The term “fake news” is frequently used within the context of contemporary American politics. With heightened polarization, news programming often has an underlying bias running through an entire network’s shows. Political candidates often publicly denounce stories that portray them in a negative light. As a result, the public blindly follows charismatic figureheads instead of developing their own convictions. Without critical debate and ironic comedy to point out the flaws in the system in an engaging way, the media is on the path to becoming the most dangerous threat to American democracy.
Recently, Chris Matthews, the former host of MSNBC’s Hardball, was invited to speak on campus about his experiences in political communications. Even though his career may have ended, America needs a space for bipartisan debate and analysis. By inviting guests from both sides of the spectrum (sometimes at the same time), Matthews ensured that politicians were held accountable in a format accessible to the public. No one is perfect. Americans should not expect perfection, but they should expect politicians to be held accountable.
In addition to promoting bipartisan discussion, Matthews consistently challenged the politicians that appeared on his show. Lawmakers should not merely appear on television to talk about their successes. People watch certain news networks for affirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Instead, watching the news should allow Americans to question their convictions on crucial issues. Despite Matthews’ blunt approach, he forces individuals to critically assess their political thinking rather than only focusing on the positive.
While traditional discourse is imperative, there are moments when politics becomes overwhelming. In these cases, Americans need a comedic outlet. Saturday Night Live delivers with elaborate cold opens and its own “fake news” segment. The ridiculous and exaggerated nature of the sketches often helps to convey truths without the sophisticated understanding of politics that Hardball required at times.
For some, the comedic approach might easily point out immoral behavior that might not be obvious from formal news communications. With the anxiety and tension surrounding politics in America, the people might need a lighthearted approach. Even those less interested in politics can laugh along with SNL’s political satire. Once again, informal political criticism is accessible to Americans from the comfort of their homes.
No party is spared from bearing the brunt of an SNL joke. For decades, SNL has created presidential impersonations. Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are certainly not the first to be mocked, nor will they be the last. Laughing about politics is beneficial, but one must be aware of where the truth begins.
Unlike social media, the essential features of sketch comedy help the public understand the nature of the performance. Actors resemble political figures, but no two people are identical. Of course, a comedy show should not replace news programming, but it can help point out the inconsistencies in American politics while keeping frustrated and disinterested audiences aware of current issues.
Americans need brutal honesty during the polarizing political climate. However, not everyone is responsive to the approach that Hardball employs, which creates space for political satire. One approach cannot satisfy the interests and needs of each individual. America needs everyone to stay informed on imperative issues by taking information from multiple sources. One TikTok or Tweet is not gospel.