The need for satire

0 Posted by - May 24, 2011 - Blog, Editorial, Screen

Aasif Mandvi interviews Bernard Coulombe

In an interview with Henry Jenkins, the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, writer Amber Day explained the importance of political satire. Day, the author of Satire and Dissent, explained that it excels in “deconstructing the scripted quality of the contemporary political conversation.”

A month into the Canadian election, Globe and Mail writer Simon Houpt noted that Canada lacked a consistent satirical voice to point out whatever political contradictions and hypocrisies were so often set forth into the airwaves. In fact, the Rick Mercer Report – Canada’s closest thing to a satirical political show – ended its season shortly after the election started. Unlike in the U.S., where Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert act as consistent checks to both the political actors and their media counterparts, Canada’s electorate was presented with a blank stare.

We stuck to the script, for the most part, and while many questioned the more bizarre parts of it (for example, Stephen Harper’s wardrobe choice) there was always an assumption that it was all part of the magic, the behind-the-scenes wizardry that was an element of the master plan. It was questioned, but not ridiculed; studied, rather than skewered.

So what might happen when political satire finally comes to Canada?

From the Montreal Gazette:

The town of Asbestos — home to Canada’s last asbestos mine — was ridiculed Thursday night on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show.

Stewart, known for making fun of Canada and its politics, aired a satirical report about the 7,000-resident blue-collar town, located about 150 kilometres east of Montreal.

The tongue-in-cheek story, filmed on location in Quebec, mocked the local authorities’ attachment to asbestos, a mineral linked to cancer and lung disease.

Titled Ored to Death, the report produced by one of the show’s reporters, Aasif Mandvi, pokes fun at the president of Jeffrey Mine, Bernard Coulombe, and the town manager, Georges Gagné.

“Does asbestos mean something different in French than it does in English?” Mandvi asked Coulombe. “Because in English, it means slow, hacking death.”

Later in the five-minute segment, Mandvi called Coulombe a “douchebag” for exporting the asbestos to India, where he has family.

And then, from the National Post, ‘Don’t try to tell these readers asbestos is safe’:

I don’t know if mine boss Bernard Coulombe has ever held a family member while they died of cancer from asbestos. When a person is exposed to asbestos, those little fibres go into the lining of the lungs. Over time, they metastasize into cancer, called mesothelioma. There is no treatment that will save that person’s life, with the average life expectancy three to 12 months. […]

There is no safe handling of asbestos, which is why this product is banned for use in Canada. So why are our tax dollars still supporting a mine that will lead to deaths of others around the world? We will be complicit in many more deaths as long as we mine this product.

Shut the mine down now.

David Munro, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Get it? You get it.

Image: The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi interviews the President of Jeffrey Mine, Bernard Coulombe.

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