Hilarious Clinton: On Comedy and Politics

Like most newshounds, I consume political humor like middle schoolers snack on Doritos. It’s not always good for us, but we’ll still chomp down the whole bag.

Hillary Clinton appeared on Saturday Night Live this weekend playing the bartender Val with Kate McKinnon impersonating the poll-driven, calculating soul-crushed caricature of Clinton. It was such a great example of how damaging shallow campaign coverage can be to getting to the truth.

Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle warned against the danger that sophistry— a subtle, tricky, superficially plausible, but generally fallacious method of reasoning — posed to a democracy.

Plato argued through a depiction of Socrates that a governing republic ought to ban poets because their poems misrepresent what they imitate with words and “maim the thought of those who hear them.” Socrates’ depiction in Aristophanes’ comedic play, The Cloudsarguably led Socrates accusers to convict and execute him for corrupting the young.

Clouds Socrates

The Clouds portray Socrates as a man who foolishly investigates the heavens and the earth and whether the buzzing sound gnats make are farts. He’s ridiculed for thinking that the clouds, not Zeus, make rain.

Aristotle identified comedy as poetry which imitates less than virtuous characters, often making people seem worse than they are by portraying the “ridiculous, which is a species of the ugly.” He valued wit as “educated insolence,” but condemned comedic poets for “when they use tunes that violently arouse the soul” to produce catharsis, or emotional release. Laughter, as Aristotle argues, is a manifestation of scorn.

But Comedy clearly provides a kind of medicine for the mind and soul. It resolves contradictions, highlights ignorance, and relieves intellectual stress. Comedy sometimes has no more failures in Knowledge than the nonsense of political speeches. Inevitably, the American people want to be moved, not lectured.

In 2008, Clinton mocked Barack Obama for his poetic language, pointing the ridiculous:

“The skies will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.”

But as with all good humor, Hillary might be surprised. To strike a balance between the inspiring and the informative to attain the coveted gilded truth of authenticity, she might need imitate what she mocked about Barack or else become the joke herself.


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