IT’S NOT FUNNY ’CAUSE IT’S TRUE:
The Mainstream Media’s Response to Media Satire
in the Bush Years
At the start of the new millennium, a phenomenon began troubling members of the mainstream national news media (imprecisely but efficiently shortened here to MSM).1 They were becoming increasingly defensive about their ratings, image, and standing in the community inside and outside the Upper East Side. A perception existed—mainly among the MSM—that the MSM was under attack.
Of course, the MSM had been assailed before and lived to report on it. The confrontations have typically come from technological changes, manifested in competing alternative media outlets.2 From print to radio to television to cable, the old guard has substantially subsumed each new threat into the protean MSM agglomeration. Even the wild World Wide Web, teeming with bloggers living in their moms’ basements and writing in their pajamas, has not been immune, as the MSM has copied, co-opted, or otherwise moved erstwhile indie writers out of their parents’ homes and into some classier sleepwear.3
But during the Bush years, a different threat to the MSM emerged that needed no technological advancement. It was something truly no-tech, something as old as the Romans, something powerful enough to shake the very idea of the MSM itself: clowns. Yes, clowns were breaching the MSM gates. At least that was a conclusion drawn from a 2004 Pew Research Center study on viewing habits, which showed a growing number of people getting their news from clowns (more precisely, “satirists”) on Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and similar after-hours comedy programs.4