Amateur insult comics in the press are alienating working-class voters with condescension and snobbery.
The golden age of television and movies primed modern society for meanness.
It created a nation of Eric Formans; of Chandlers and Regina Georges.
Sit-coms gave America much more than just laugh tracks and canned snark; more than just a satirical incision of modern life. Your mom was right about “Married…With Children,” and “Roseanne.”
No; that was not how families were supposed to treat each other.
Watching fake families and “friends” insult one another for the enjoyment of a television audience, or simulated laugh track, was not a window into polite society so much as a basic handbook of “How Not to Make Friends or Influence Anyone.”
Those characters weren’t funny and lovable; they were rude.
In reality, if a good friend arrives at your gang’s local coffee shop/hang-out spot and asks if everyone likes their shirt, and you answer in front of everyone with a brutal one-liner insult, there will be no studio audience to appreciate your wit; only your friend and their hurt feelings.
Dave Chappelle is right about comedy, at least in the modern sense. Well, he would be.
“Sometimes the funniest thing you can say is the meanest,” the seminal comedian told audiences during one of his recent stand-up specials. “Remember: I don’t say it because it’s mean… I say it because it’s funny.”
Insulting people has become a kind-of comic short-hand in entertainment; the obvious joke.
As a result of this phenomenon, snark is everywhere in our society, pervading every corner, permeating every nook and cranny. Every cartoon baby and their dog is an insult comic these days, eviscerating friend, father and foe alike in an endless quest for that next round of laughter on cue.
The news-media entertainment complex has not been immune.
Perez Hilton and Chrissy Teigan may have trolled themselves into obscurity, but dozens of others have risen to take their place. Hilton and Teigan aren’t so much outcasts as obsolete; there are a million Perez Hiltons now, a million Chrissy Teigans, all competing to see who can out-snark the rest of the Snap Pack.
In the age of social media and personal branding, it isn’t so much about closing a rude joke as it is provoking a big response, good or bad. The earliest insult comics, people like Andrew Dice Clay and Sam Kinison, understood this technique well.
They knew, as media personalities and editorialists now know, pushing too far is how you know how far to go.
Applying the insult-comic, sit-com schtick to current events and the news may have seemed like a good idea to media gatekeepers. After all, they have been trying to cash in on/compensate for Donald Trump, and the lack thereof, for the better part of five years now.
What they haven’t realized is how much this trend is contributing to the attrition of working-class voters from the Democratic Party.
One example out of thousands: “DeSantis is ‘Florida Man’ Running Pandemic Response.”
Writers for the Washington Post, with its headquarters located in Washington, D.C. may find the “Florida Man” meme amusing, with its insinuation that all the people who live in Florida are dumb, dangerous hicks who hit people with alligators and other such zany antics.
People who live in Florida, including the large working-class Hispanic and Latino communities voting increasingly Republican, do not find this running joke as amusing.
Is insulting the entire state of Florida and everyone in it really necessary to make the point, as the article makes, that Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is doing a poor job of managing in the state’s coronavirus response?
And Democrats wonder why they are losing the battleground state of Florida. With friends like the Washington Post to insult potential voters, who needs enemies?
Perhaps the Post believes voters who elected a Republican governor deserve to catch a few stray insults. Perhaps a review of the man the Democratic Party chose to run against DeSantis is in order.
Surely the years since Andrew Gillum lost to Ron DeSantis have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t the strongest possible candidate Florida Democrats could have run.
From the perspective of the working-class, the sort of high-handed, ham-fisted editorializing in which major media outlets are indulging is beyond insulting. It is driving news consumers to abandon legacy media outlets like CNN and MSNBC in droves.
Instead, working-class voters are increasingly turning to everyday, working-class people like Joe Rogan and Russell Brand; both comics, not coincidentally; both liberal-leaning entertainers dipping, successfully, into the pool of news and media consumers who aren’t in on the elite in-jokes.
Because they’ve become the butt of them.
Very few people, of any class, are eager to be insulted; even fewer are prepared to pay for the privilege- or worse…endure advertising.
Whatever points publications like the Washington Post might win from its hard-left subscribers for insulting Florida to insult Ron DeSantis, are lost in terms of working-class voters put off by it.
There are more working-class voters than there are any other kind. Outside a very small, Twitter-active subset of progressives who really just like to egg on a good fist-fight, or barring that, a mud slinging match, no one seems much impressed with this new brand of Rush Limbaughs on the right answered by Rachel Maddows on the left.
Mainstream media outlets need to forget every interpersonal skill they learned watching “M.A.S.H.” or “Saved By the Bell”; insulting people isn’t getting anyone as far as it does in the movies or on television.
Media elites are instead driving working-class voters away from the Democratic Party with a constant stream of needless disdain and contempt.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)