Fake News as Media Theory

In Jason Southworth & Ruth Tallman (eds.), Saturday Night Live and Philosophy. Wiley. pp. 187–198 (2020)
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Some kinds of “fake news” bits on Saturday Night Live (SNL) become more meaningful when linked back to the work of media theorist Neil Postman. Postman's best‐known book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, argues that TV journalism will inevitably reflect the influences and biases of television itself. The result is an entertaining but incoherent stream of “disinformation” in a “peek‐a‐boo world” of unfocused and shallow discussion. Using Postman's arguments for structure and support here, this chapter explores similar concerns reflected in the satirical news reporting of SNL. It shows that “Weekend Update” and other such pieces can ground key lessons that help us navigate our increasingly complex media environment, a point that Postman himself considers in his book's closing pages. As our media environment continues to change, it becomes helpful to see Postman's thesis as a valuable philosophical insight, and one that SNL's comedy can illustrate quite effectively.



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Gerald J. Erion
Medaille College

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