It is good to laugh, and the Emperor should be made fun of, but there is a time and place for everything.
The following post was prompted by the Daily Beast article linked below.
Yes, we did need Stewart, Colbert, Oliver and the Onion. And there is no denying that they have had a tremendous affect, as just the immediacy of Oliver's affect on the "Seizure" issue aptly testifies to. There are, however, a few more details to keep in mind other than the "isolation-echo chamber" potential addressed above.
You can start with the idea of "the news needing comedy." The fact of the matter is that news needs whatever it takes to be entertaining because its real purpose has very little to do with actually informing. The point is as it has always been, to get eyes, ears and minds on the receiving end of marketing message. Which, lest you forget, is the only reason the four previously mentioned avengers of truth are there to be heard at all. And the fact that comedy plays so well here speaks, in my opinion, a great deal more to what a horrible joke the larger aspects of our daily circus of government and commerce has become.
First is the potential for allowing one to become too comforted in the belief that a commodity-marketing machine can, and will, give us what we need; as in the kinds of things to make informed choices as to what is important for our collective effort to be attentive to, as well as how we go about achieving it. And secondly that satire, in and of itself, has no down side we need to worry about.
The problem with the success of presentations like the four we've listed is that, just because they make money now for a certain set of owners doesn't mean that truth will always hold forth; especially if the consequences of whatever truth revealed becomes too costly for other process owners. And let us also not forget that there can be value for those who might wish to have a solid hand in how truth gets defined to throw a few nuggets out from time to time, just to keep the rubes interested.
That last part in the paragraph above also plays into the second aspect of why satire can survive, despite making fun of those in power. And that is precisely because keeping us laughing, and sort of in on the joke, is pure gold when it comes to distracting and deflecting the cognitive dissidence that rises to an emotional imperative to action. Which is now, of course, the quite important secondary purpose of entertainment, and whatever other quick fix a commodity can provide.
What we're talking about here is the potential for the long con. The big picture ruse that gives the rubes a taste of actually having a say in things so that nothing of a fundamental sort ever changes; even as whatever little changes might be granted from time to time get brought back to their proper place, while something else is provided to distract and entertain.
And the most fundamental issue you are not likely to hear ridiculed is the assumption that we can only be organized by a factory, production, and consumptive mode of living. That it is only natural that a few can accumulate inordinate translative power simply because we have agreed that money is real. But just as human skill can no longer compete as a commodity, we also do not require money as a universal skill translator anymore. This is so precisely because applied information, and the electrified networks that store and move it about, has changed everything. And unless we can find a way to stop being distracted in so many ways, so as to see that fundamental change, and then to take the very specific, and quite difficult, actions required to address it, we will not survive as a species. And I can assure you that is something that you really don't want to be making fun of.