The Subversive Power of Satire

I’m listening to a Fresh Air interview of Stephen Colbert and it’s interesting to get a sense of the thought process underlying his work. He seems thoughtful and genial and astute, not especially manic or goofy, and not a culture warrior either. I think that is why he is able to do such excellent satire around such potentially explosive topics. He’s not trying to make a statement, he’s just trying to do good comedy. Paradoxically, it makes his work all the more effective because he can then give voice to important truths that would otherwise be rejected as just another salvo in the culture wars. Satire may be one of the most powerful forms of social critique out there, because it comes to us in a subversive way.

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One Comment on “The Subversive Power of Satire”

  1. ackkael Says:

    Hi, this is an interesting statement, as this might be a helpful means for adressing an under-reported issue for which I am searching a communication strategy.
    However I fear that it doesn’t really work: I fear Colbert’s statements are only received and understood by those people who already are in line with Colbert’s “mentality” (mental framing), whereas those who are not simply don’t watch his show. Invented example: If Colbert talks about the safety of nuclear power plants this may be applauded by nuclear opponents but those in favour of nuclear would switch the TV channel (cognitive denial).
    Bottom line: Colbert may enforce and spread ideas among people of the “Colbert league” but he cannot convince others.

    In fact I hope that my conclusion is wrong – do you have something that contradicts it?
    Maybe we should start a discussion about it?
    Or someone should do some research (psycho tests?) about this question, if this hasn’t happened yet?


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