In 1983 there were at least 50 media houses in the US of A, all competing to offer that massive market their daily entertainment. Today, with the ongoing merger and acquisitions frenzy, six remain. They control what we see, hear and read. They make billions in profits while using the public airwaves for free. Adding salt to the wound, now they own the supporting print media.[i] Nearly all an American can watch, read or hear is under the control of 232 executives.[ii]
Their influence extends far beyond America’s borders because the US is in charge, no? Every academic voicing logical opposition - Bill Nye, Noam Chomsky, Burton Mack, Michael Parenti, William Blum, Naomi Klein, Ellen Brown, Richard Wolff, Zizek et al - has been forced into the wilderness of the alternate press, a place you have to know to find, because six corporations control 90% of the media.
But while those at the top push their one agenda another phenomenon has been brewing, the rising of a new breed of heroes.
For me as a young boy it was the ageless Charlie Chaplin who was first. Then, when I was old enough to choose, the big broadsides came from the Monty Python team and Mel Brooks. They tore into capitalism and religion, ripping a hole in the fabric of the top-down presented truth through which ordinary citizens slowly, as the years rolled, began to look, and see.
Soon after the secrets came tumbling out of the bag with, at first, the likes of Spitting Image and Not The 9 O’Clock News. Stand-ups George Carlin and Richard Pryor made waves in the minds of audiences, mounting an assault on the ridiculous righteousness of the American dream. Later the UK’s Bill Bailey crossed the divide with his direct criticism of the ‘give us your sweets or I’ll smash your face in’ attitude of the USA. Mark Thomas was nearly sued by Coca-Cola. The world’s most recognisable brand backed off, assuming that bad press is bad press?
While the internet made the dissemination of corporate lies easier, so it has also armed the comedians. Belly laugh attacks on the status quo are going viral, proving the rubbish being presented could be rubbished.
It was Jon Stewart’s exposure on the ‘Daily Show ‘with ‘The Best F#@king News Team Ever’ that allowed 200 odd million adult Americans to appreciate the pain the rest of the entire world had suffered because of what its Federal Reserve and to-big-to-fail banks had done with the USA housing bond collapse. His weeklong commentary helped to dramatically expose the bogus logic of the banks, a direct contrast to what the extraordinarily well-placed and paid governor of the Federal Reserve forgot to mention in all the free-to-air paid political broadcasts he made, while the voters hung on to his every lying word.
Kate Smurthwaite is just a child measuring a small 40 years but she has the public giggling and thinking about women’s rights. Abortion, justice for prostitutes, personal determination, all of these are her ammunition and her personal crusade. Where George said he gets on with it because he has already given up on the world, Kate says ‘I like to think I’m pretty good at channelling my anger into activism rather than tears. But it’s not easy …’[iii]
John Oliver now brings us the ‘Last Week Tonight’ show. Broader in scope than most stand-ups he’s found a way to fight fire with fire with his own team of researchers and writers. He slaps where few have dared slap before: Miss America Scholarships, FIFA, New Year’s Eve, The Lottery.
Bill Maher doesn’t take prisoners. I got to watching Bill when he highlighted just how politically un-informed Americans are, his move on the continuing education woes and, you may have noticed, his thing about theism and a lack of tolerance for idiots (Trump, for example). He’s rattling them. Some UC Berkeley types wanted to un-invite him to speak on campus.[iv] Great Bill. You crack them good and son, you’re not a joke. Your four million views is four million more than watch the Brit parliamentary sessions where the paid to lead act out a very poor version of the old Peter Sellers and team’s Goon show.
Russell Brand has made a new entry point by leaping onto social networks as his stage. He don’t care. He looks as though he has been pulled through a bush, but the shit he exposes is deadly serious. ‘Let’s fight,’ he says with every utterance.
Pete Dominick ("think for yourself", "check your sources"), David Pakman (money in politics), Will Ferrell (politics and the poorly developed Bush), Ricky Gervais (pcness and religion), Diane Morgan aka Philomena Cunk, Dave Allen (sadly he’s gone). So many I’ve taken heart from and names new pop up: Sarah Millican, Katherine Ryan, John Bishop, David Baddiel. All provoke thought in the English language but there are Iranians, Russians, Chinese and French plus artists from the world over all with the same message; wake up. Even my own small South Africa has produced game changers, the best for me Pieter Dirk-Uys and now young Trevor Noah is in the seat that Stewart vacated on the Tonight Show.
None of them read minds, talk with the dead, keep telepathic trained aliens locked up in freezers or follow the team of voices in their head. It’s work that brings them their material, it’s their inquiring minds that compel them to shout ‘Yea gods, don’t you understand what we’re allowing to be done to this world?!’
Because taking on government’s owners is a tough job - a government that should be ours but which is run by the too big to fail banks and corporates, a conglomerate bigger than 80% of the world’s countries. The true genius of Robin Williams was revealed to me when he was interviewed alongside another who is prepared to tell it like it is, the articulate Stephen Fry.
And the few I’ve highlighted are not alone. Thank the gods and other material making myths that you’ve your favourites. Yours no doubt dwarf my list and every name has an illustrated and vital message – if we want to hear it.
When is the Middle Class, that definitive influential group, going to understand that the Greed Capitalism of today is not the way of our grandfathers, that it’s been totally abused to make everything bright and beautiful for the 1% and their phalanx of lackeys alone? I don’t know, but the comedians are helping.
Think is the operative word. We must! The real conspiracy theories (the war on drugs) and political sideshows (Iraq had our WMD) are being challenged daily and blown apart regularly.
I say, take the Onion News’ opinion and decipher its message before tuning into any other conventional source. That’s what these special men and women are saying. Dump Fox News, CNN, BBC, Murdock, Reuters and their top men who seek to control our thoughts and behaviour.
Just comedians? No, not at all.
Late entry: Guatemala is a tiny Central America country that has been subject to US of A abuse since it realised there was money in bullying. TV comic Jimmy Morales was elected president last week on the promise of rooting out corruption. He’ll only succeed if we the public watch his back. Zapiro to replace Showerhead Zuma in South Africa?