From Truthiness to Drumpf: The Potentials and Limitations of Satirical News Shows as Critical Media Spectacles

Ilias Ben Mna


The article discusses the cultural and political significance of popular satirical news shows in the US and their potential to form a counter-discourse to established news media from the perspective of younger viewers. Douglas Kellner's concept of the ccmedia spectacle" provides a primary theoreticalaccess to an analysis of the format and contents of such programs. In this context, the  political economy, distribution  avenues and the  entertainment  logic  of, for example, The Colbert  Report and The  Daily Show are dissected and put into a larger socio­ political context. The confluence of a digital media environment and a language of  pop­ culture-inflected irony is found to be a principalfoundation for the spectacle status of satirical news shows. A further  discussion of  Stephen Colbert's  speech at  the  2006 White House Correspondents Dinner illustrates the discursive power of these media spectacles in unmasking staged political performances and calling out the  failures of  established journalism. To a certain degree, satiricalnews shows can therefore be seen as filling a void, in that they act as a ufifth  estateu that holds public power brokers accountable through a pop culture-friendly iconoclasm. Nevertheless, popular satirical news shows on major networks were also found to be largely structured by a neoliberal market logic and shaped by corporate ownership, which favors ..ideological corridors"  wherein   radical democratic politics  or  structural economic changes are repeatedly sidelined. In this  sense, these programs perform within  a stet  of contradictions, in that  they critique  (conventional) media spectacles while perpetuating the logic of the spectacle.

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