As the dust settles on the 2016 election, those unhappy with the result are bound to be searching, however unfairly, for someone to blame. Whether it's particular groups of the voting population or the two campaigns, finger-pointing is rampant Wednesday as the country tries to reckon with what went down. On Alec Baldwin's WNYC talk show Here's The Thing, R.E.M. lead singer and lyricist Michael Stipe says he partially blames Baldwin's Trump impression on Saturday Night Live — and the media at large, for the results, which is a pretty big accusation to throw out.
"It is so sad that we have allowed ourselves to sink to this level of, really, entertainment, that's what it is," said Stipe, "I blame media completely for it, including Saturday Night Live." While he commended Baldwin's execution of the satire, he wondered if it was adding negativity. "Warhol said, 'there's no such thing as bad publicity.' How have we created this monster? How have we put our particular American brand on this thing?" he asked. (NBC had no comment on Stipe's thoughts.)
In response to Stipe's words, Baldwin told his side of things. "When I was approached by Lorne [Michaels]," Baldwin said, "who is a friend of mine, to do it, my first impulse was 'no.' Because in order to do that effectively, you need to have at least some appreciation of the person ... for which Trump, I have none." The actor continued, "I have had a wave of people... it’s kind of unsettling to me actually how many people come up to me all day long and they thank me because they needed something to laugh about. They needed a release."
Historically, research shows that Saturday Night Live has little effect on presidential elections. People look to Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central for a release and for political/social commentary, but commentary is not news. If you're looking to a comedian as a source of news, it's because that news is difficult to swallow, not likely because you're looking to be swayed.
It's natural to look for a source of blame when you're feeling angry and helpless. However, the reality is that no one person is responsible for the election results. There were many factors involved, some that we saw coming and some that we didn't. Maybe the jokes caused people to let their guard down, and not take Trump's candidacy seriously. Maybe the media focused on the wrong aspects of his campaign. Still, that isn't any one person or show or outlet's fault, and while I understand where Stipe is coming from, a world without comedy that criticizes political figures would be far worse.
Image: Will Heath/NBC