Category Archives: Ballin It Up
With the recent crediting of Jon Stewart as helping to move along the 9/11 First Responders bill by dedicating an entire show to its passage, he may have made important strides beyond “advocacy satire” and into a realm some journalists have rightly, and often wrongly, traversed: advocacy journalism.
I like the first term because it gives satire its due credence that is often discounted as non-serious or not to be taken as such. Much of this blog is reflective of my academic interests, most of which have sought to figure humor and satire’s current place in our culture. In the last few months I finally feel like im getting close. I recently received my first revise and resubmit notice from the journal of Journalism: Theory and Practice on an essay I wrote last spring on Stewart and Colbert as public journalists that tried to tackle this idea. They want me to go further.
Which is what Stewart and Colbert are doing. A major component to public journalism as outlined by Jay Rosen and Davis “Buzz” Merritt is that taking matters of public importance into account is a much needed journalistic practice. But they are also quick to warn that it is not the same as journalists advocating for specific positions, a consideration I went to great lengths to illustrate Stewart and Colbert were taking.
All of that seems to have been thrown out the window in the past few months. The much hyped and misunderstood, rallies to restore both sanity and/or fear were met with much criticism in the mainstream press for the two comedians overstepping their bounds and creating their own spectacle. Colbert’s testimony in front of Congress on the plight of migrant workers in light of a recent farm bill was soundly discarded.
But lo did Stewart bounce back with an actual legislative win! The 9/11 First responders bill special marked a significant point where Stewart was rightly credited and praised for raising a significant issue, in his own way, while acknowledging that he was right in skewering those he thought were responsible for its blockage. Republicans. Allowing NY firefighters and police to come on the show and state their case, while hearing their voices shaken by the ravages of cancer from Ground Zero, became un-debatable. And as the NY Times pointed out Stewart may be actually moving into the role of satire advocate journalist with this episode, comparing him to Edward R. Murrow in the process. Take that Keith Olbermann!
In light of this, I do not feel that Stewart and Colbert have wholly abandoned the notion of public journalism in the sense laid out by either Rosen or Merritt. In order to understand the influence of Stewart and Colbert I think it is helpful to create an ironic understanding of their intellectual and journalistic posturing. That is, they are “Ironic Intellectuals”: their authority stems from the very disavowal of any serious authority. Their humor and absurdity are precisely what give them a sobering sincerity so badly needed.
It is also what enables us to understand their straddling of journalist/comedian. They can be both and we can understand them as both. I’ll be playing with this idea more in the coming months as comprehensive exams and dissertations loom on the horizon. In the meantime watch Stewart’s speech and offer some thoughts on the matter.
After 5 years of failing to assemble a good enough supporting cast to win when it counts, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers is pissed. And for all the wrong reasons.
In a letter to Cleveland fans that was no doubt meant for one former resident in particular. By now even non-sports fans have had a chance to check out this massive PR vomit fest so I’ll spare the recounting. But this epic piece of 7th grade level poetry and grammar bears repeating
I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED “KING” WINS ONE
Despite the grammatical errors and the fact that James had been instilled with that nickname by everyone in the world since he was 15 (thanks secret Nike middle-school recruiters), Gilbert’s rant is a clear case of projected narcissism that probably makes James’s decision feel that much better.
Though losing out on the chance find something positive to say about their hometown team The New York Times agrees as well. They point out that it is Gilbert who created the James monster. I mean have you seen the posters on warehouse walls in Cleveland the last few years? The Cavs are as guilty of stroking Lebron’s “Lebron-sized” ego as he is.
Rather than going further into rationally picking apart the reasons why this was a bad move for Gilbert I will instead engage in my own Gilbert-esque rant about why he looks more ridiculous than Lebron:
As if the Cavaliers have any clout to make such accusations. I hate to break it to you dude but you tried, and it didn’t work out. It happens. Bottom line: in a sport that is as focused on the spectacle and glitz as professional basketball, no one WANTS to play in Cleveland. It’s not like you had Lebron james because of some shrewd deals and a proven track record of developing winners. The Cavs were shitty like everyone else who is trying to up their draft stock and got lucky by just happening to have the #1 pick the year Lebron entered the draft. In other words, he was a GIFT to you, and you squandered it. Ok maybe that’s a bit harsh, but you definitely did not do enough to ensure well in advance that he would stay. Seven years is more than enough time to build around a player who is the best in the world. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: YOU CAN’T WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP WHEN YOUR SECOND OPTION IS MO WILLIAMS. PERIOD. And signing Shaq as if he were the answer to your woes? What is this 1996? 2004? I know for a fact it is not because those teams, the Lakers and Heat, HAVE titles, much like they will in the years to come. And I can tell you who won’t, the Cavs. And not because Lebron is a dick. He probably is. But that is as much a product of the Cavs elevation as his own. You had your chance. Now deal with it. You are obviously off to a great start with this letter showing every potential superstar ever that you will support a player until his decision is to not play for you. And then you will make him into an enemy.
That being said I hope the Heat get their ass handed to them in the Finals next year by LA. Need I remind everyone that Kobe Bryant and the Lakers do, in fact, still plan on playing.
Al Franken keeps it the realest. Of course I could be referring to his epic skewering of Rush Limbaugh, or to his similarly epic nailing of the far right. To be fair, each of those is baller. But what I think is the most baller is that he has actually turned it into a pretty solid career as an actual U.S. Senator.
Check out this dismantling of a couple of Halliburton Arbitration Lawyers. These corporate jackass apologists were given the soul crushing job of denying a female employee her day in court after she was sexually assaulted by other Halliburton employees on assignment in Iraq. The corporate-government complex was definitely in need of a good balling up. And Franken was just the person to give it to them.
No doubt because of Jon Stewart’s popularity and Stephen Colbert’s actual campaign for President in 2008, there seems to be a growing obsession with comedians throwing their hat in the political ring.
Now Iceland’s got one Comedian Jon Gnarr was recently elected mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland, a city that has now apparently seen four mayors in as many years. This one seems more Colbert and less Franken. Except for the fact that it worked and his absurd campaign promises, promising Kindergartners to build a Disneyland at the airport, were enough for the good people of Reykjavik.
Absurd? Probably. Actually I think it makes pretty good sense. The things comedians say onstage, or “promise” during their campaigns are no less absurd than what politicians actually promise to constituents. Plus neither one of them gets any of these promises fulfilled anyway. As Jon Stewart told Jim Cramer “There is a certain sense that we are both snake oil salesman, only we admit we are selling snake oil.”
Here are a few more reasons why we should let comedians ball up politics:
1. Comedians understand society and how things work. That’s why they can make the observations they do.
2. Comedians are smart and ballsy. The same human qualities it takes to get someone to want to run for public office/service is remarkably similar to the type of person it takes to get up in front of a group of people and say what they think. People already accuse politicians of pandering in order to win votes. Comedians pander to audiences as well, but in most cases in a way that is brutally honest and insightful. At the very least they acknowledge their pandering.
4. Comedians have slightly less shame than politicians.
3. They’re baller.
I mean it could be worse. Remember, Minnesota also elected former pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura in 1998. And my own home state of California has elected not one, but TWO Hollywood elites, as Republicans, as Governor. For now I’ll put my money on the funny people.
This will be the first of what I am sure shall be a widely recurring column for Faination readers. Quick backstory: when I first started graduate school in Arizona back in the PT era (Pre-Twitter) some friends and I started using the term “baller” to reveal our opinion on all sorts of topics/ideas/people/etc. As time has gone on it has become a regular part of my vocabulary and that of others whom I have met over the years. Generally I have avoided giving a definition, preferring instead to let use create understanding. However, loosely defined “baller” denotes a sense of awesomeness; akin to “cool” or “boss” for our friends of the 1970s (though I have always felt this term should also make a comeback. That would be baller). Additionally to say someone is “balling things up” generally means they are being “baller” in their actions. Usually this is accompanied by a sense of telling it like it is or putting someone or something in their place, often with a healthy dose of humor thrown in.
Much of what I do academically, comedically, and socially is in the service of “balling things up.” As such it is only fair that I attempt to make it a regular occurrence here so that readers (if/when I obtain them) can better understand what it means to be “baller”, both as theory and application.
In this inaugural post I turn to an environmental crisis that is actually not baller: the ongoing BP/Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Long story short on April 20 an oil rig drilling more than a mile underwater ruptured, currently spilling thousands of gallons a day into the Gulf and beginning to reach land all over the place. Estimates on how much daily oil varies but the estimates keep climbing. It’s so bad that President Obama dedicated his first Oval Office Press Conference to addressing the issue. A sobering review of the spill can be found here , and pictures here . Not baller at all.
Now for the baller part. There is a new twitter account aimed at addressing the the massive PR storm. Only this one is balling up BP for real. I’m talking about @BPGlobalPR . Launched on May 19, this twitter account has been subtlely, yet brilliantly mocking the response by BP to the spill, as well as BP’s official twitter responding to the disaster. Apparently it’s worked (or not depending on your opinion). Not only has the fake BP twitter garnered over 165,000 followers in less than a month, it has also sparked the attention of both the actual BP and Twitter who have asked a notification be placed on the account to key users in on its fake status.
Here is a smathering of some of the tweets placed by @BPGlobalPR that have the uptight polluters, who knew, so upset:
We’re paying Google a lot of money to make sure you only have access to the best possible info on the oil spill: our info.
Surprised ourselves by getting emotional on the coast today. Turns out the wind blew dispersant in our eyes #BPrebrand
In case you missed our latest magic show, we made a fire vortex on the water! Tada! #bpmagic
Will Twitter please shut down @BP_America – no one can tell if it’s a joke! #bprebrand
The last one is especially fun given the pressure applied by actual BP to help their image. However, here’s a thought. Rather than worry about what some dude is saying about your screw up to make a joke about the way you are handling it, HOW BOUT WORRYING ABOUT THE ACTUAL SPILL! It seems as though for a time @BPGlobalPR did bend to the pressure, instead of breaking from it like the actual PBP oil rigs. The satirical twitter did indicate that it was fake, but not before having the last laugh. @BPGlobalPR’s bio was changed to read:
We are not associated with British Petroleum, the company that has been destroying the Gulf of Mexico for 51 days.
In the study of rhetoric a key element in the understanding of parody and satire is that the creator must give a clue, a small wink to let viewers know that they are being deceived. These winks are generally somewhat hidden, playing on the idea that people do not expect to be deceived so will not recognize the clues even if they are placed in front of them. Aside from that they may simply not get the joke. @BPGlobalPR seems to function with the former while @BP_America is clearly the latter. The twitter account has since changed its bio, this time to remove all literal indications that it is satire. Nevertheless, for technically bowing to the pressures of mighty BP, while simultaneously getting another well-deserved jab in at them in the process, I think @BPGlobalPR is an excellent choice for the inaugural Ballin’ It Up.