Parody news programs have been sweeping television ratings in recent years, as younger audiences prefer their information to be immersed in sarcasm, irony and ridicule.
The Onion, a parody news publication, boasts a slogan of “America’s finest news source,” which is a pretty big statement coming form a vegetable. However, the numbers are beginning to support their claim.
A not-so-new trend of taking the day’s headlines and trying to get a laugh out of them, no matter how serious they are, is found on every information-gathering medium. Late night TV hosts like Johnny Carson have been poking fun at news since the 60s; however, the popularity of sarcastic news sources like The Onion and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” have grown exponentially.
The Onion reports on ludicrous topics such as recalling all paper currency in the United States due to a health hazard. Really, none of it is true, but cable shows have taken over to discredit relevant topics.
Shows like “The Daily Show,” and “The Colbert Report” are reaching ratings of over 2 million, making it apparent that serious reporters have taken a backseat to witty comedians behind news desks.
But what does this say about the viewers? Some would argue that the Americans watching these shows do not care about the issues and would prefer a cheap laugh rather than being educated on the topics of the day.
There is an argument that has been waged between psychologists that sarcasm could be a sign of higher intelligence and shows a level of wit. This might be true since none of these jokes would be funny to someone that is not aware of the issues.
If you asked any reputable news organization what their mission is, it is most likely to uncover the issues, report only the facts and present it to the readers or viewers in an unbiased form so that they can make their own decision on the issue. That is not necessarily the case in these programs.
Lately, the highest rated shows on cable television, such as “Hannity” or “The O’Reilly Factor,” have leaned left or right, all the while blaming the other side for the recession and other national problems. It is becoming increasingly rare to find a program that is not at least a little biased.
“The Daily Show” might be completely ridiculous, but it is possibly the most evenly balanced program. It targets both sides of the political spectrum equally. There is no topic that they will not cover, but almost everything they do include in the broadcast is of national interest.
On April 20, they did a “tea party” story, mostly just to criticize the people that were involved in the demonstration. John Oliver, a reporter for the show, told a man in his interview that he wanted to run him “through with a bayonet” for wearing an early American style hat. The punch line for the joke was that Oliver has a prominent British accent.
Steven Colbert of “The Colbert Report” is just as absurd. He does the show using a fictional personality that mocks all of the popular extremist shows. He addresses his audience as “nation” and even ran for president in both primaries of the 2008 election. How much more balanced can you get?
Regardless of the mannerisms he takes, he constantly derided former President George W. Bush and continues the assault on current President Barack Obama. Despite all of this, both shows continue to rise in popularity and have vaulted this trend of sarcastic news into the mainstream.
In a time of economic instability and political unrest, maybe it’s a good thing that we can maintain our sense of humor despite the gloomy conditions. It also reminds us, sometimes sadistically, that the people running our country are simply human and cannot be expected to perform perfectly. The best decisions are not always made, but it would be unrealistic and un-American not to question our leaders and demand the highest standards from them. If you can look past their jokes and snide remarks, you would see that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert are very American and hold the country in the highest regards, but someone has to play devil’s advocate.