Total Propaganda: From Mass Culture to Popular Culture

By Alex S. Edelstein | Go to book overview

13
HUMORPROP Opiate of the Popular Culture

Perhaps no propaganda acknowledges the individual's grasp of events so rewardingly as humorprop -- the political and social commentaries of late-night television hosts, the streams of consciousness of stand-up comics, the barbs of political cartoonists, the inversions of reality acted out by comic strip characters, and the satire of public figures such as politicians, columnists, and commentators, each skewering the other as the situation permits. Each rewards wour up-to-dateness by making reality laughable. In its approach to problems, humorprop is predominantly newprop and the opiate of our popular culture.

In sheer volume, variety, and its synergy with politics and the arts, humorprop contributes to a consciousness of totalprop. Into the 1990s, hosts packaged slick humor with glitzy personalities to attract late-night audiences, and stand-up comics and comedy clubs took over cable channels. Every genre of humor was exploited -- comedy, wit, irony, parody, and satire, all designed to inform and to entertain. In a nation in which politics was ugly and oldprop, humor made it more human and acceptable. The 1996 campaign saw a flowering of satire and wit among political conservatives, modeled by such familiar figures as the acute William Buckley, the blustering P. J. O'Rourke, and the acidic Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole.

Up to Election Day 1996 the late-night hosts were enjoying Dole age jokes. "96?" one asks. "Why Dole is 96." David Letterman observed that Dole considered himself an optimist, noting that a lot of people would look at a glass as half empty, but Dole would see it as a great place to put his teeth. Jay Leno asked about Dole's "senior aides" being asked for an opinion. "How old are they, to be senior," he asked, "90 or 100?"1

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