If you want to pack politically dissident ideas into something that most people can handle, comedy is the way to go. You can get away with a lot if you’re calling it comedy. This is the only reason the show Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp is still on the air, I imagine. Lee pulls no punches in his coverage of geo-politics and the US war machine, and on top of the insightful journalism he’s doing, he’s really funny.
I used to watch The Daily Show. I even thought it was pretty bold, bringing up issues that most TV shows won’t touch, or at least analyzing them in a way that defies the party line. This was years ago, and the more I submerged myself into alternative media and research, the more I came to see what was really going on with shows like The Daily Show or Colbert Report.
The establishment knows that people are fed up about a number of things, and it knows that it will lose them (as an audience) if it doesn’t adapt its programming to fit the Zeitgeist. They’ve got to let comedians bash them; they just want to make sure that the bashing doesn’t go too far. This is called the Gatekeeper effect. Let them laugh about certain things, let them stew about how bad the government is. This relieves the tension of living under tyranny, and lessens the likelihood of revolution. Like a pressure relief valve that lets off steam, but in a controlled, limited way.
Don’t take this as a smear on John Stewart or Steve Colbert. I think they’re both pretty solid, and their material is certainly funny, but being on American television really limits what they’re allowed to cover. You won’t hear them talking about 9-11 or MK Ultra.
Being on RT gives you a lot more opportunity to air the dirty laundry of the US establishment, for obvious reasons. Lots of people say, “oh, RT is Russian propaganda! It’s all lies!” The thing is, Russia Today doesn’t have to make up lies about the US to make the regime look horrible. All they have to do is give the dissidents within the American culture a platform to speak the truth. Folks like Abby Martin, Max Keiser, and Lee Camp certainly aren’t spewing ra-ra Russia propaganda. They’re just reporting on the corruption, like journalists are supposed to. Having grown up late in the Cold War era, I find it exceedingly ironic that Americans have to turn to Russian television to get some uncensored journalism.
While in DC, I attended a taping of Redacted Tonight, which has a small live audience for each show. This was a really cool experience, not only because it was way fun to get to watch the show being made, but because of all the cool people I met from the audience. We all went out for drinks afterwards, and I had some great conversations.
At one point I asked Lee how he’s gotten away with making such a radical show, three years running now. “I think because it’s a comedy show,” he told me, “they let me get away with a lot more.” He said he hasn’t experienced any backlash or reprisal for anything he’s said on air, which is really cool. He was appreciative of networks like RT, because without them, someone like him could never get on television.
“I was always a comedian,” he told me, “but I was also always an activist, and I knew I would never be able to be on television, as radical as my politics were. That’s why I started doing Moment of Clarity on Youtube. But then when Russia Today contacted me, I was like, sweet! Maybe I can get on television after all!” (I was not recording our conversation, so this is from memory and not an exact quote.)
It was also really cool to get to know John F. O’Donnell, who has known Lee and done comedy with him for many years. John is hilarious. For some reason, I never knew how funny he was, even though I’ve always liked his contribution to Redacted Tonight. But being around him in person… he really is a stand up comedian. He was the one who led us into the studio when it was time to start, and he gave us a pep-talk before the taping began, to make sure that we were nice and loud and that we laughed for all we were worth. The whole point, after all, of a live audience, is to get the laugh track effect, help the people realize that these are the jokes, people. And after John’s warm up, it wasn’t hard to get to laughing out loud. That guy is funny.
“You guys are a great audience!” he told us. “It’s crazy how many of you I want to hook up with right now! Oh, was that too much? A little awkward?”
I would have loved to have more time to talk with Lee and John about the show, but they keep a busy schedule. When you sign with a big budget network, a heavy workload with deadlines comes with the territory. Those guys are grinding. And doing great work. If you’re not familiar with Redacted Tonight, check it out. You can watch it free online.
A great place to start would be the episode I attended. Here you go!
Thanks to Lee, John, and all the crew at Redacted Tonight for making great comedy and bringing the truth, hard and heavy though it may be.