I’m holding fire (pun intended) on the #CharlieHebdo shootings until I’ve worked out precisely what I think about it. In the meantime, on the business of why humourists may be displacing serious journalism as a prime source in political discourse (and perhaps suffering the consequences), this critique of John Oliver is well worth reading.
These three points make worthy highlights:
He tells a story.
America is built on narrative. Although BuzzFeed has made inroads, it’s got no soul and no true fans, because the way you make people bond to you is by going deep, by hooking them and drawing them in like an angler lands a fish. You can’t be too aggressive, you can’t be one note, you’ve got to gain people’s confidence and tell them a yarn. Which is why some of our favorite songs are story songs, which is why we hunger to learn about our celebrities. We want to know what makes them tick, we want to hear it from their mouths.
He’s not afraid to go long.
If I hear one more pundit say we live in a short attention span economy! The truth is even though we’re beaten over the head with facts and people wanting our attention we truly want to go deep. The same way a one night stand is not as satisfying as a relationship, we want more. When someone tells you to make it shorter think if you can make it better. If you can’t, then length is not an issue.
He has an edge.
As does most of the programming on HBO. Where the public pays the bills, not intermediaries. Turns out people know the score, they’re not so easily offended, it’s the media that trumps up these conflagrations to garner eyeballs. We want people who have opinions. Not everybody is gonna like them but not everybody is gonna like anybody. Your goal is to entice and then bond with those who care. Money has corrupted politics, but so has the likability factor. Everybody’s so busy pussy-footing and apologizing for faux errors that they’re afraid to be real. And what we’re in search of is real.
I’ve said from the beginning of Slugger that what we try to encourage is a form of blunt civility. It’s that quality of openness that our dirty little war robbed us of, and which we need to return to, recreate or rediscover.
It ought to be no place for “pussy-footing” or apologies for “faux errors”. What we need is new stories and storytellers, if only to, as Bryan Delaney has said…
…make a choice between stories that shrink life and stories that expand it and allow us to breath and to grow and to flourish.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty