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Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Left nut: Politics is a joke

The word “politics” has grown plenty of negative connotations. We have come to associate politics with a bunch of greedy, self-serving old men in suits who take themselves too seriously. Kids (and some adults) disdainfully skip right over the news as they scroll through television channels on Saturday mornings, instead opting for cartoons.

There is a reason for this: cartoons, unlike news programs, are funny. People simply don’t want to watch angry pundits whom they don’t like argue over issues about which they don’t care. It’s not entertaining.

When people see the news, they often instantly become blasé, writing it off as the same old mess. Eventually, these images become ingrained in our memories, desensitizing us to their meaning. “Oh, four soldiers died in a car bomb this weekend? That sucks,” one might say. “A congressman screwed an intern again? Good for him.”

Politics has, in essence, devolved from baby-kissing to mudslinging. Campaigns once relied on pandering to the masses. Now they rely on ravaging the opponent’s reputation more than enhancing their own, and the same accusations thrown about year after year bore people.

In recent years, though, a few news anchors have managed to make news interesting again. How? The answer is simple: the power of laughter.

Last year, Fox News’ entire primetime lineup averaged 1.84 million viewers per night. Want to take a guess which news shows topped that? Hint: they weren’t on MSNBC, ABC or CNN. Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” averaged 2.3 million viewers and Stephen Colbert’s “Colbert Report” averaged 1.9. Every month these shows gain more viewers while “real” news programs lose them.

This pattern manifests most noticeably among the younger generation. In 2012, 329,000 viewers between the ages of 18 to 34 tuned in to Fox News to watch Mitt Romney speak at the Republican National Convention.

Meanwhile, 450,000 viewers in the same demographic tuned in to Comedy Central to see Jon Stewart lambast Fox News’ coverage of Mitt Romney speaking at the Republican National Convention.

Some time ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “My news source? Comedy Central. My comedy source? Fox News.” Of course, this bumper sticker was written in jest, but the television ratings suggest that more and more people are sharing this sentiment.

If you happen to be in the minority who actually watch Fox News, fear not. Stewart and Colbert have overtaken other, more liberal news outlets as well. My point here is not that Fox is a terribly biased news station with questionable credibility (for that deserves an article of its own), but that people do not want to watch plain news when they can have news and entertainment.

One can hardly blame them. It should not be the job of the media to make boring matters interesting. In order for people to engage in politics more, political figures need to take themselves less seriously. While American politicians are certainly not the only ones whose drab speeches lull people to sleep, they do little to help the stereotype.

Perhaps our leaders can take a lesson from Icelandic actor and comedian Jón Gnarr, who founded the Best Party in 2009 as a farce of Icelandic politics.

So pundits understandably gasped in shock when his party took six of the 15 seats on the Reykjavik city council and Gnarr himself was elected mayor.

I’m not saying that we should elect people based on their acting skills. We learned that lesson the hard way after the failures of such actors as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan. Gnarr’s party, acknowledging its own inexperience, formed a coalition with the seasoned Social Democratic Alliance and currently enjoys moderate success.

As Congress’ approval ratings see record lows, they must ask themselves how to win over the public again. Naturally, the first step to earning the blessing of the people involves becoming competent.

Yet, once the public has a certain view of politics, even success will do little to change this conception. Change must come more radically. If political figures don’t want the public to be so cynical towards them, they must not only implement more likable policies, but be more likable people.

 

If you have any political jokes, feel free to share them with ZACH MOORE at zcmoore@ucdavis.edu.

 

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