(The Federalist) -- Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa has a new collection of essays about contemporary culture that explore what he calls “the civilization of spectacle.” The chief attribute of the civilization of spectacle, he says, is the replacement of ideas and intellectual activity in various spheres of society with mere entertainment, or a “universal prevailing frivolity.”
Vargas Llosa has something specific in mind with this phrase: “Frivolity consists of having an inverted or unbalanced scale of values in which form is more important than content, appearance more important than essence, and in which expression and self-assurance—representation—replaces feelings and ideas.” Applied to journalism, such frivolity produces gossip tabloids, 24-hour cable news, and the blog Slate.
Applied to comedic/fake journalism, it produces Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show”: a long-running exercise in form over substance, attitude over ideas, and snark over debate. The only difference is that Stewart, who steps down as host of “The Daily Show” this week after 16 years, employs frivolity not just because it sells, but because under his leadership “The Daily Show” has been transformed from an oddball fake news show into a robust political organ of the Left.
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