The Necessity of Satire in Media Literacy: Stephen Colbert’s Use of Sophistic and Socratic Irony

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Media literacy campaigns champion systematic thinking and high elaboration in the fight against fake news. However, they often overlook an ancient tool for discrediting demagogues and destroying disinformation: satire. This essay explores how satirist Stephen Colbert used irony in his 2010 congressional testimony, arguing that Colbert’s shift from Socratic to Sophistic irony encouraged listeners to think for themselves through a more central information-processing route. The essay concludes that irony increases recognition of fake news, but warns that an overreliance on Sophistic irony undermines an appreciation of truth, and requires the reintroduction of Socratic irony as a counter balance.

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Target audience: researchers and scholars in the fields of law and politics, with an acute interest in the cross-pollinations of disciplines, comparative approaches to regional issues, and active dialogue on pressing contemporary issues of theoretical and practical import.
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