Can You Laugh at Terrorism: Humor as Social Critique
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Many scholars have claimed that humor is not powerful enough to bring about social change. However, this study argues that humor is a pervasive form of critique used in America, and is worthy of being examined. With the spread of media technology, the amount of influence humorous critiques have on society is increasing. It is difficult to gauge how much power these critiques have over society, but it is important nonetheless to analyze the way humor is used to critique social issues and politics. The purpose of this study was to examine the way humor was used as a method of critique following the 9/11 attacks and the ongoing War on Terror. I analyzed three multiple styles of humorous critique – video clips from The Daily Show with John Stewart, a political cartoon from artist, Daryl Cagle, the comic strip Tank McNamara, and a news article and video from mock news website, The Onion. The results of this study demonstrate how humor as a critique was utilized when there was a common enemy between the rhetor and the audience.
Simek, Darby R. (2010). Can You Laugh at Terrorism: Humor as Social Critique. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from