The “Have I Got News For You” Effect
Juliet Jacques (writer, filmmaker and host of the political arts podcast Suite) takes apart the gaslighting within the BBC’s and MSM Comedy in her article “How Corbyn Unmasked Comedy”. She argues that the way comedians treated Jeremy Corbyn demolishes their anti-establishment credentials (and thus exposes the gaslighting from the establishment). This post quotes extensively from Jacques article.
While comedians should have, could have and probably did, make fun of Corbyn’s Jam making and interest in manhole covers, apparently the true fun was apparently re-running the establishment gaslighting of Corbyn as AS, Russia-lover and terrorist sympathizer. So either comedians are no longer anti-establishment, left wingers or they have lost the ability to see how they had been co-opted into a right wing agenda.
While New Labour allowed comedy shows like The Thick Of It to project Labour and Conservatives as “all the same”. This proposition wore thin as Cameron and Osborne’s cuts became harsher. It collapsed when Corbyn assumed the Labour leadership on an anti-austerity platform. Suddenly, the “both-sides -framing” comedian jokes were no longer funny. It was only with Corbyn’s ascent that showed that mainstream comedy had been taken over and completely de-radicalised over the previous two decades. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, one could see Spitting Image taking apart the Conservatives or Fry and Laurie shoving Rupert Murdoch off a bridge for the sake of humanity. Somewhere in the early 21st century comedy was taken over as a tool for the establishment. The fool became the tool.
As many commentators have noted Johnson’s appearance on Have I got News For You made him appear approachable, making him more likely to be elected leader of the Conservative Party (and hence PM) despite his dreadful record with women, children, public money, Russian spies, diplomacy, detail and the truth. Did Corbyn refuse the offer of appearing on the show? Was he ever asked?
Charlie Brooker, who had long cast himself on Screenwipe as an angry outsider, alone on his sofa venting his frustrations about politics and its mediation, did a typically cynical vignette on his 2016 end-of-year show on Corbyn’s argument with Richard Branson over whether seats were available on a Virgin train. Coming right after a gag about Corbyn failing to ‘recognise’ anti-Semitism, with no mention of his record of standing up for Jewish and anti-fascist causes, Brooker spent far more time attacking Corbyn than Branson. He did so with no consideration of why Branson might cast doubt on Corbyn’s story, nor why Sky News would side with Branson, let alone giving any idea of why his willingness to confront corporate interests appealed enough to Labour’s members for them to re-elect him by a landslide that summer. Brooker’s sister-in-law, incidentally, is a Labour MP who supported Owen Smith in that leadership contest.Juliet Jacques
Another trend that made it harder for satirists to land meaningful blows on the Labour leader was that the media attacked Corbyn from every possible angle, often in mutually contradictory ways: comedians then became no differnt from the establishment!
Mainstream comedy came out of the GE2019 very badly. Russell Howard, with a net worth of £5 million, told his audience that Corbyn and Boris Johnson were politically indistinguishable. Have I Got News for You – and the satirical paper Private Eye, edited by regular HIGNFY panellist Ian Hislop – blamed Corbyn for Johnson’s victory without taking responsibility for helping Johnson establish his ‘harmless clown’ persona through repeated appearances on the programme.
In this sense, Johnson stands alongside Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Volodymyr Zelensky and Jar-Jar Binks as right-wing populists who built up a supportive base through mass entertainment. Like them, Johnson is impervious to satire – he doesn’t care how he comes across to ‘respectable’ people. With an 80 seat majority – that was predicted by Cummings and then delivered by the power of Big Data, electoral roll confusion and postal vote fraud, using money from Russian Oligarchs and other Tax Haven users, Johnson can do anything and get away with anything.
There is a Pattern
The Establishment approach to control of comedy reflects the way the press, magazines and music have been infiltrated since WW2.
- The Press – “free press” dominated by a few billionaires. Read up on Operation Mockingbird and Orwell Rolls in his Grave
- Music industry was infiltrated, turning the revolutionary zeal of 1950, 60s and 70s to bland pop of the 21st century.
- Social media – dominated by a few companies: facebook and google – both having support from right wing sources. Note that Tik-Tok is about to be banned!
The comedy you watch is being changed, controlled and steering you in a particular direction. You are being gaslit.