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don't dare spotlight the dark corners
what the glaring focus of political satire can reveal
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)
11.28.11
news

I am no fan of Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann's perspective or posturing. My personal opinion is she appears to be an individual with myopic, bigoted views and sketchy credentials who adds quicksand to the current political quagmire. I believe that Bachmann, similar to Sarah Palin, has derailed women's progressive movement in politics. When her race for the presidency ends, I suspect she'll continue to shill her opinion, just like Palin, to the highest bidder, all the while never understanding the true reasons why people believed her incapable of holding the office of the Commander-in-Chief.

However, Bachmann hasn't done anything to me directly. Nor am I a political satirist. Thus, if I met her at a rally or fundraiser, or interviewed her for this column, I would treat her with the common decency one human being extends to another.

The hoopla surrounding Bachmann's recent appearance on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" is an interesting study of the trials of a public figure. Bachmann is willing to do everything she has to in order to gain publicity for her book, candidacy, and various interests. There's a certain aspect of give and take celebrities or politicos have to put up with if they want such attention.

But for Fallon and the Roots' bandleader Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson to think playing the song "Lyin' Ass Bitch" by Fishbone as Bachmann walks onstage is funny without letting her in on the joke borders on the lowest common denominator of misogynistic intimidation. Political satire is biting, and sometimes even cruel, but it's upfront. Print cartoonists in particular have harshly lampooned governmental figures for centuries, mocking everything from policy and statements to facial features and peccadilloes with the proper freedom of speech to do so.

Questlove, a noted supporter of President Obama, teasingly bragged about the choice of song ahead of time on Twitter, but he never came right out and said, "We're going to play the song 'Lyin' Ass Bitch' when Bachmann steps onstage, 'cause that's what she is." Why not? Because he knew what the repercussions would be, and wanted only a select few to be in on the joke, believing most common, uncool folk wouldn't get it. Such a big man to hide behind a qwerty keyboard. He later apologized, saying the whole decision was last minute and tongue-in-cheek.

Because of this, I don't think the song was a display of political satire, but more juvenile, mean-spirited commentary. I've clearly stated I don't agree with Bachmann, but I wouldn't call her a lyin' ass bitch to her face, and I doubt Fallon or Questlove would either. What I haven't been able to uncover is why she was on the show to begin with if this is the prevailing attitude about her.

Conversely, "Saturday Night Live" has never backed away from in-your-face satire. For example, the success of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler portraying Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton was primarily because of spot-on observations based on actual events or comments that most of the public knew of or heard. When Palin not only acknowledged the satire but also appeared on the program, she accepted the sketchy boundaries of being in the spotlight.

Her reality show was just an egotistical sharkjump.

While public figures should be treated with courtesy because all people should be, there is still the chance their celebrity may be used against them. How they handle it measures more of their substance than possibly anything else they can say or do.

Unfortunately, Bachmann continues to show her true colors by not letting go of this song kerfuffle. She's accepting an apology from a vice president at NBC while demanding another from the company's president; wondering why she doesn't get the same respect as Michelle Obama; and prattling on about Fallon and the show's liberal agenda.

Woman, it's time for you to show a bit of class yourself, and stop cluttering the airwaves with unnecessary soundbites. I'm supposed to believe you're presidential material when you spend a week ruffling your feathers over a snarky joke juvenile boys played on you? What are you going to do when the Israeli prime minister disagrees with you on foreign policy, or when Iraqi protesters rally with your face in effigy? The American people are not going to caucus for you out of sympathy over this trivial circumstance when they can't pay the bills or feed their families, so now would be a good time for you to refocus your attention on what you plan to do for them if they elect you to a higher political office.

In a backhanded way, this escapade may be more effective at revealing Bachmann's actual character than any form of accepted political satire. Whether the American public cares either way remains to be seen.


ABOUT TRACEY L. KELLEY

Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

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COMMENTS

katherine (aka clevertitania)
11.28.11 @ 1:15p

While I agree with your overall point, about the lines between satire and just being douchey (if you'll forgive the serious paraphrasing there), I do have a couple of points I feel should be made.

1. I would call Bachmann a lying ass bitch to her face - and there are more people who would that you'd imagine - because she has said things that made Christine O'Donnell look well adjusted, and she dared go martyred-PTA mom at a political debate. She doesn't just derail us; she's Palin without decent handlers.

2. I've heard rumor that, despite appearances, Jimmy Fallon is an insanely savvy dude. It would not remotely surprise me if he and Questlove knew the damage against women would be 1/100th of the damage Bachmann would cause herself in her overreaction. I'll take that one for the team.

tracey kelley
11.28.11 @ 2:44p

You rise above your enemies. You don't stoop to their levels. This can be said for both Fallon/Questlove's approach and Bachmann's reaction.

The fact that both Fallon and Questlove ARE intelligent, savvy dudes is what actually makes this worse. You want to debate Bachmann? Go ahead - be Jon Stewart, invite her on the show, and grill her. If you think she's going to dig a hole, hand her a shovel, and see what happens. Tripping her in the hallway, pointing, and laughing isn't a mature way to go about things.

If we want civility in politics, we have to first demonstrate it and make sure we draw the line at what we will and won't accept.

katherine (aka clevertitania)
11.29.11 @ 1:38a

I get your perspective, but the problem is that the Tea Party, Fox and the GOP in general lately, is all about tripping people in the hallway and laughing. They stoop so low that playing a single song when a single woman walks onto a stage isn't going to get nearly low enough to play limbo.

You can't debate a woman who has the nerve to claim any gay family isn't a family. Nastiness is Bachman's campaign strategy, not policies or sound leadership, and damn well not civility. Her politics are based on telling everyone else how to live and who to blame for their problems.

When you have an entire political party based on hyperbole and telling the country how it's sinned, it's a pretty big stretch to claim a little push back is out of line or gender related.

russ carr
11.29.11 @ 11:20p

"When you have an entire political party based on hyperbole" - This, in and of itself, is hyperbolic.

Don't confuse the actions of a vocal, high-visibility few to speak for a majority, whether they're claiming to be the voice of conservatives in America, or the would-be 99 percent. There are enough voters out here who, whether they consider themselves Democrats or Republicans, refuse to be pigeon-holed by the caterwauling candidates who have grabbed the national spotlight. I have about as much in common with Michele Bachmann as I do with Nancy Pelosi; that is to say, apart from being a human, essentially nothing.

russ carr
11.29.11 @ 11:36p

Neither represents me, literally or figuratively. Nor do I believe that the overwhelming majority of the 535 stuffed suits (and skirts) on Capitol Hill adequately represent the will of their constituents. One need only look as far as the utter failure of the so-called "supercommittee" for deficit reduction as proof of that.

Being crude or reactionary serves no purpose but to further enflame emotions - either your own, or that of your intended victim. People who still have a moral compass and a lick of common sense understand this. Those that don't - whether they're politicians, pundits or late night talk show band leaders - are down in the same muck and mire with the trolls that post vitriolic diatribes (rife with language, logic and factual errors) on Internet comment threads.

russ carr
11.29.11 @ 11:47p

These folk - these 'nattering nabobs of negativity,' if I can steal a line from Safire by way of Agnew - are only perpetuating the wrongness which has become endemic to the political process in America, corrupting it entirely from the campaign trail to the governance of the nation.

Once, reasonable minds could differ, but still come together in compromise for the good of the people. I no longer accept this as possible. Bickering and back-biting has become the new American mandate. This is what the media has nurtured - America as The Jerry Springer Show writ large. Is this what you're going to accept, by shouting along with the audience - by "pushing back"? Or will you try and protect at least your own honor, and to foster it within your children or community by taking the high road?

[edited]



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