Social Media Musings: Political Satire

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Scott Cairns, NYU ’15

Where I come from, the average under-20-year old on the street finds politics to be a daunting and dreary subject. The highest level of interest comes around election time, when politics becomes synonymous with a boxing match between two candidates and debates produce quotes that dominate the watercooler talk for the next week. However, without knowing it, these same under-20-year-olds follow the political conversation in America all year round when they turn on ‘Comedy Central.’

Political satire is an art form that has been perfected in America. The same person who professes to be bored by politics will bend over backwards in laughter over the stylings of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, wildly popular satirists with their own shows that air nightly. These men, with thousands of followers and fans, are not without their own political opinions. In fact, they are more than happy to spill their opinions each night on the air, with a comedic spin of course.

These are the ‘power users,’ figures with the ability to influence large groups of people with their Twitter accounts and blogs, that professors Cristian Vaccari and Augosto Valeriani allude to in their upcoming paper: ‘Follow the leader! Dynamics and Patterns of Activity among the Followers of the Main Italian Political Leaders during the 2013 General Election Campaign.’ As expected, the professors find that ‘most of them are celebrities in realms other than politics or people who are already highly visible in the politics-media ecosystem.’ My question for the authors when they come together at the upcoming LPD conference on Social Media and Political Participation is this: how does this quasi-interest in politics that is channeled through political satire translated into actual interest? Do people ever find themselves wanting to learn more, or are they just tuning in to crack a joke in the direction of a Silvio Berlusconi-esque politician?

To learn more about our upcoming conference on Social Media and Political Participation, click here.

To join the conference conversation on social media, click here.

To learn more about the latest research at NYU in the field of social media and political participation, click here visit the online lab of NYU Professor and conference organizer Joshua Tucker.

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