
Dalrymple misses the point when discussing the serious power of satire where he includes Jon Stewart.
"Not to take anything too seriously is the highest form of sophistication, even if what is being presented is a partisan point of view. To say something and mean it is a sign that one is not of the exalted company of the hip...the result is a frivolous archness that in the end destroys the capacity or willingness for serious thought...To say something and mean it is a sign that one is not of the exalted company of the hip."
Dalrymple's argument with satire more befits the Right's noise machine that has long used a catchphrase or distortion to undermine serious debate (as well as the troops). Defective analysis and prognostication presented eloquently and/or loudly has not enhanced intelligent discussion as much as drowned out the common man's truths.
While some satire looks for the easiest joke, much of the Stewart/Maher/Shearer brain-thinning shows go after the powerful who seriously flaunt their position as much as they ignore the need to be truthful with the electorate. Using satire to shine the spotlight on the absurdity of a position, issue or flawed policy, is not ducking serious thought, as much as motivating it. Nor is it hip for hip's sake. Just because satire elicits a laugh or a knowing nod, to leap to Darymple's assertion that the satirist doesn't mean it, is just a meaningless, um...joke.
Political satire teaches us in maddening terms. It exposes the absurdities of the powerful, many of whom we elected. It reveals the betrayals and treasons against the truths and rights they were elected to protect. In effect, it exposes hypocrisy.
Darymple claims that "...when satire becomes the dominant, or only, mode of communication, the result is a frivolous archness that in the end destroys the capacity or willingness for serious thought.
Cut and run.
Embolden the enemy.
Fight them over there, so we won't have to fight them here.
When they stand up we'll stand down.
Heckuva job, Brownie.