Thursday, 15 October 2009

lol and not-lol

Politics is almost always funny. It is a built-in feature of UK politics, with its weekly Punch and Judy puppet show of put-downs and pantomiming during Prime Minister's Questions. I really do miss the days when Spitting Image was on the tellybox (I tried to find a video of the famous vegetable scene but couldn't find it, alas). I was only a kid at the time, but got most of my elementary political training through that show; what kid wouldn't find the name Virginia Bottomley inherently hysterical?

Radio 4's the Now Show and the ubiquitous Private Eye are decent substitutes, but it's not the same without those rude latex puppets to comment on the political circus.

But sometimes political humour amounts to no more than standard 'circle of shame' celebrity gossip. Some folks go so far as to call it "showbusiness for ugly people" so it's important to be able to distinguish between real political lolz (lolitics) and gutter-level gossip humour.

Take the blog Glum Councillors, for instance. It's marvellous, and funny because it's true. Anyone who has ever been involved in local politics, or even seen the front page of a local newspaper, can relate to the visual pot-hole-itical (sorry) outrage documented on this site.

I also like this nifty little game which gives the UK party conference speeches a magnetic poetry twist, even though it is biased, which is also funny, but a shame as I feel I miss out on some extra game play value.

Lol news is an obvious example of lolitics, based on the popular "I can has Cheezburger" meme:
I can has Chavezburger?
moar funny pictures

This silly season story about South Carolina's Governor Sanford was perfectly ludicrous as it unfolded. Sanford will go down (sorry) in history for contributing the phrase "hiking the Appalachian Trail" to the catalogue of euphemisms for describing that common phenomena of "abandoning your governing duties to visit your mistress in Argentina." His 'apology' speech was beautiful car crash television. His stance on family values and his refusal to resign gave lefties excellent fodder for humiliation and reds-roasting. But it's nothing more than glorified gossip. It masquerades as politics because Governor Sanford is, indeed, a Governor. Boy, did I get a kick out of it, but I ain't going to pretend that the extended coverage it received from pundits was anything more than partisan nit-picking. I don't have a problem with gutter level gossip humour, and this is funny, but not strictly political.

This story about Obama allegedly snubbing Brown just annoyed me, moreso because the BBC fell for it. First of all, it was a classic example of a "So and So denies Such and Such" headline which almost inevitably results in a non-story based upon (biased) journo-rumour-milling. Second of all, it had no substance and no consequence. The BBC, with a mandate to remain politically neutral, made a mistake in covering this story so heavily because the story came across as partisan poking at the PM's unpopularity vis a vis Obama. This story failed to be either funny or political.

Political humour doesn't have to be neutral of course. That would defeat the purpose most of the time. Partisan agendas are a natural and priceless aspect of the sport and that's a-ok. The world of lolitics is fraught with danger though: danger of being wide off the humour mark, and danger of damaging the political discourse. I'll talk about the latter, later.

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