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Media and Comedy in Trump’s Era

Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers and Conan O’Brien are some of the top players in the competitive late-night comedy business. With Trump’s election, the material they have covered has become strongly political, with daily monologues about Trump’s antics. And they are not at fault. Trump indeed has provided fodder for jokes, case in point, eating burgers in bed at 6:30 pm. And people like to laugh at him because his cabinet is considered incompetent and fraudulent. These comedy shows have also become the main source of news for a lot of people, given their entertaining and simplistic method of relaying information to the audience. However, the extent to which these comedy shows “boil it down” for their audience is a matter of concern.

The media is considered to be the 4th pillar of a democratic state. It acts as a watchdog and a messenger of information. There are different channels through which it happens, such as newspapers, television channels etc. And of course, not all media is objective and neutral in nature. However, the impact of this biasedness is unquantifiable. There needs to be a clear distinction between objective reporting, and subjective intercourse and the audience should be able to recognize that. The unpopular show “Fox and Friends” is an example of blurring the lines between these two areas. As described by The New Yorker “… (it has a) trademark brand of folksy, disingenuous outrage”. And unfortunately, Donald Trump is a big fan of the show. Trump even tweets about the things mentioned on the talk show, as if they were facts. What goes amiss is that this has implications on geopolitical relations and the international community, not to mention domestic affairs. If the morning news show discusses something, and Trump tweets it, it also affects how his voter base views the issue. There is absolutely no filter for the base, except for the fact that their president tweeted it, thus jolting millions of Americans.

On the other hand, there are the late night shows which leave no stone unturned to humiliate Trump. By now, it has become an art. The positive effect of this is that the audience is informed about the latest happenings with the White House. For example, Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault’s firing was very well covered, and these shows also threw light on how she was also in Trump’s NBC TV show The Apprentice, satirically suggesting a correlation there. Also, the whole fiasco about Pizzagate, a conspiracy theory which suggested that several high-profile Democratic candidates (such as Hillary Clinton) were involved in a human-trafficking ring was operated through pizza stores, was also covered by these shows. In my opinion, the sheer absurdity of a topic like this deserves to be ridiculed by the media. However, issues with deeper implications such as the North Korean–United States missile stand-off are stripped down to jokes, which is when the audience misses the different layers of such a grave problem. Also, Trump is portrayed as “evil” (not to say that he’s not, he definitely is not great, given his actions and comments). Robert Mueller is seen as a “hero”, because of his investigation. As much as people would want to believe that, the brevity of the whole issue is diminished. It is viewed as a story, with a protagonist and antagonist. It is not viewed as the president of the most powerful country in the world is facing charges of obstruction of justice. Just imagine, if this was the kind of coverage for the Watergate scandal or Putin’s power dominance in Russia.

And it is not helped by the fact that Trump is so sensitive to his media coverage. “Fake news” is anything that Trump does not want to hear. Any coverage that is negative about him, his life and his cabinet, is branded this term. This has bothered him so much so that he even set up the  Fake News Awards for a host of media outlets, ranging from CNN to Late Show with Stephen Colbert. What Trump does not understand is that it only trivializes his presidency. He himself has been caught lying numerous times, to the extent that his lawyers do not want him to testify against Robert Mueller, just in case the President of the United States of America is caught lying.

It remains to be seen how the rest of his presidency spans out. It will have its fair share of “I have the bigger button” tweets, which will halt the world at a critical standpoint. It will have its fair share of embarrassing revelations about him. However, the people should laugh a little less about his antics and worry a bit more about the direction the country’s heading towards. Come mid-term elections and the 2020 elections, and if he is still in power, Americans will have a lot less to laugh about and a lot more to cry about.


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