Politics? Only Joking

Nevertheless, despite the emergence of online election humour, it has been generally overlooked by academic scholars (We found only three papers that dealt directly with this theme – all of them based on US experiences (Warnick 1998, 2002; Foot & Schneider 2002)). Our paper, therefore, represents a first attempt to analyse a range of online humorous political genres in the UK. The central research questions considered here are twofold: How was online humour used by different actors in the 2005 UK election campaign? And, what were the specific characteristics of online humour in this campaign?

Limor Shifman, Stephen Coleman and Stephen Ward take on this challenge in a new article, Only joking? Online humour in the 2005 UK general election. Here’s the abstract, but you’ll need a subscription to go further. This is a deadly serious article , what with references to Freudian approaches to Flash games about certain acts not normally performed in Parliament and detailed parsing of graffiti – but it’s of interest to anyone who follows political campaigns and the sillier side of them in particular. I’ve heard Coleman speak before. He has a great job – serious academia that involves being absorbed in all elements of politics and the public debate over politicians, in his role as a professor of political communications.

As it happens, while I was writing up this post, I saw news of the FEC decisions on blogs and campaign finance law; nothing too new given an earlier FEC statement on Internet activities and the media exemption. Much as this is being celebrated as a victory for free speech and blogs being treated like media and all that, I find it hard to cheer anything that emerges from the mess that is US campaign finance law (and the continuing notion that money really does talk, at least as far as the regulation of elections is concerned). It’s still broken. Blogs grabbing one of the fifty million opt-outs doesn’t mean all that much.

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