For the spring 2015 semester, students in Introduction to Comparative Politics (or POLS104) are expected to produce a weekly report on the current (preferably local and political, but pop culture is certainly interesting as well) affairs of a chosen nation. With the exception of featured states in the class (such as the United States and South Korea), students are free to choose any nation with a news source in a known language. For the next three months, I have chosen to report on Azerbaijan, a small nation that rests between Eastern Europe and Asia.
By now, you might be wondering why I’ve chosen what is, to most Americans, a relatively unimportant nation. My love for the Eurovision Song Contest (perhaps another post for another time) brought me and this little nation together, when a surprise victory by the newcomer nation in 2011 led to a coveted hosting gig for 2012’s contest. I would be remiss in admitting that up until that point, I had no idea that Azerbaijan was a real place – but I was certainly curious enough about it. Three years later, the opportunity has presented itself to dig a little deeper – and maybe jam to some Azeri tunes as well.
Of course, little of this has to do with politics – an arena that is certainly far more intriguing to Americans than a singing contest. In my country selection defense, I have highlighted some background information and current issues in Azerbaijan – yet any certainty on these matters is overshadowed by an incredibly repressive government with carefully and thoroughly restricted media. It certainly presents an interesting dilemma – how does one accurately report on the news when the news itself is unreliable? (Not to say that popular United States media sources, with their incredible biases, are any better, but still.)
The answer is that you don’t. And from here, one can take two approaches: outrage and thorough investigation, or satire.
I choose the latter.
Satire holds a special place in American culture. When I watch the local or national news, I often make snarky and derisive comments for my own entertainment (and the entertainment of others), and I’m nowheres near as amusing as Jon Stewart. But satire can give us a deeper insight into the way things really are – if we have to laugh as a way of coping with the (usually) serious evening news, what does that say about how we perceive the current state of affairs? Satire lifts us up when we feel utterly defeated – Stephen Colbert’s opening monologue brought both a tear to my eye and an aching laugh to my ribs in the days after the Boston Marathon bombings, when I hadn’t cracked a smile for days – and also, it’s just darn funny.
Satire can also be used as a criticism against systems, and this is where its purpose lies within this blog. Expect some truth and lies, but don’t expect to always know which one is which. Expect to laugh, snark, groan, and roll your eyes, but I can promise no guarantees in any of these departments (except for the latter). I’m not talented in the art of comedy, I’m not a writer for The Onion (although that would certainly be fun), and I’ve never written for a wide audience – in short, I have no idea on how to report on the news, but neither does the Azerbaijani government. I hope you enjoy the ride.