Politics is a shadow of itself, as to the voters it only exists through second-hand accounts retold by the media. This with the trend towards ‘Soft’ news, creates the fear that the individual will become less informed without ‘Hard’ news to make political decisions, thus highly weakening the quality of democracy. The shift in the quality of media (thus also democracy) has been acknowledged by the Committee of Concerned Journalists and academics alike under a movement to “narrow sound bites”, one sentence quotes, the use of light “entertainment formulas” in reporting important news topics.

The Humour of South Park

Subjectivism and sensationalism is but a guarantee in political satire, this is due to the Subjective nature of humour, and the sensationalist nature of parody. The cartoon television show South Park has increasingly become a kind of satire show by making cynical points about the activities of politicians and the media, away from the more traditional misadventures of the four young lead characters . An example can be seen in the second two-part episode ‘Cartoon Wars’ where the creators lampoon the censorship around the newspaper cartoon of the Muslim prophet Muhammad and the media and political reaction to it. In'”I Hate Hippies”: South Park and the Politics of Generation X’ Matt Becker argues against the earlier claims that South Park is a pro-conservative viewpoint, but that rather it demonstrates the erroneous nature of all views, and that its classification should be seen as ‘nihilistic’. South Parks’ nihilistic world view and utter “contempt of all traditional institutions” can be seen as being anti-political, anti-news & media, anti-academic, and form of the “cynicism, apathy and disengagement” of “generation X'” This disengagement can be seen in the results of a study that showed young people (between 18 to 24) were less likely to vote after seeing such radical cynical elements in satire. This study was based on the satire of Jon Stewart’s take on both presidential candidates in the American election of 2004, in the his show the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It is Important to point out that South Park has a very low level of realism in comparison to the Daily Show, which sets itself as a parody of a traditional news media.

Jon’s Satire

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as previously explored is a parody of a traditional news media. It is often called a “fake” news show, although there is more mockery in it then falseness. Stewart starts the show with an introduction and then a fake nightly news bulletin that one might see in an ordinary ‘Hard’ news programme. He then dissects the item for maximum humour and irony. Afterwards he interviews noteworthy people from political, news media and academic realms With communication theorists and political scientists now critically investigating the effects of ‘Soft’ news a in a serious manner, the Daily Show is an important and prime focus of the study into this relationship between ‘soft’ news and politics. This is a result of people considering Stewart to be the fourth most admired journalist in America Stewart has tried to deflect the importance of the show by stating that his show “is comedy, not even pretending to be information” and that the Daily Show is “not breaking any news” as satire is a “very reactive business” Although the interviews that Stewart hosts can be more serious than other late night comedy shows, it still behaves in the same manner; a “relaxed, lighthearted interview can make a stiff, somewhat formal candidate seem almost personable”.

Jon’s Effects

While there is no hard evidence showing that standard late-night comedy show’s political satire really affects the voter to a substantial degree, professors Baumgartner & Morris argue that the Daily Show is different and more influential than other such shows due to the youthful demographic of its audience and their alleged persuadability they also argue that Stewart can have radical cynical elements in his satire, in which people are less likely to vote after consuming his ‘Soft’ news They also state that the perception of lesser known candidates are diminished, and therefore it is important as a candidate to have high name recognition in ‘infotainment’; this in turn, therefore, must be damaging to democracy. With this, as well as the fact that the Daily Show is ever increasing in popularity to the point that over 16% of Americans claim to watch the show and/or its spin-off The Colbert Report therefore a decrease in young voters in the 2008 American presidential election would be expected. This is in contradiction to the U.S. Census Bureau who rather reported an increase in young people ( between 18 to 24), from a 47% turnout in the 2004 presidential election to 49% turnout in the 2008 presidential election. The importance of high name recognition for candidates due to Stewart humour contradicted the research of professors Moy et al. which found higher name recognition among viewers .

The merger between media and politics in respect to satire and humour can be seen in the way a humorous cartoon which sometimes recalls political events can foster cynicism to the point that individuals have claimed that it decreases the likelihood of voting. It can also be seen in the way people use a political and media satire show to help them to understand and digest complex political events and issues, which then lets them have a base in which to understand the same subject in a more traditional news environment. The merger can also be seen in the traditional news media’s use of satire and humour in some segments in order to be light hearted and more enjoyable to watch, thus increasing the ratings. As well as in the trend that points toward a blended mix of both traditional news and ‘infotainment’.

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