I’m very skeptical of the ability of satire to illuminate politics because the normal effect of ridicule is to reinforce existing prejudices. There’s a bit of a Tory in every commercial wit, even the leftish ones, if only because playing to received ideas flatters and gratifies the audience while conveying something new would require them to think. Anyhow, these days a comic who attempts to say something significant, which necessarily implies subjecting one side of an issue to more grief than the other, is subject to universal criticism. The equal time rule, which no longer applies to serious commentary, is very much in force when it comes to lampoons. Which explains, for example, why Jon Stewart, for all his intelligence, finds it necessary to deploy the same stale jokes about Gore and Kerry as a hack like Jay Leno. Meanwhile, the humor of mainstream shows such as SNL is comprehensively emasculated despite the irrelevant daring of its bad taste. So we get more fart jokes at the same time that satirical content becomes as toothless as the social critique once found in Krokodil, the Soviet humor magazine of the Stalinist era.
Speaking of Jon Stewart. I’ve worried for some time that he was in danger of a fall, and the ambiguous reaction to the Crossfire appearance shows that I may have been right. Stewart told the truth on television, and for that outrage to the cosmic order, he must atone.