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November 02, 2006

Humour and Politics

One of my daily listens, Darla Jaye at KMBZ.com, found an opinion column by the Kansas City Star's Lewis Diugiud, who is always offended by everything. And he is a flaming liberal, too.

Anyway, Lewis is unhappy that people laugh about politics - politics should be taken seriously, he claims:

But poking fun at our nation’s political process takes away from the seriousness of voting, such as in Tuesday’s election. It hinders people from realizing that their voices at the ballot box matter in national, state and local governments.

Instead we laugh as Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” late-night comedians Jay Leno and David Letterman, and other entertainers skewer politicians.

Yes, Lewis does not want us to laugh. We are not serious enough about voting for "change". And yes, Lewis is a Democrat.

I wonder if Lewis has ever noticed that it's pretty obvious that David Letterman, Jay Leno and Jon Stewart tend towards the left in their jokes - that ought to make Lewis happy!

Anyway, Lewis managed to find one study to back up his thesis. "The Daily Show Effect".

The authors of the study summarized it:

We test the effects of a popular televised source of political humor for young Americans: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. We find that participants exposed to jokes about George W. Bush and John Kerry on The Daily Show tended to rate both candidates more negatively, even when controlling for partisanship and other demographic variables. Moreover, we find that viewers exhibit more cynicism toward the electoral system and the news media at large.

Despite these negative reactions, viewers of The Daily Show reported increased confidence in their ability to understand the complicated world of politics. Our findings are significant in the burgeoning field of research on the effects of "soft news" on the American public. Although research indicates that soft news contributes to democratic citizenship in America by reaching out to the inattentive public, our findings indicate that The Daily Show may have more detrimental effects, driving down support for political institutions and leaders among those already inclined toward nonparticipation.

(emphasis mine)

Personally, I think that we should be cynical about the news media. We should be cynical about political leaders.

I am not a Daily Show fan because Jon Stewart tends to be very left-leaning, but if he is breeding cynicism into the youth of today, good.

We have learned that both the MSM and the politicians lie with regularity. Laughing at both is healthy.

Posted by Beth at November 2, 2006 01:31 PM