Graham Plaster

culture + diplomacy + ethics + smart power + technology + humanities + entrepreneurship + philosophy

Public Relations Wormholes

Jason Calacanis (This Week in Startups) in his recent news roundup made some rather obvious but profound assertions that context matters when it comes to public figures who try to make jokes (he talks about it in the last few minutes of the podcast).  He insists (I paraphrase) that business leaders, politicians and otherwise serious leaders should not attempt humor because they aren’t funny, or more accurately, aren’t positioned in a funny context.  A comedian, by contrast, can get away with social or political criticism that would be deemed offensive or inappropriate or simply not funny in any other context.

As I have blogged before, there has been a shift in power between political leadership and the media.  Media saturation has vested cameramen and the entertainment community with unprecedented power to shape public perception (which is why celebrities can often have a legitimate edge at getting elected over home grown heroes).

The media is now a diversified entity, spread across every device which both broadcasts and receives.  Potentially, any one of us could become the next SNL micro context to take a politician down a notch (which reminds me of this episode of Black Mirror – such an incredible show).

But Calacanis, his awareness of technological trajectories notwithstanding, holds fast to a traditional idea that these contexts have unmovable lines.  Politicians and business leaders can’t (apparently) get away with acting like, say, Donald Trump, and survive politically.  I would have agreed with him, but it seems that times, they are a-changing.

Hillary Clinton’s cameo on SNL was an obvious attempt to jump through the public relations wormhole that exists between the two universes of comedy and politics.  We’ve seen it a lot recently with Steven Colbert, John Oliver and other political satirists hosting political candidates as pseudo-comedic guests.

There are a lot of implications.  Perhaps in the not too distant future we will see SNL launch a political campaign consulting arm (only partially joking, if I am allowed to do that here).


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