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Archive for the ‘Satire’ Category



Who is America and the Ethics of Going Undercover

Sep14

by: Larry Atkins on September 14th, 2018 | 6 Comments »

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen (image courtesy of Joella Marano)

As a liberal, I’m glad to see Sacha Baron Cohen expose the corruption, hatred, craziness, and racism of many conservative NRA loving politicians and people. For example, Cohen enticed a Republican Georgia state representative, Jason Spencer, to yell the full N-word and pull down his pants to expose his naked butt to try to repel a hypothetical Muslim terrorist. Spencer eventually resigned due to the incident.

At first, I was really excited about the show and urged my fellow liberal friends to watch Cohen’s Showtime program “Who is America?” I thought it was really funny and it showed how dumb, gullible, and scary these conservatives were.

While Cohen’s exposing these true feelings are valuable, his undercover and deceptive techniques are disturbing. Basically, he is engaging in entrapping people to participate in idiotic made up situations and conversations that make them look bad. This is nothing new for Cohen, who has used his various characters, including Borat, Bruno, and Ali G to embarrass and expose people. In his current show, he has duped, among others, Dick Cheney, who gleefully signed a waterboarding kit, several Republican politicians who were duped into talking positively about a made up proposal to arm kindergartners with guns to defend against school shootings, Roy Moore, who tested positive to Cohen’s fake pedophile detector, and several dozen citizens at a town meeting in Kingman, Arizona, who responded to a fake proposed giant mosque in town with angry bigoted responses. While Cohen does target all types of people, his main focus has been on Republicans and conservatives.

There is a long history of using undercover techniques in entertainment, journalism, and advocacy. Past television shows using these techniques include Candid Camera, Undercover Boss, To Catch a Predator, Mystery Diners, Celebrity Undercover, Cheaters, Impractical Jokers, Punk’d, The Real Wedding Crashers, and What Would You Do?

Undercover journalism has a long history. Nellie Bly exposed the horrors of mental hospital institutions in the late 19th century by posing as an insane inmate in an asylum. Many local televisions stations use undercover reporters to expose corruption by government officials and others. This technique can be used as a tool to expose societal ills, but it should be used rarely and carefully. For instance, there was a chilling effect on this type of journalism after the Food Lion v. ABC case, which found ABC liable for trespass and breach of loyalty for having its producers lie on job applications to expose unhealthy practices.

Conservatives have used this technique as well. The most famous incident was when two conservative activists, James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles posed as a pimp and a prostitute to entice ACORN employees to give them illegal tax advice for their made up business of smuggling young women into the United States to work as prostitutes. Their work was published by Breitbart and they became conservative icons to their supporters for exposing a liberal organization, but to their detractors, they brought down an important and valuable organization that engaged in community organizing and voter registration. In subsequent years, O’Keefe tried to engage in sting operations against the Washington Post, a George Soros backed group, CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau, and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu.

A few years ago, two pro-life activists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, released undercover videos accusing Planned Parenthood doctors of selling aborted fetal tissue. The heavily edited videos caused national outrage and led to threats against abortion providers. They filmed 14 people without their consent at meetings with women’s healthcare providers in four cities and published the videos on the website for the Center for Medical Progress. In 2017, they were charged with 15 felonies by California prosecutors.

These undercover sting videos are often cleverly edited in a deceptive manner and don’t show the entire context of what took place.

My own hunch is that people like to see undercover journalism, entertainment, and activism if it confirms their own beliefs and values and exposes others that they dislike or disagree with. They don’t like it and label it as “Gotcha” techniques if it exposes and embarrasses people and organizations that they like. One group’s muckraker or hero can be seen by others as a hack and a charlatan.

Liberals like me were critical of the ACORN sting and other similar deceptive incidents that attacked liberal institutions. While it’s tempting to revel in Sacha Baron Cohen’s exposure of the dark side of conservatives, we shouldn’t encourage the deceptive techniques that he used to get his information, results, and behavior. What goes around comes around. In the future, we’re likely to see more conservative citizen journalists/advocates/provocateurs like James O’Keefe who will set out to entrap and embarrass liberal democrats and organizations through deceptive measures. Will we embrace these undercover efforts as much as we do Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who is America? Probably not.

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Larry Atkins is the author of Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias (Prometheus Books). He teaches Journalism at Temple University and Arcadia University. Twitter: @larryatkins4

Humor From Tikkun

Mar24

by: David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 24th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

It’s not our fault, Trump declares. It never is, adds Spicer.

As the GOP-controlled House retreated from voting on an Obamacare replacement bill for the second day in a row Friday, Donald J. Trump, who had said today was do-or-die for the legislation, called the New York Times to blame the Democrats.

“If they had stood up and voted to replace the disaster that is the ACA, we wouldn’t have needed unity among our ranks” to do it, Trump said. “Nancy Pelosi is a bad, or sick, woman for opposing our offer of health care coverage to many younger, healthier and higher-earning Americans. Such a nasty woman – a terrible, low-energy leader.”


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The MillionYear Picnic and Other Stories

Mar24

by: Paul Buhle on March 24th, 2017 | Comments Off

Illustrated by Will Elder. Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, 2017. 216pp, $29.99.

The Will Elder story is legendary in the history of comic art, but with the passage of generations, the legend is in danger of receding into a distant past of less-than-iconic popular art. Elder, like most of the brilliant artists who emerged within a temporarily booming comic book industry of the later 1940s, did not script his own work, or find himself a late life celebrity in graphic novels. Worse in some ways, in collaboration with his near-lifelong workmate Harvey Kurtzman, he turned from wildly creative satire to drawing “Little Annie Fanny” for Playboy, over several decades, with blue pencil editor Hugh Hefner further limiting a limited protagonist-titillator. It was a living, with health benefits.

But Elder (born Wolf Elder Eisenberg, 1921) had genius days, or rather genius decades, and the millions of readers who have delved Mad Comics reprints in paperbacks endlessly reprinted since later 1950s have encountered the consistent, voluminous best of his work. As Mad founder and savant Kurtzman put it, Elder would get a free hand with the schmaltz method of strip completion: he could smear around as many details as came to mind while he was working furiously from scripts, very often Kurtzman’s scripts and sometimes outlined figures. Intermittently, these included Yiddish phrases, Lower East Side scenes and most poignantly, Elder’s own mother, caricatured for humor.


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Humor From Tikkun

Mar21

by: David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 21st, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Trump Motivates Congressional GOP on Health Bill

Donald J. Trump issued a warning to Republican House members in a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill as dissension within GOP ranks over the proposed Obamacare replacement bill has been heating up.

According to widespread reports, Trump told lawmakers he would help ensure they lose their seats in 2018 if they don’t back the GOP health-care bill.


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Humor From Tikkun

Mar10

by: David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 10th, 2017 | Comments Off

‘Changing the Channel’ on Trump

 

It’s been noted – and amply demonstrated – that Trump garners his awareness of the general national and world situation – its issues, problems, crises (and proposed solutions) and even of “fluff” – from his daily diet of cable “news.”

Reporting and observation have indicated that the president watches several hours of Fox and CNN virtually every morning, and his regular tweets (often expressing alarm, ire, contempt and so on regarding various pieces of information about events and people) frequently come within seconds of the broadcast about an item he is responding to.

It’s believed the recent Trump tweet (known now as “Treets”) accusing former President Obama of having wiretapped Trump Tower during the election campaign is one of many cases in point.


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Humor From Tikkun

Mar9

by: By David Tell, Tikkun Managing Editor and Chief Satirist on March 9th, 2017 | Comments Off

(Pre-)Deconstructing Trump’s Wall – Literally

 

In a phenomenon perversely inversely reminiscent of the collecting of pieces of the breached and demolished Berlin Wall in 1991, residents along both sides of the southern border of the U.S. have been making off with material slated for the construction of Trump’s much-touted barrier against Mexican migrants.

In this case, they’re making off with pieces of the the astronomically costly wall before it’s even built.

The activity has so frustrated construction workers and border agents that they have even used some of the same materials to throw brickbats at the thieves – “some of them good people,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement regional director Budd Tugly said he assumed.


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