1989 Generation Initiative

It is fascinating to look at news reports from a year ago, because it all seems to fit so well together with today. Whether it is news on terrorism, warnings about an imminent refugee crisis or statements that Donald Trump would never ever run for president (despite him appearing at the Republican presidential rally to talk about his plans of building a big wall). Just moments ago I watched Cameron and Obama meet in January 2015 to discuss the “Paris attacks” (are we on a loop here?).

They also talked about how important TTIP is for Britain and how the UK and the US are spearheading the anti-terrorist initiative. Obama phoned Cameron almost exactly a year later to essentially remind him of that, by stating “reaffirmed continued US support for a strong United Kingdom in a strong European Union”.

We are showered with so much news every day that we easily forget everything that has happened merely a year ago and it happens to politicians too. If you just look at a small portion of news, e.g. focusing on the relations between two nations, you would potentially find it quite easy to follow all the proceedings and the individual reasons for their statements and actions. But we never do that. We lack focus and absorb all the information out there, much of which is nonsense, clogging up our brains.

More pressure on the media

So perhaps it is not more news society needs, but less. On 13th October 2014 journalist Matt Bai appeared on the Daily Show. In his interview Bai suggested journalism has become more about entertaining than informing the population and thus politics has also shifted away from ideas and policies towards entertainment.

People often blame politicians for putting on shows, being untruthful and evasive, but they have to be, or they will be either ignored or ridiculed by the media. So if we really want politics to change, we ought to exert pressure not just on the politicians themselves, but the media as well. Because it is the media that controls how we perceive information.

EU Commission President Juncker held a new year’s press conference in January. He expressed his disappointment over the lack of journalists attending and writing on visits of statesmen and women from smaller EU member states; commenting that according to the majority of journalists, only the visits of German Chancellor Angela Merkel were of any significance.

Of course no citizen would even know Juncker ever said this, because journalists conveniently failed to report on his remarks on the future of the EU’s democracy, even though he spent roughly ¼ of his speech on the issue and grilled the member states for their two-faced inaction.

A societal shift in media consumption

This is the problem we are facing with “far away Brussels”. Even when EU politicians like Juncker or Tusk try to give us newsworthy information, it won’t be received by the majority of the population, because our media outlets are not trying to inform, but entertain us. And let’s face it. Despite Mr. Juncker’s enjoyable speeches, the EU is not entertaining.

Notice how we rarely take any of our politicians seriously. Often times they are presented to us as little more than clowns, and while sometimes true, this leads to a steady decline in actual competence amongst politicians. Less and less people are willing to step up and into the shit storm that awaits them, in turn letting less qualified people take their place, who then again are ridiculed, perpetuating the disastrous image of politicians. This is a vicious cycle that cannot be broken by any emerging politician. Is it really any wonder why populist parties are winning elections across Europe?

We are long overdue for a societal shift in media consumption. Because if the news are not there to inform us, but to entertain us, then they are doing a poor job. In fact, this may very well be the reason, why young people prefer to watch shows like the Daily Show or Last Week Tonight, instead of the “real” news. Because satire is far more entertaining than the sad sensationalist attempts of the mainstream media. And conversely enough, satire also always contains truth within, as it is often very well researched and allows for concealed statements that would never pass in a “normal” news show or paper.

A European satirical news show

Europe desperately needs its own satirical news show to not only compete, but annihilate the mainstream media’s attempts at entertainment. As a first step in this direction, The Babble -the first truly European satire platform – and the first project emerging from within the 1989 Generation Initiative, will be coming to a flat screen near you.

Satire is not a cure for bad news. In fact it is dependent on regular news for its content. But it doesn’t excuse the way large parts of “serious” journalism behave today. Satire helps us to overcome our news amnesia by digging into the slush pile and emerging with funny and sometimes deeper analyses of core issues in our society. Unlike regular entertainment (delivered chiefly by cats on YouTube), it serves to point out issues and deal with them, instead of making us forget about our troubles.

Since Ron Burgundy’s GNN took over the mainstream media has concerned itself with delivering shocking headlines and reports that tell us what they believe we want to hear, instead of what we ought to hear. It only works, because it increases sales, viewership etc. So if we really want serious investigative journalism to return to the forefront of society, instead of an endless supply of infotainment, we need to start asking ourselves what kind of media coverage we need and say it with our wallets and our TVs.

So if you’re suffering from acute news amnesia, I would prescribe you a good dose of satire to remedy its effects, but if you think your country is suffering from democratic decay, I’m afraid it is up to you and everyone around you to fix it (after all that is what democracy is supposed to be about). And if they are not listening, then perhaps you yourself can use satire to point out the problem to them.

By Dominik Kirchdorfer

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