Media Humor and defamation: Comedy as new form of Journalism

  • The introduction of the universal declaration of article 19 imparts freedom of speech to every individual. By holding this right, every individual has the right to have opinions and have the right to disseminate information by using any media. With the possession of this law, every individual has the right to hold opinions and expressions. But this law also prevents an individual from certain things and provide limitations for preserving the decorum of the right of speech and expression. In the context of freedom of speech and expression, sometimes individuals make statements which injured the reputation and honor of others. The right of free expression also imparts freedom to the press in democratic societies which are playing the essential role of “public watchdog”. Freedom of the press provides means of opinion formation for the political phenomenon in the region. Freedom of the press is the core of the concept of a democratic system and democratic societies. In the context of media freedom, media outlets, and media practitioners publish and broadcast such statements which could be a threat to someone’s reputation and honor. In the digital age, with the internet, these statements become viral and becoming a huge loss to one’s reputation. Media outlets are becoming the breaching sites for the larva of defamatory content and defamation. In the environment of media freedom, one can easily defame other’s reputation and can claim it as the right to free speech. The defamatory content could be taken under the law by the audience. The one who perceives it against its honor and reputation can sue a case against its creator. Every free society should establish a balance between the claims to protect the reputation and those of public interest in the exposure of wrongdoing. Defamation is the act of communicating false statements about the person, a group or an organization which injures the reputation of that person or group. Defamation which is libel if the statement is written the form and it constitutes as slander if oral. Public figures, office holders and candidate have to prove that the statement was made with wicked intentions was not good and also it was not a fair comment. Then this would be taken under the law and as a result money would be claimed as per loss of one’s reputation. The law of defamation dated back to the Roman Empire where strict actions were taken as a result of allegations and injuring the reputation of an individual. At Sometime individual could be sentenced to death if accused of defamation. Today, every country has its own laws and ordinances which regulate defamation and especially media defamation. The United States of America, England and Australia has their own established laws of defamation which protect their citizen’s honor. Pakistan has their ordinance regarding media defamation which is called, “The Defamation Ordinance, 2002”. This ordinance explains the dimensions of defamation and all elements which are related to media defamation. This law also provides protection to public reputation and honor. There are many defamation cases which can be observed worldwide and also in Pakistan. In 2017, Australian model and actress Rebel Wilson appeal against Baver Media for publishing articles and making allegations about her life event. In 2017, Melina Trump filed a defamation case Fairfax media for articles published by a media outlet for allegations over her character. In 2014, the Supreme Court put charges at Pakistani journalist and anchor person Mubashir Lukman for serious allegations in his talk show on Justice Jawad S. Khawaja. Recently, Journalist in Pakistan, Mushtaq Paracha has been awarded Rs 30 million in the defamation case against ANP activist Rahim Khan. To balance freedom of speech, especially media to report, comment and protecting other’s reputation and honor is a delicate art. The introduction of the comics and comedy roles has further furnished this art.  Humor has the art of lowering the intensity of defamation. It could lessen the potential for defamation. Comedy has become an essential part of journalism. Comedy has been an important form of political expression. By addressing complex and difficult issues, the humorous approach provides safe passage to disseminate messages in critical situations. Comic expression deserves unique considerations by the audience. It just not save feelings from hurt or reputation being damaged, but it helps to shape behavior the way we engage in politics and the electoral process. Comedy with its different types is actually a powerful tool. Comedy talk about race, freedom of speech, feminism, humanity, politics, social life, mental illness, conflicts, science, and it actually reflects the experiences and opinions of the speaker. In this way, comedy is a tool which gives birth to journalism. Comedy creates an environment in which the speaker can speak about relevant conflicts, issues, and topics in a curious and focused way to the attentive and focused public. Comedy has the art of balancing journalism and human nature. Perhaps, it is becoming the most effective form of journalism because comedy makes close connections with the audience in a curious and faithful way which makes its subject worth reading or watching and eventually it makes us laughs with some good lessons in hand and mind. 

     After exploring media and humor I’ve come to see comedy as one of the most relevant forms of journalism today.

    I have only scratched the surface of what seems to be an entire world of comics who are cumulatively an amalgam of all the comedy that has come before them. When I wrote about free speech and its intersection with comedy, I realized how many subversive comics had to come before people like Louis CK to make what he does acceptable. When I wrote about minorities in comedy, I began to appreciate the history of those comics overcoming obstacles and stereotypes and gaining popularity outside their communities — something I am optimistic about now as I look at big-name stars like Aziz Ansari, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, and Leslie Jones.

    With time and research, these histories could inform a more expansive analysis of comedy and it's larger social and cultural implications. Without these histories, I realize now, the comedy I enjoy today wouldn’t be possible. This brings me to the idea of comedy as journalism.

    Because comedy is a collection of history and because it, like all art, is a commentary on the state of the human experience, I think comedy is a highly relevant journalistic medium. In a conventional sense, people like John Oliver do the work of journalists through humor, making current events accessible to the public. In a Time article about Oliver’s rejection of a monicker of journalism for his work on “Last Week Tonight,” author James Poniewozik insists Oliver is, indeed, a journalist. Although Oliver himself disagrees, basing his firmness on the fact that his primary concern is being funny, this concern does not reject the possibility of journalism, but rather encourages it. As a genre that is meant to appeal to everyone, there is nothing better for journalism to be that funny.

    Comedians often take on the responsibility of journalists. Stephen Colbert, for example, who I discussed in my article about comedy and the election, holds great power in his ability to talk about politics to the masses. As a consequence, he has a responsibility to positively affect how citizens vote and how legislators legislate. Like a journalist, during the election season, Colbert has the obligation to participate and engage voters.

    Finally, comedians, if successful, must be relevant and interesting to the public. As journalists, they must know their audiences. An example close to my heart is 30 Rock, the NBC sitcom starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin. 30 Rock knew its audience. It has somehow followed me from middle school into college, managing to remain interesting and funny despite its repetitiveness and constant aging process.

    Humorous texts, perhaps because of their oddities and inconsistencies, can stick with us more than others. They play at our intimate thoughts, taboos and likes, and ingratiate themselves in our psyches. Scholar John Gillon, in his paper “Why 30 Rock is not Funny (It’s Metafunny)” argues that 30 Rock is a very self-reflexive text, noting incongruity as its comedic form. He believes 30 Rock is funny because it creates patterns to be broken, which, when not broken, allow the show to be funny without really doing anything at all. Perhaps 30 Rock’s reflexivity, based in incongruity, is what makes it resonate so much with me. It feels more than fictional because it acknowledges itself as a show within a show.

    I hope that by now it is clear that comedy, in many forms, is a powerful tool. It speaks about politics, freedom of speech, feminism, race, mental illness, and humanity because it reflects the opinions and experiences of the speaker. In doing so, comedy becomes a device through which journalism is borne. Comedy creates an atmosphere in which the comic can speak about relevant issues to an interested public in an interesting way. John Oliver believes that good research is the key to a good joke. Like journalism, comedy cannot succeed if based upon lies. Although it may not be fact-based, great comedy often relies upon some universal truths, exposing the senselessness of other opinions on the issue at hand.

    Comedy can balance being researched journalism and a human medium. It is perhaps the most effective form of journalism because it connects with the audience in an intimate way, making its subject matter accessible, making us laugh. If you disagree with the notion that comedy has larger implications, laughter may still be enough.