Tag Archives: humor

‘SNL’ wasn’t funny on Saturday night (because fascism, racism aren’t funny)

Larry David May Get $5,000 For Yelling

It’s chilling that “Saturday Night Live” relentlessly makes fun of the one presidential candidate who would benefit the highest number of people were he to sit in the Oval Office, yet chooses as its guest host the one who probably is the most fascistic. Above, Larry David, who has just portrayed the “unelectable” Bernie Sanders unfairly unflatteringly again in “SNL’s” “cold open,” yells “Trump’s a racist!” during Donald Trump’s monologue — because Trump’s real-life racism and race-baiting, and further afflicting the already afflicted and further comforting the already comfortable, are funny, you see.

I try to have at least somewhat of a thick skin, and I think it’s generally important that one’s own cows that aren’t all that sacred, but “Saturday Night Live” went way too far on Saturday night.

No, it’s not that you can make fun of the right wing (yes, I still suspect that Tina Fey’s Emmy-Award-winning rendition of Sarah Palin on “SNL” hurt the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008) but never the left wing.

It’s that when you make fun of the right wing, you’re usually making fun of the rich and/or the powerful, of those who routinely afflict the already downtrodden. The targets of such parody deserve their comeuppance, albeit only their comedic comeuppance (which is usually the most comeuppance that they’ll ever receive here in the United States of America, where “justice” is but a word).

But when you make fun of the left wing, unless you explicitly are making fun of limousine liberals (who are, in my book, because of their rank hypocrisy, very fair game [and who sure love fellow limo liberal Billary Clinton]), you usually are making fun of those who already are downtrodden and/or of those who are standing up for the downtrodden. And that’s not humor. That’s bullying.

And the bullying began right at “SNL’s” opening, in which Larry David, apparently high from his first portrayal of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on “SNL,” returned for another portrayal of him, this time in a mock-up of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow’s Democratic presidential candidates’ forum (which aired on Friday night), which, we are told right out of the gate, means “a debate that no one watches.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! (Actually, Rachel Maddow’s viewership, especially among younger adults, apparently is doing just fine. But if we say that there is no audience for left-of-center media content, that makes it true, right?)

Last time on “SNL,” Larry David’s great Bernie Sanders joke was that Bernie Sanders owns one pair of underwear! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  This time, the hilarious Larry-David-as-Bernie-Sanders gag was that Bernie Sanders wants only your pennies — not your shiny and new pennies, but your old and nasty pennies retrieved from your vacuum cleaner, your “vacuum pennies.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaa!

“SNL’s” Larry David’s Bernie Sanders from Saturday night also picks from the mock Rachel Maddow an envelope (containing a question or a dare, apparently) from the far left — “so far left,” he says, “it could never be elected.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaa! Because NBC will tell us commoners who is and who is not electable, you see! We mere serfs to our corporate masters cannot (and will not) be trusted with such important decisions!

Larry David has some of Bernie Sanders’ mannerisms, such as the periodic tongue swipe, down — I’ll give him that — but overall the writers of “SNL” (who are, in the end, let’s just acknowledge it, corporate whores) very apparently don’t know where to take their Sanders gags outside of portraying him as a grumpy old man (“Of course I hate you; I hate everyone,” he tells the mock Maddow on Saturday night’s show) who’s huge on austerity (replete with owning only one pair of underwear and requesting only “vacuum pennies”).

Never mind that the real-life Sanders is older and is serious (because our nation and our planet face serious challenges) but isn’t grumpy, and never mind that the real-life Sanders does not actually preach personal austerity (such as advocating the possession of only one pair of underwear, and not one penny of the hundreds of dollars that I have given him for his campaign came from a vacuum cleaner), but he does preach against corporate abuses.

But corporate abuses are A-OK to a corporation like NBC, which demonstrated the stunningly poor judgment to allow fascist presidential aspirant Donald Trump to host its show on Saturday night.

Scroll down to the bottom of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign website’s home page and you’ll see the words “Paid for by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires).” (Again, you won’t see any mention of “vacuum pennies”…)

Bernie Sanders isn’t a billionaire, but Donald Trump is, so which presidential aspirant does “SNL” invite as its guest host? The billionaire, of course, not the one who fights against billionaires. “SNL” invites as its host the billionaire bully, not the one who stands up to the billionaire bullies. And this fascistic slop is served up to us serfs by our corporate master NBC as “entertainment” and even “comedy.”

(And yes, Sanders and Trump are pretty equal, politically speaking. What they both have in common right now is that both of them are in the top two in the partisan presidential polling for Iowa, New Hampshire and the nation, and both lead in New Hampshire right now. [See here and here.])

I don’t use the term “fascist” lightly. I don’t use it as a slam, although it is, rightfully, a slam; I use the term in its dictionary-definition sense. A Laurence W. Britt, a political scientist, a dozen years ago listed 14 characteristics of fascism that we’ve seen in world history. Most of these characteristics are quite apparent in Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House (and already have been put into practice by the Repugnican Tea Party, if not by El Trumpo himself):

  1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.
  2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people’s attention from other problems, to shift blame for failures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice — relentless propaganda and disinformation — were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite “spontaneous” acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and “terrorists.” Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.
  4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.
  5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.
  6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes’ excesses.
  7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting “national security,” and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
  8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and proto-fascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite’s behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the “godless.” A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.
  9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of “have-not” citizens.
  10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.
  11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. “Normal” and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or “traitors” was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.
  14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite. [Bush vs. Gore, anyone?]

Fascism isn’t funny, yet “Saturday Night Live” saw fit to have fascist Donald Trump as its guest host, and apparently sought to absolve itself with yet another “funny” “joke”: Larry David, fresh off of his second stint bashing Bernie Sanders for his corporate pimp NBC, yelled from the sidelines during Trump’s opening monologue, “You’re a racist!” and “Trump’s a racist!” — because, David said, he wanted the $5,000 reward that he’d heard any studio audience member who called Trump a “racist” during the show would receive. Trump responded that as a businessman, he couldn’t hold David’s greed against him. Ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa!

Let me remind you that in June, Donald Trump stated, in his presidential announcement speech:

… When Mexico sends its people [to the United States], they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. … [“You,” I presume, would be (mostly if not entirely) white people who are “good” because they support Trump.] They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems [with them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. …

Trump has yet to back down from his anti-Latino-immigrant positions, including his ludicrous call for A Great Wall along the entire border between the United States and Mexico. That link is to his presidential campaign website, which also includes this lovely little anecdote:

Most recently, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, with a long arrest record, is charged with breaking into a 64 year-old woman’s home, crushing her skull and eye sockets with a hammer, raping her, and murdering her. The Police Chief in Santa Maria says the “blood trail” leads straight to Washington. [The link is the website’s, not mine, and this is a copy and paste, so the errors are entirely the website’s.]

Yes, not only does Trump need to buy himself a competent copy editor for his campaign website, but his campaign uses rhetoric that is chillingly reminiscent of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the fascistic Nazi Party. Trump won’t tell you of the many murders and rapes committed by American citizens, especially by white ones; no, he will only single out heinous crimes committed by the “illegal aliens” — crimes that, of course, are committed by members of many demographics, especially when you have millions of members of these demographics in the United States.

Donald Trump would have you believe, for his own personal political gain, that only those crimes that he conveniently has singled out for the xenophobic and racist — the fascistic — political persecution of one group of people are the only crimes that occur in the United States of America — or, at least, the only ones that we should focus on and worry about.

By furthering the anti-intellectualism and the pro-plutocracy of fascism by consistently unfairly and inaccurately portraying the intellectual and the anti-plutocratic presidential aspirant Bernie Sanders in an unflattering light, and by trying to make light of presidential aspirant Donald Trump’s blatantly fascistic characteristics, NBC is only helping fascism to take even further root in the United States — which, only coinkily-dinkily, I’m sure, sure further benefits a corporation like NBC.

Fascism (including its racism and xenophobia) isn’t fucking funny, and I don’t think that I can think of “Saturday Night Live” or NBC in the same light ever again.

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False equivalence, even in ‘comedy,’ isn’t funny; it is dangerous

Bernie Sanders Reacts to Larry David's 'Saturday Night Live' Impersonation

Larry David admittedly does a pretty good Bernie Sanders impersonation, especially vocally, but I, for one, find corporately sponsored take-downs of Sanders to be chilling because there is a dark agenda of corporate self-preservation behind them. (By “self” I don’t mean to imply that corporations are people. They most certainly are not…)

It’s easy to laugh when a politician whom you despise is spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” or elsewhere. This was the case for me with parodies of Sarah Palin (Tina Fey won an Emmy for that portrayal) and yes, of Billary Clinton (both Amy Poehler and Kate McKinnon have done a pretty good job of portraying Her Highness).

It’s a little more difficult when the politician who’s being lampooned is your favorite, such as, in my case, Bernie Sanders.

Don’t get me wrong; Larry David overall did a great job as Bernie Sanders on last night’s “SNL.” He has Bernie’s voice down pat, and it’s OK, I suppose, for David or anyone else to portray Bernie as a bit of a crank, a curmudgeon (as David did). Long live free speech. (Did you detect my enthusiasm there?)

It’s that, of course, NBC is a mega-corporation, and so of course pro-corporate bias is going to seep even into a “comedy” show like “SNL.”

Larry David’s Bernie Sanders’ opening statement in “SNL’s” mock Democratic Party presidential debate of last night, for instance, includes: “We’re doomed! We need a revolution! Millions of people on the streets! And we’ve got to do something! And we’ve got to do it now!” He then pauses for a moment and then, waving his hand dismissively, declares: “Nah!”

David’s Bernie also declares, in his closing statement, that he’ll end up being Billary’s running mate, which is right in line with the corporate punditry’s “conventional wisdom” that Bernie can’t win. (He can, actually, but, of course, the corporatocrats and the corporate whores who love them will do what they can to ensure that Bernie doesn’t.)

Um, yeah, I don’t know. It’s important for us not to take everything too seriously, or at least to be able to laugh now and then, but the danger, it seems to me, of spoofing Bernie Sanders like this is that it’s meant to negate pretty much his entire message — which is awfully convenient, of course, not only for a corporation like NBC but for the entire elite establishment that benefits from the status quo, which hinges on corporations continuing to drain the life blood of working-class Americans and even destroying the planet itself in the process of profiteering obscenely.

It’s not really funny shit, and to laugh at it as though it were — Hey, if “SNL” is spoofing it, how serious can it be? — serves to enable us to continue to ignore it at our own collective peril.

Not that Bernie Sanders was the only one lampooned last night; the first words spoken by Kate McKinnon’s Billary Clinton in “SNL’s” mock Democratic debate are: “Oh, hello. Thank you for having me. I think you’re really going to like the Hillary Clinton that my team and I have created for this debate.” Ouch. (Because it’s so true.)

But while Billary Clinton indeed keeps rebranding herself like a human weather vane spinning around in a tornado (just very recently she went from being a proud “moderate” to being a “progressive”), Bernie Sanders isn’t a Chicken Little. The problems that he repeatedly talks about — such as climate change and insane income disparity — are severe and persistent, and it’s not difficult to foresee the future if we wave them all off like a joke, like Larry David’s Bernie Sanders does.

Another problem with spoofing presidential candidates and politicians in general is that there so often is the concern of the writers to give the appearance that everyone is being spoofed equally and that all sides of any political debate are presented as being equal. (This is meant to accomplish at least a few things, such as to avoid allegations of bias [probably especially by right-wing nut jobs] and to keep the money flowing [money might not keep on flowing if you have stepped on some toes].)

But that blatantly false equivalence so widely communicated within the corporately owned and controlled media, probably especially in the “news” media, inevitably infects our general discourse to the point that many if not most Americans cannot effectively and accurately analyze politics and politicians. They cannot discriminate between truth and bullshit and they often even (often enthusiastically) support politicians whose political practices harm them while only helping those who already are filthy rich.

The “tea-party” dipshits, whose darling right now apparently is billionaire Donald Trump, are experts at this, experts at being chickens supporting Colonel Sanders (who is not to be confused with Bernie Sanders).

How stupid is it to vote against your own best interests?

But millions of Americans do it every election, such as even with their blind support of Billary Clinton. (Well, Wall Street supports Billary, as it does Jeb! Bush, the Wall Street weasels’ top two beneficiaries, so their support of corporate whores like Clinton and Bush certainly makes selfish and greedy political sense for them, but the vast majority of us voters aren’t Wall Street weasels who will benefit directly from another Bush or Clinton presidency.)

Equal spoofing is bullshit because everything isn’t equal. To assert that it is is its own form of nihilism that, only in our own minds, lets us off of the hook of our duty, as the citizens and denizens of this nation, to ensure that our descendants, that all of the other species of life and the planet itself don’t continue to suffer degradation (or even extinction) in the future because of our selfishness, laziness and greediness in the present.

It’s not just “SNL”; take also 2004’s “Team America: World Police,” for instance. In that movie, which overall is pretty funny (with some truly hilarious scenes) and was a pretty good response to the hyper-jingoism that followed 9/11, the “South Park” creators make leftists from Hollywood (including Alec Baldwin [who played Jim Webb in “SNL’s” mock debate last night], Matt Damon, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon) and, of course, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, into villains, apparently only or primarily for the purpose of not being accused of taking a political side, of being an equal-opportunity offender.*

But, again, not all political sides are equal. Sarah Palin, for instance, is not the equivalent of even Billary Clinton, and Billary Clinton, while she calls herself a “Democrat” and even “a progressive” (“a progressive who likes to get things done”!), is not the equivalent of Bernie Sanders.

In a nation whose denizens can barely analyze political matters and politicians as it is (if they haven’t already given up the effort entirely for sports, celebrity gossip, consumerism and/or other forms of entertainment and/or distraction) — and who consequently, again, thus routinely actually vote against their own best interests (when/if they vote at all) — this false-equivalence-as-comedy shit just isn’t very fucking funny.

*It’s perfectly OK to take down limousine liberals, who by definition don’t walk their own talk, but that doesn’t seem to have been the “South Park” creators’ main intent with “Team America.”

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