Sophia A. McClennen

What I'm watching

Stewart, Colbert save the day: Bill O’Reilly and Fox News’ ISIS insanity makes them more essential than ever

As the nation continues airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. public is bracing for yet another military conflict in the Middle East. And in order to make sense of this new crisis viewers are finding that “fake news” often offers better analysis than the so-called “real news.” While Fox News’s Eric Bolling called the first female UAE pilot that bombed the Islamic State “boobs on the ground” and coverage on all major news channels mistakenly described ISIS as an imminent threat to the United States, fake news offered the U.S. public a refreshing dose of reality.

Read the rest at Salon

Welcome Back! Why College Students Are Better Than You Think

As we all head back to school it won’t be long before faculty, students, and parents start to see Facebook posts, media articles, and other memes about how much our students suck. We will hear the typical rants about the student that doesn’t read the syllabus, buy books, or remember to sign up for classes. In fact, some faculty have already bought “;It’s in the Syllabus” T-shirts to proudly wear on their first days.

Now, I’m the first to say that students should avoid asking questions that ARE indeed answered in the syllabus and I confess to my own ability to feel generally exhausted by some of the challenges we face with students that seem to have difficulty taking responsibility for their college education, but I have to ask us all to question the assumption that college students are lazy, stupid, and coddled.

Read the full blog here.

Is Satire Saving Our Nation?

My co-authored book, *Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics *is officially on its way to the Palgrave copy editor.  Expected release date is November 6, 2014. Just in time to influence the elections!

It’s NOT a Game!

Thanks to Stephen and his young playmate for illustrating the false logic being offered by Congress.

Stephen Colbert does an excellent job of describing the way the game-playing of the shutdown is not a game and not a joke. See the clip here:

Latin American Cultural Studies in the 21st Century

The inaugural issue of alter/nativas –a journal of Latin American Cultural Studies — is now on-line.  I was honored to be included in the stellar line-up.  Click here to read my piece: Where is Latin American Culture? From the Location of Culture to the Ethics of Culture

Looking for Sanity in the Gun Debate? Listen to the Comedians

It is extremely hard to watch the nation convulse over gun control. Those of us concerned with the state of our democracy and with the increasing acceptance of violence as an everyday part of life cringe as we hear the pro-gun rhetoric. We hear that any effort to control guns is tantamount to waging war, to tyranny, and to destroying all of our national values.

But it’s much worse than that. This debate is not just about guns; it’s about the health of our democracy. It’s about the ways that violence, hysteria, and aggression have replaced community, civic engagement, and reasoned debate.

Beyond the real concerns any of us should have over the outcome of this conflict, our main worry should be the fact that the lack of dialogue, the absence of meaningful discussion of the issues, the political posturing, and the media coverage reveal a democracy in crisis.

We have shrill and outrageous statements made in public: Like that of James Yeager, CEO of Tactical Response, a Tennessee company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, saying that he will be the first to shoot and set off a civil war if Obama takes measures to control guns. Yeager’s plan? If the majority wants to protect itself from guns, then he will have to shoot them.

We have elected state politicians, like Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) of Texas suggesting that they will attempt to circumvent any federal measure to control guns. Rather than solve the problem democratically, he offers a solution that seems based in secession.

And we have mainstream media figures like Megyn Kelly of Fox News hosting panels on whether the children that appeared alongside President Obama when he announced his gun control initiatives were “;props.” Rather then discuss the issues, Kelly chose to focus on the staging.

Then there are the pundits, like Rush Limbaugh, who bristle at the mere idea that the conservative media is hyping up the anxieties over gun legislation. He went after Carol Costello of CNN for reminding viewers that gun control was not equivalent to overturning the second amendment.

Each of these examples reveals the ways that democratic deliberation is suffering in our nation. But thankfully we have comedians in our midst who work hard night after night to bring reason and critical reflection to a nation steeped in hysteria and hyperbole. For years the satire of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert has served as a corrective to the media sensationalism that frames much of the way the nation thinks about key issues, but their comedic interventions on the gun debate have been both refreshing and insightful.

For example watch this Colbert clip:

So if you are looking for some sanity in the gun debate, turn to comedy. Satirists like Stewart, Colbert, and Maher entertain us while revealing the flawed thinking that is making a folly of our democracy. You may think comedy is just about laughs, but these days satirical comedy is shooting with both barrels.

Read the full blog here.

Will Dunford Help Afghanistan?

Watch this Huffington Post Live Segment where I’m interviewed along with Brian Morgenstern and Chris Tyson on Joseph Dunford’s appointment to lead US forces in Afghanistan.



You Gotta Love Colbert’s Balls

Last week billionaire and notorious “;birther” Donald Trump claimed that he had a “;bombshell” that would change the election: he announced that if President Obama would provide him with copies of his college and passport records that he would write a check for $5 million to the charity of Obama’s choice.

Enter Stephen Colbert who immediately responded to Trump with his own “;October surprise.” In typical Colbert satirical brilliance, he out-Trumped Trump, exposing the arrogance and megalomania that led to Trump’s bizarre request. What was Colbert’s counter-offer? He would write Trump a check for $1 million to the charity of his choice if he would let Colbert “;dip his balls into his mouth.” If you haven’t seen the clip, watch it here:

The joke may be a crude one, but it would be fair to say that Trump asked for it. And you gotta love Colbert’s willingness to put his balls to public service and expose the folly of Trump’s disturbing challenge.

Read the full blog here.

Romnesia Is the New Truthiness: Obama Learns a Lesson From Colbert

By now you have probably seen the video where President Obama refers to Romney’s complete forgetting of his previous political stances as “;Romnesia.” Obama supporters are finding this wordplay a breath of fresh air in an election that has seemed to stumble, most notoriously with the first round of Presidential debates. After a relatively dull campaign Obama is getting new energy and new life. And he is doing it by following the example of master wordplay satirist, Stephen Colbert.

In case you missed it, watch video here:

The recent pro-Obama spark started with Romney’s gaffe phrase “;binders full of women” during the second presidential debate — a phrase Romney used to refer to the difficulty he had finding qualified women to serve in his Massachusetts cabinet. It was meant to reveal his concern for women in the workplace, but it backfired and left many thinking Romney was both sexist and completely unaware of the realities of women today. The phrase virtually exploded across social media and led to a still ongoing series of “;Binders full of women” memes, not the least of which is the Facebook page created before the debate had even ended and liked by 250,000 people in its first 24 hours.

Obama caught the wave and followed the “;binders full of women” gaffe by using a smart, funny neologism, Romnesia — a reference to the idea that Romney cannot even remember his previous policy statements. And the result is a real boost of pro-Obama energy in social media, in public discourse, and in the realm of catchy slang that attracts young voters. Needless to say, the twitter hashtag #Romnesia is thoroughly viral, and its presence in social media is complementing the “;binders full of women” memes.

Young voters remain the question in this race and, unlike in the 2008 campaign, Obama has yet to thoroughly engage them. Phrases like “;Romnesia” are sure to help him connect with those young voters he so desperately needs to win. And a quick scan through the twitter feed shows that this phrase is having the effect of reminding young voters of the Obama that is hip, cool, smart, and on their side. Even though the phrase was first used back in March, it has been Obama’s recent use of it in a speech that launched it to viral status.

While we can’t be sure if the result of Obama using a neologism will serve to bring out the youth vote until the results are in on Election Day, we can be sure that it shows that Obama has finally learned a lesson from Stephen Colbert — witty neologisms can go a long way to helping you engage and energize your audience. When Colbert launched his show in 2005, he introduced the neologism “;truthiness.”

Maybe Romnesia will be Obama’s truthiness. Either way it is good to see him learning from an expert on how to get young people to think critically and engage with politics.

read the full blog here.