Trevor Noah’s master class: It’s not just Fox News — this is the topic that needs Noah, Oliver, Stewart

Trevor Noah’s master class: It’s not just Fox News — this is the topic that needs Noah, Oliver, Stewart

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Sophia McClennen via Salon:

For some time now our nation has counted on satirical comedians like Jon Stewart to entertainingly inform us of major issues we would otherwise ignore.   In an era when mainstream news media constantly fails in its watchdog role and when most politics seems like a circus, satire has played a major role in providing the public with much-needed information in a format that is fun and engaging.  When CNN asks whether Ebola is “the ISIS of biological agents,” we have the perfect proof that mainstream news is more about hype, fear, and spectacle than about information.

We can thank our satirists for helping the public understand the role of Super PACS in funding elections, for exposing the sleaze behind tax-exempt churches, and for consistently hammering Fox News on its lies.  But there is one major news story the satirists have mostly ignored and it’s time to ask why.

There is no story on the horizon that needs a satire intervention more than the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal, which removes trade barriers between twelve nations.  The deal has been negotiated in secret, but that’s not even the worst of it. The TPP has been touted as a way to save U.S. jobs, strengthen US trade, and help “contain” China.  But critics are clear –and newly revealed Wikileaks documents confirm –that this deal is all about protecting corporate interests at the expense of both citizen and state rights.

There has been some media coverage of the deal.  Time recently published a piece by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO,where he clearly stated that the deal was “bad for American workers” and that it only benefits corporations.  But it is fair to say that the media coverage of the TPP deal has focused more on the secrecy and on the internal politics of the Democratic Party more than on the impact of the deal itself.  We have had more stories on Hillary Clinton’s recent flip on her position on TPP, moving from support to opposition, than we have had on the devastating consequences of the deal itself.

All of this really creates a perfect storm for satire.  We have a deal that has been negotiated in secret and that promises to influence intellectual property, freedom of expression, and citizen rights at a level never seen before in a trade deal.  We have political in fighting with Obama struggling with his own party.  We have one of the rare cases where Fox News says anything good about Obama. And we even get an absurd government-made video that explains the trade deal in terms of the US trading cherries across the globe.  (Yes, they really used cherries. Watch the video here.)

So where’s the satire?

Thus far, except for a bit where Jon Stewart depicted TPP as too boring to cover and John Oliver gave it three seconds of attention, it has been absent from our standard satire venues.  This despite the fact that activists organized a media blitz back in January of 2014 to beg Stewart and Stephen Colbert to cover the deal.

Luckily we have one satirist with a weekly-televised show that has been willing to confront the story head on.  Lee Camp’s “Redacted Tonight” airs Fridays on RT America, the Russian state funded television network that launched an English language channel in 2005. RT America has been called a propaganda arm for Russia and its foreign policy, but it has also become the home for programs that take an anti-corporate, anti-establishment spin. For instance, besides Camp’s show, it also aired “The Julian Assange Show.”

“Redacted Tonight” is RT’s first comedy show and it focuses on stories that have been missed in the mainstream media.  Taped in Washington, D.C., or “the belly of the beast” as Camp calls it, “Redacted Tonight” has offered the U.S.-based, D.C.-native comedian a welcome platform for his political humor. Whatever you might think about the backroom politics that could explain Russia’s interest in supporting a satirical show that exposes the ties behind U.S. politics and corporate power, one thing is clear: Camp’s comedy offers an edge not seen on most U.S. satire TV.

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