Television

Midnight Bias

Can the nation survive without fair and balanced Sarah Palin jokes?

|

Like Patty Hearst brandishing a semi-automatic carbine during an SLA bank robbery, Sarah Palin didn't actually do much during her celebrated appearance on Saturday Night Live this weekend. But it was a shocking tableau nonetheless. After mocking Palin relentlessly for the last month, the liberal terrorists at SNL actually kidnapped the vice presidential candidate, brainwashed her, and made her complicit in their crimes against democracy.

Is it time, perhaps, to get serious about the War on Punchlines? Surely it must have been tough for conservatives to watch Palin's uncharacteristically docile performace; instead of Sarah Barracuda, she was Miss Congeniality, reduced to accepting smarmy compliments from Alec Baldwin. But she was there on her own accord, apparently without preconditions. And however much one might want to rail about the show's liberal bias and its double standard—would Barack Obama have been treated so dismissively?—it ultimately makes the most sense to simply treat late-night comedians like late-night comedians—and that means realizing they're exempt from journalistic notions of fairness and balance.

Not everyone seems willing to be so logical. Last week, for example, the Center for Media and Public Affairs shared its latest findings with Fox News: In the five weeks after John McCain announced Palin as his running mate, the CMPA revealed, Jay Leno and David Letterman told 286 jokes involving those two candidates, and only 42 jokes involving their opponents Barack Obama and Joe Biden. "Generally the Republicans get targeted much more often than Democrats, but this election is driving it off the charts," CMPA Executive Director Donald Rieck explained.

The path Rieck traveled to arrive at this conclusion is impossible to trace, at least if one relies on CMPA's own statistics. From January 1 through September 16 of this year, for example, Leno and Letterman told 717 jokes about Democratic candidates and 602 jokes about their Republican counterparts. During an eight-month period in which the CMPA tracked late-night jokes in 2004 on Leno, Letterman, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and The Daily Show, Republicans led the tally but not by any margin that could credibly yield the phrase "much more often"—the final count was 990 jokes to 858. In the 2000 presidential campaign, a 14-month count yielded 697 jokes involving Republican candidates, 632 involving Democratic ones…and 1189 involving incumbent Bill Clinton.

Fox News didn't bother to report any of that. Instead, it simply concluded that "the Kings of Late Night are not equal-opportunity destroyers this year when it comes to telling jokes about the candidates for president and vice president—they're hammering Republicans a stunning seven times more often than they skewer Democrats." Got that? Somehow, five cherry-picked weeks, in which a winking, witch-proof gift from comedy heaven made her debut on the national stage, has been magically transformed into a full year of lopsided Republican hammering. Or to put it another way: The journalists at Fox News are using a deliberately misleading data point to smear the journalistic ethics of comedy writers!

That takes an admirably well-developed sense of irony, no doubt, but where does it lead? A few weeks ago, former SNL writer and current would-be senator Al Franken suggested an idea for a sketch to his old boss at SNL, Lorne Michaels. Michaels put Franken in touch with the show's current head writer, Seth Meyers, and Meyers ended up writing a piece that showed John McCain approving outrageously misleading attack ads against Barack Obama.

Conservative pundit Bernie Goldberg was incensed by Franken's role in the sketch's creation and expressed his displeasure on The O'Reilly Factor. But while Goldberg went on at length about Franken's "vested interest in trashing John McCain," the most striking thing he said had nothing to do with the comedian/candidate. Instead, it came when Goldberg was imagining what his response would have been had Franken played no role in the sketch's creation. "Maybe the only problem I would have had is why don't [they] do one about Barack Obama?" he mused.

Obviously, SNL does do sketches about Obama. In fact, in an earlier appearance on The O'Reilly Factor this year, Goldberg credited one of those sketches with inspiring the media to stop treating Obama with such servile deference. But apparently the occasional Obama sketch is not enough to satisfy Goldberg's sense of fairness and balance. What he would really like, it seems, is a more quid pro quid approach: Each time SNL airs a Sarah Palin sketch, it must immediately follow it with one about Obama.

No doubt Goldberg would stop short of mandating government intervention to achieve such ends—that would align him a little too intimately with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, both of whom are reportedly eager to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. Instead, it's more likely that Goldberg is simply trying to normalize the preposterous idea that late-night comedy shows should be held to even higher standards of fairness and balance than most news shows attain these days. (Does The O'Reilly Factor run one anti-McCain story for every anti-Obama story it airs? Does Countdown with Keith Olbermann do the reverse?)

For years, Lorne Michaels has insisted SNL has no agenda other than laughs—it ends up skewering everyone in its pursuit of comic efficacy. Jon Stewart says the same thing about The Daily Show, and there's statistical evidence to back him up. Listen, however, to what some SNL cast-members have been saying lately. According to Amy Poehler, "trying to take fair hits is kind of the shared collective of the place." Seth Meyers says, "The trick with all of these people is to try to come out as fair and evenhanded as possible." By pairing Tina Fey as Sarah Palin with Poehler as Hillary Clinton, they "made it safer to mention things about Sarah Palin without making it seem like an attack piece."

Apparently, the agenda is shifting, with fairness and balance being pursued not out of desire to expand the field of potential targets, but simply for the sake of being perceived as fair and balanced. If Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers worked for some news organization that touted its objectivity as a major selling point, their commitment to even-handedness would be commendable. Given that they work for a supposedly fearless and irreverent comedy show, however, their neutral, let's-throw-everyone-a-bone approach to comedy just seems sadly funny. Maybe it's time for a real maverick like Sarah Palin to shake things up there and end the comic earmarking.

At the same time, one can't help but wonder if the last laugh will end up on Goldberg, Fox News, and the CMPA. In August, a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey found that 47 percent of the public believes that the government "should require all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary." Democrats support the idea more than Republicans do, with 54 percent of the former and 43 percent of the latter agreeing with the statement. But the number of Republicans who say they favor the idea is rising—in 2007, Rasmussen Reports asked the same question and only 40 percent of Republicans answered affirmatively.

The percentage of Democrats embracing the idea rose in 2008 too, but at least there's a logical explanation for their support: Resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine would dramatically alter the talk radio world. At the very least, every station that airs conservative talkers would be compelled to carry contrasting viewpoints. Alternatively, if they decided such an approach wasn't economically feasible, they could stop airing political commentary altogether.

How many Republicans, one wonders, would willingly jeapordize fifteen hours of Sean Hannity's radio show each week just to make sure SNL lampoons Barack Obama as often as it lampoons Sarah Palin? If SNL's in-house Obama impersonator, Fred Armisen, happens to have a Republican agent, then the answer is one. If not, it's zero. But essentially that's the deal pundits like Goldberg are paving the way for every time they insist that the late-night comedy world's supposed lack of fairness and balance is a problem in need of a solution.

Contributing Editor Greg Beato is a writer living in San Francisco. Read his reason archive here.

Editor's Note: We generally don't run letters about reason online pieces (that's what the comments section of the blog is for). One of the exceptions is when a source or a subject in a story makes an objection. Here is a note from Donald Rieck of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, whose work is cited in a recent article by Contributing Editor Greg Beato. It's followed by a reply from Beato.

In his article "Midnight Bias: Can the nation survive without fair and balanced Sarah Palin jokes?," Greg Beato questions the logic behind the following quote and data analysis in a recent Fox News online article:

"Not everyone seems willing to be so logical. Last week, for example, the Center for Media and Public Affairs shared its latest findings with Fox News: In the five weeks after John McCain announced Palin as his running mate, the CMPA revealed, Jay Leno and David Letterman told 286 jokes involving those two candidates, and only 42 jokes involving their opponents Barack Obama and Joe Biden. "Generally the Republicans get targeted much more often than Democrats, but this election is driving it off the charts," CMPA Executive Director Donald Rieck explained."

Beato cited data from varying time parameters (January 1 to September 16 of this year; January 1 to August 24 of 2004; and what he termed as a "14 month" count during the 2000 election) to point out that Republicans are not excessively targeted by political jokesters, and that to characterize the ratio of jokes as being "off the charts" makes no sense other than to suggest the unfunny business of a partisan agenda. "The path Rieck traveled to arrive at this conclusion is impossible to trace," he writes.

The Fox reporter asked how previous Republican and Democratic general election candidates fared in similar (post convention-general election) periods and I noted that, generally, Republican candidates are "much more often" the target than their Democratic counterparts. 

Here is the total (post-convention) general election political humor data for presidential candidates 1992 through 2006:

Year

GOP Candidate

GOP Candidate Jokes

Dem. Candidate

Dem. Candidate Jokes

1992

George H. Bush

161

William J. Clinton

66

1996

Robert Dole

208

William J. Clinton

164

2000

George W. Bush

254

Albert Gore

165

2004

George W. Bush

261

John F. Kerry

135

 

 

884

 

530

In his article, Beato also seems to try to place CMPA on one side of the debate over the fairness doctrine. CMPA, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan affiliate of George Mason University, conducts these studies to improve the debate on media coverage and not to favor any party, candidate or policy. We cannot police how reporters or pundits use our data, but we always try to give them the full picture and point out the limits of what can and can't be said.

Sincerely,

Donald Rieck, M.A., M.B.A.
Executive Director
CMPA/STATS
Washington, DC

Greg Beato responds: I appreciate Donald Rieck's interest in my piece, and the additional information and statistics he provides in his response. In the Fox News article, Rieck is quoted as follows: "Generally, the Republicans get targeted much more often than Democrats, but this election is driving it off the charts."

In his response to my piece, Rieck explains that he was responding to a fairly specific question; apparently the Fox reporter asked him "how previous Republican and Democratic general election candidates fared in similar (post convention-general election) periods."

Since the Fox News article makes no explicit reference to "general election candidates" or "similar (post convention-general election) periods," and since Rieck prefaces his remark with the word "Generally," I assumed that he was speaking about late-night comedy coverage of presidential elections in general, with no qualifiers or distinctions.

To get a better idea of what Rieck meant by "much more often," I went to the CMPA website to look at the statistics it compiled from past elections. What I found there is the information I include in my piece. The time periods I cite-"January 1 to September 16 of this year" and the others-are simply the time periods that CMPA used in its previous studies. That is, I didn't make any effort to pick time periods that would show greater balance in candidate joke coverage than Rieck's quote implied; I simply used whatever information CMPA had posted on its site.

As I show in my article, that information makes it clear that when you remove distinctions such as "general election candidates" and "post convention-general election periods," overall late-night comedy coverage of presidential candidates is fairly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Given Rieck's stated commitment to giving reporters and pundits the full picture, I am sure he can appreciate my desire to add context to the narrow portrait of late-night comedy election coverage that the Fox News article presents.

Advertisement

NEXT: Waiting for Uncle Sugar

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The key difference between the sketches SNL has done about Obama and Palin is that they only painted one of them in a negative light.

    -jcr

  2. she was…reduced to accepting smarmy compliments from Alec Baldwin.

    Right. After his cue-card-inspired rant about how Palin’s candidacy was antithetical to everything SNL believed in, Baldwin’s witty mea culpa was, “You’re much hotter in person.” Comedy gold! Anyway, it’s not so much the fact that TV “comedy” shows are dominated by the left. It’s that the pious priests of “legitimate” news organizations complain bitterly about being branded as bias, then they replay the unfunny SNL Palin skits endlessly on their own broadcasts, pretending they’re newsworthy, thereby having their cake and eating it too.

  3. So, to say that the lefty bias of comedy shows is not a real news story you write a whole article about it? I can’t believe I read the whole thing.

  4. treat late-night comedians like late-night comedians

    That phrase is the money shot. Nothing further needed.

  5. Well, Beato’s piece also discusses the potential revival of the Fairness Doctrine, which should scare (or at least really perturb) all us libertarians.

    The idea of codifying political speech is jarring. Codifying it into two arbitrary camps — “liberal” and “conservative” — is just breathtaking. (Hell, who gets to identify speech as “political” in the first place?)

    Christ, Americans have no idea what they’ve thrown away.

  6. SNL is spectacularly unfunny. I can’t understand why anyone watches it.

  7. don’t lie to us mr simple. you got someone to read it to you.

    “lefty bias”? maybe. or maybe she’s such a fucking idiot that the stuff practically writes itself…

    [laughs maniacally and staggers off]

  8. Why no link to that episodes Nielsen ratings?

    http://tvbythenumbers.com/2008/10/19/sarah-palin-delivers-highest-saturday-night-live-ratings-since-1994/6500

  9. Beato writes as if the Fairness Doctrine required all radio and television stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary. As I understand it, equal amounts of commentary on both sides of controversial issues was not required by the doctrine; it only required license holders to devote airtime to public issues and to present both sides of the controversy.

  10. parse,

    What if you dont think there is a controversy? Maybe it is clear cut which side is right? Hence, no need to present the other, right?

  11. Even if you believe one side is clearly right, the dictionary tells you that any “discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views” is a controversy. Which has absolutely nothing to do with the question of whether the Fairness Doctrine required equal time for conservative and liberal views, the point that I was making. But it’s nice to know you are thinking of me, robc.

  12. SNL can do whatever it wants so long as the studio heads approve, and all they really want is to make sure they don’t alienate too many conservative or liberal viewers and lose ratings.

  13. Might want to stop examining the ‘fairness’ doctrine of the past and take a look at what is being proposed now.

    You thought the Right had the monopoly on big-brotherness? Guess again.

  14. This might be one of the most unfocused, meandering articles that I’ve read in quite some time. In fact, I’m not really sure that the author remembers what he was writing about.

    As for Palin’s SNL appearance, I believe she came across in a very positive light: poised and charming versus Baldwin’s and others’ crassness and borderline vulgarity.

  15. I would gladly give up SNL and Conan for the permanent silencing of Hannity and Limbaugh.

    just kidding. Everybody oughta grow some thicker skin and get over themselves. And if there’s something on the tele that you don’t like, change the frikkin channel. geeeeez a lou.

  16. Might want to stop examining the ‘fairness’ doctrine of the past and take a look at what is being proposed now.

    Where should I look? Probably not in an article titled “the Return of the Fairness Doctrine.” Why are you and robc so insistent that comments on this thread ignore the actual content in it?

  17. As mentioned earlier, the Fairness Doctrine seems to just be way further the two-party system with everything conveniently being labeled as conservative or liberal. Will radio stations also be required to grant airtime to communists, socialists, libertarians, fascists, anarchists, classical liberals, and the occasional independent thinker?

  18. Heaven forbid anyone actually ASKING Obama or Biden about the “Fairness” doctrine in light of the First Amendment. After all, he was only a ConLaw professor, so what would he know about how to treat the subject? Let’s just assume he’ll do something once he’s in power, just like people are doing WRT the wars & McCain!! That’s the ticket.

  19. Why are you and robc so insistent that comments on this thread ignore the actual content in it?

    What the fuck is that? I responded directly to something you said.

    And if Im running The Children’s Hour of Science radio show, Im not letting an IDer on the air to cover both sides of the “controversy”.

  20. robc, your comment read to me like a critique of the Fairness Doctrine (and not a particularly cogent one)whereas I questioned Beato’s definition of the Fairness Doctrine.

  21. Another in an ongoing series of election “controversies” I just can’t be bothered to give a fuck about.

    I abandonded it about four paragraphs in. Was there an actual point?

  22. Democrats support the idea more than Republicans do, with 54 percent of the former and 43 percent of the latter agreeing with the statement. But the number of Republicans who say they favor the idea is rising-in 2007, Rasmussen Reports asked the same question and only 40 percent of Republicans answered affirmatively.

    Hanging a paragraph on a 3 percentage increase in two polls performed once? Seems a bit slim to me.

  23. I’m with Marky Mark on this one. SNL was much funnier with Joe Piscopo.

  24. I abandonded it about four paragraphs in.

    Me too. He lost me at “Wahhh! they’re making more fun of Team A than Team B!” Here’s an idea: next time don’t nominate a complete joke if you want people to take you seriously.

  25. Even if you believe one side is clearly right, the dictionary tells you that any “discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views” is a controversy.

    Should NPR, after the special on natural selection, be required to air a rebuttal by the young earth creatioists? Fits the definition you cited quite well, does it not?

    The fairness doctrine was a craplike policy in the past. It would be crappy policy in the future.

    But I’ve got this 1st Amendment fixation. YMMV.

  26. Here’s an idea: next time don’t nominate a complete joke if you want people to take you seriously.

    No shit. I think the numbers for Clinton jokes vs. R and D candidates in 2000 demonstrate that. There are a lot of things I would trade to get 15 hours of Hannity off the air*.

    * As long as it’s not mandated by the government.

  27. You know, SNL was a lot funnier when I was in it’s target demographic.

  28. I abandonded it about four paragraphs in.

    Me too. He lost me at “Wahhh! they’re making more fun of Team A than Team B!” Here’s an idea: next time don’t nominate a complete joke if you want people to take you seriously.

    Sorry, I stopped reading after the weak-assed insult to comedy’s patriotism

  29. Jesus, Buddy Holly, you too?

    I have not (and will not) defend the Fairness Doctrine. But when someone talks about “the Return of the Fairness Doctrine,” it should be about what the Fairness Doctrine really was. And when someone talks about “controversy,” they should understand that a controversy can exist even when one side is clearly correct.

    I also don’t understand why you are going to filter the gnat which is the Fairness Doctrine while you swallow the camel which is government control of the broadcast spectrum.

  30. Most people will only listen to other people who support and agree with their own biases, so it doesn’t matter which side gets more airtime.

    FOX dominates the radio talk show market because they saw value in it. Other stations didn’t see the value, so FOX deserves its success. If other companies now see that value, then they need to buy stations from FOX, but only if FOX is willing to sell. The government should have no role in this reindeer game. And I say that as an evil democrat.

    As far as asking comedians to be balanced . . . I’m waiting for a better punchline.

  31. I also don’t understand why you are going to filter the gnat which is the Fairness Doctrine while you swallow the camel which is government control of the broadcast spectrum.

    Frequency and power restrictions are regrettably necessary. Similar to traffic laws, putting segments of the spectrum up for bids facilitates the smooth flow of RF
    transmitted information.

    But you probably already knew that.

    Content regulation is a whole different thing. As far as I’m concerned, if Larry Flynt bids the most he should be able to broadcast low brow porn 24/7. Pat Robertson can broadcast his insane ramblings as well.

  32. Oops. The first paragraph above should be italicized indicating a quote.

    I will endeavor to use preview more oten.

  33. We complain. That’s what we, as a Nation, do. We are like whiny school children that complain about someone making fun of them or someone taking their ball.

    The right has moved from the party that supported Milton Friedman to the party that eagerly tunes in to see what Sean Hannity will complain about next.

    Unfortunately, for Republicans and everyone else, the party hasn’t had anything legitimate to complain about for a decade, while simultaneously having more platforms to air their complaints.

    The same thing happened to Democrats in the seventies and eighties.

  34. robc: Digging the Vinge reference.

    Buddy: I wouldn’t impose any “right of reply” on NPR, but I would require every unit of state or local government (including state-owned educational institutions) that hold broadcast licenses to turn them over to some private sector entity, like a non-profit listeners’ organization. How the F did the First Amendment get turned into “the government is allowed to own scarce frequencies to run electronic media”? Of course, no tax money should go to CPB or any local analogs, either.

    Why Certainly: FOX isn’t big in talk radio. The monster is Premiere/Clear Channel, which has Limbaugh and others. FOX’s radio presence is actually from a deal with Premiere.

    Kevin

  35. I think a good argument could be made that the advent of FoxNews and Limbaugh,Savage, and others on talk radio has actually made all news considerably worse.

  36. Buddy: I wouldn’t impose any “right of reply” on NPR, but I would require every unit of state or local government (including state-owned educational institutions) that hold broadcast licenses to turn them over to some private sector entity, like a non-profit listeners’ organization. How the F did the First Amendment get turned into “the government is allowed to own scarce frequencies to run electronic media”? Of course, no tax money should go to CPB or any local analogs, either.

    I’m trying to find something to disagree with in that.

    I can’t.

  37. “I would require every unit of state or local government (including state-owned educational institutions) that hold broadcast licenses to turn them over to some private sector entity, like a non-profit listeners’ organization …”

    Who the hell do you think would compose these non-profit listeners’ organizations?

    People who would seek to restrict content, of course, in the worst way.

    Think something like your local HOA, only for radio, then TV, then, why not? Satellite and internet … all for political balance, the good of society and the children, you know.

  38. that would align him a little too intimately with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry, both of whom are reportedly eager to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine.

    joe says Obama has opposed it on the campaign trial, which certainly means Barry will veto any attempt to resurrect it, so rest easy!

    Heaven forbid anyone actually ASKING Obama or Biden about the “Fairness” doctrine in light of the First Amendment.

    Barry believes that judges should be all about fairness when they interpret the Constitution, dontcha know. Too bad that so-called “brilliant constitutional law professor” has a fundamental misunderstanding of the document. But hey, who gives a shit about that old thing, right? He’s a black man and his presidency will effectively eliminate racism as we know it, and the world will love us once again. That’s all that matters and don’t you forget it.

  39. Let’s not forget the main issue. Tina Fey’s sketches remind us just how adorable Sarah Palin is.

  40. Michael:

    The “public radio” I can hear over the air in my listening area is pretty diverse. A local private, Catholic university is an NPR outlet, and programs a lot of classical (sic) music, when they aren’t feeding the network. Another nearby private university has an unaffiliated FM, still another one has both a low power FM and an AM that is run as a commercial outlet. There’s a classical station licensed to a local school district, an eclectic stick run by a local state U., and a free form FM that used to be part of a local private college, but went independent years ago.

    One of the local Catholic dioceses owns a station I don’t listen to, and there are some Protestant outlets, which may or may not be for profit.

    There is a statewide network of NPR radio outlets, along with a parallel PBS/TV system, which is either an independent non-profit or a govt. agency. [Their website doesn’t think it is important to let us know which.]

    There’s no good reason for any arm of govt. to own or operate a broadcast outlet.

    Kevin

  41. Kevin, I agree with you, there is no good reason for any arm of government to own, operate, or regulate the content of any broadcast.

    That doesn’t mean people won’t pressure the government to do so. And since the party most often picked on by talk radio seems poised to control two out of the three branches of government, there doesn’t seem to be anyone stopping them other than swing vote Anthony Kennedy from imposing “community standards” or any other claptrap upon radio.

    And that would include your stations you listen to as well. What’s to stop the mommies in your neighborhood from protesting to the government against the type of music played on your free form FM outlet, and getting a sympathetic ear?

    Nothing, really.

  42. “Our massive strategy was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue.”

    –Bill Ruder, Democratic campaign consultant and Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Kennedy Administration

    “The main thing is the Post is going to have damnable, damnable problems out of [its Watergate coverage]. They have a television station…and they are going to have to get it renewed.”

    –President Richard Nixon

  43. Let’s not forget the main issue. Tina Fey’s sketches remind us just how adorable Sarah Palin is.

    And how unfit her goofy ass is for office.

  44. How the F did the First Amendment get turned into “the government is allowed to own scarce frequencies to run electronic media”?

    Isn’t the way the government auctions off frequencies the preferred libertarian method of dealing with a scarce commons? If ownership rights aren’t established, the owners of the biggest transmitters will win and people with smaller transmitters will just cause interference. It’s a commons and fits under the Commerce Clause because of the interstate nature or most broadcasts. So rather than have a tragedy of commons, the government allows the free market to bid on the value of certain bits of the frequency so that there are ownership rights and protects those rights.

    Jesus, some people here really are reflexive “government bad” libertarians.

  45. What’s to stop the mommies in your neighborhood from protesting to the government against the type of music played on your free form FM outlet, and getting a sympathetic ear? – Michael

    That sort of thing has been going on for quite some time, with the FCCs “decency” rules.

    James B. makes a good point about how the old regulations on political speech, whether headed by LBJ or Nixon, could be used as a club to intimidate opponents.

    zoltan: Sarah P.’s ass may be goofy, but its also pretty cute. (Hey, I’m older than she is.)

    Kevin

  46. Was there an actual point?

  47. Preview button, you have failed me.

    Was there an actual point

    That dullards are easily amused, and that the word “shocking” is easily misapplied as an adverb.

    SNL sucks. This article sucked. Alec Baldwin is a fucking douchebag.

  48. For those of you in this thread who are getting hard at the thought of Hannity off the airwaves, I must protest. Hannity provides me far too much amusement for you assholes to take him away.

  49. You know, SNL was a lot funnier when I was in it’s target demographic.

    Not really, no, it was never funny. It’s always been shit. Stoned assholes from the 70s looking through rose-colored glasses have duped a generation into thinking SNL was ever worth a fuck.

  50. it was never funny.

    Never consistently funny, perhaps.

    For instance, I have found Weekend Update very funny at times.

    Particularly when Tina Fey was the anchor, but also Dennis Miller…more if I thought about it.

  51. @Badger:

    That pretty much sums it up. We’re a nation of thin-skinned bullies. (Present company excluded, of course.) Comedians go after the powerful. Our leaders flagrantly abused their power for eight years, and can’t handle the most innocuous ribbing. Soon enough, the left will have its chance to be a humorless punching bag, just like it was in the Clinton years.

    @Jim Bob:
    No accounting for taste. I personally find Stewart and Colbert brutally funny, SNL wildly inconsistent, the National Review extraordinarily witty, and Hannity unintentionally hilarious. I’m starting to care more about comedy than politics.

  52. After Baldwin’s rant, Palin responds by saying she likes Stephen Baldwin better. Not funny.

    I would have had her say, “Aren’t you Alec Baldwin of the film actors guild?” I would have laughed at that. Maybe nobody else would.

  53. If comedians are an issue of political contention, then…

    I don’t know. That’s baffling. That makes no sense. No one can be influenced in any way, not even by laughing?

    Criticism via comedy is the highest art. It’s hard to do well, and people deserve to do it in any way they see fit.

  54. Late night comedians and politics.

    McCain announced his candidacy on Letterman.

    After dissing Letterman during the “crisis” he got a pretty harsh stream of abuse.

    His numbers went down during this time.

    His numbers rebounded a bit after appearing on the show to apologize to Letterman.

    The degree that this had an impact on the polls is impossible to tease out, but I bet Letterman swings as many votes as Palin.

  55. zoltan: Sarah P.’s ass may be goofy, but its also pretty cute. (Hey, I’m older than she is.)

    No need for qualifiers, man, you like what you like!

  56. The FCC needs to not be in the content business. Period.

  57. Of course she likes stephen better. He’s born again!

  58. Gee, and all this time I thought the people reading and responding to Reason online were libertarians. You know, third-party advocates, in favor of very limited government… One or two commentors excepting, I’m surprised and saddened by how wrong I was.

    Thanks, all of you, for teaching me to never, ever read the comments section on this site.

  59. Well, Palin was perfectly free to decline the invitation to appear. Blaming the consequences of your own choices on other people’s perspectives seems childish.

  60. Isn’t the way the government auctions off frequencies the preferred libertarian method of dealing with a scarce commons? – Mo

    That assumes that it is the govt. that owns spectrum in the first place. The homesteading model for establishing broadcast frequency ownership is more credible from a libertarian perspective, though auction is a superior method once spectrum-as-commons is established.*

    For most of its history, the U.S. broadcasting regulatory structure allocated frequencies based on a “public interest” standard, with no fees charged to the broadcasters.

    Kevin

    *See articles by scholars such as Reason contributor Thomas Hazlett

  61. Libertarians candidates aren’t getting their fair share of jokes!

  62. As often happens in the shit storm of partisanship, the key point is overlooked. As I tried to explain to my son last night:

    The problem isn’t with SNL, the Daily Show, Limbaugh, Hannity, Olbermann, O’Reilly, etc. Partisanship has it’s place in politics, and if someone is unabashedly “liberal” or “conservative”, they may fire at will. I know in advance that they are going to spin for their tribe, and can place value on their commentary accordingly.

    What pisses me off are the members of the 4th Estate who hide behind the skirts of the First Amendment, and cloak their advocacy as “journalism”.

    The media get an awful lot of latitude in this country, especially compared to other countries, because our founders understood the value of a watchdog class in an open society. They then use this latitude as a shield of immunity while they promote their agenda (for either side).

    Just fucking wrong.

  63. Listen, the campaign that the Republicans have run for the 2008 election has been a joke overall. You’ve got an ancient “Bush wannabe” who prides himself as a “Maverick”…so much a maverick in fact that he needs to steal the Democrat’s motto of “change” to supplement his own campaign. Follow this up with his choice for VP: a young, attractive woman from an obscure and exotic corner of the country, whose ignorance in politics is matched only by her extremist religious views and scandalous past. Sounds like a sitcom to me…is this a reality TV show? And people think that each side should be given fair treatment? Give me a break. Either tell the Republicans to turn their clown show into an actual campaign or create a few more political parties from which to chose so that one side doesn’t believe that the other side is being given preferential treatment. The fault doesn’t lie with the Late Night Comedians…they’re just doing their jobs: making people laugh. If politicians want to put on a good campaign, they’ll do their best to have people TRY to take them seriously. It’s a lot harder for a comedian to make fun of a candidate who actually has important things to say.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.