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“Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp” airs weekly on the RT America channel, using a comedic touch to cover topics and angles largely ignored by corporate-directed media. Comedian and activist Lee Camp, the host and head writer of the show, kindly answered some questions I had for him in regard to utilizing humor as a way to present some of the uncomfortable truths of our current situation.
Kathleen Wallace: You are clearly not a friend to mainstream news as was evidenced when you appeared on Fox News and called them “a festival of ignorance and parade of propaganda” –on their own set! (Which they deftly proved by cutting you off and going to a segment about how Capt. Kirk was able to be so successful romantically with alien ladies). Continuing with that theme (not the Capt. Kirk one)–is it especially rewarding to present stories clearly not palatable to the the corporate news entities? It’s kind of a continuation of proving that they are a festival of ignorance, right?
Lee Camp: Yes, it’s incredibly rewarding to have the freedom to go after all the corporate entities, news and otherwise, that are truly destroying our planet and our lives. They’re eating everything in the name of profit. It’s completely psychopathic and yet SO much of our world is off-limits on most channels because it would hurt advertisers. Example – Nearly 70% of Americans are on some kind of prescription drugs but how often do you see CNN or MSNBC or FOX News talk about it? Rarely. This is because that’s their main advertiser. How often do you see them go after McDonald’s even though heart disease is the number one killer of Americans? Almost never. So what’s the point of a media that can’t cover HALF of what matters in the world?? So I’m exceedingly proud that we get to do that as a comedy show. It’s amazing. Despite being a comedian for over 15 years, I had given up the idea of having my own TV show because the things I talk about go against corporate America. So I got lucky to find a network with no advertisers.
KW: Have you encountered any sort of push-back from the entities you’ve taken on? I mean, that’s a lot of “Big Evil” to fight– Monsanto, the Koch brothers…… McDonald’s. Brutes used to getting their way. Any notable consequences from going against these groups?
LC: No, I haven’t really gotten push-back. I think most of the “monsters” are too big to go after comedians like me. The only time it seemed like something odd was going on was after I interviewed the widow of Ibragim Todashev. You might recall that Todashev was interviewed by the FBI in Florida for being friends with one of the Boston bombers. On the fourth interview, the FBI shot Todashev (while he was unarmed) seven times, once in the back of the head. Those facts are not denied by the FBI. I interviewed his widow on my podcast “Moment of Clarity”. The following day my website – LeeCamp.net – where people go to get my podcast, had all kinds of malware. A really good programmer I know fixed the problem but he said that whoever did it really knew what they were doing. I’ve never had malware problems before or since. So it stands to reason that it was connected to my interview.
Another example I can think of is whenever I do a piece about genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and just how risky it is to eat them without proper testing, I immediately get many Facebook messages that seem to be from “concerned” fans who want to educate me on science. However, after receiving a dozen of these “concerned fans”, I realized each email had the same template. They were clearly writing from a script. Major corporations are increasingly paying people to pretend to be “normal” people on Facebook in order to influence public opinion. It’s rather scary to think about how much a corporation like Monsanto can influence our beliefs with these types of actions. Other than that I’ve mostly been left alone by corporations. I think that a lot of important thought is undermined more by simply not giving it an outlet. One large online news outlet stopped working with me when I called Rumsfeld a war criminal. Most other major channels won’t work with me because I attack their corporate advertisers (if they deserve attacking).
KW: I’ve noticed that comedians have often been the ones pointing out uncomfortable societal inconsistencies much earlier than traditional sources– whether back to George Carlin and his “they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it” or the incredibly prescient observations of a Bill Hicks. Why do you think comedians are so well adapted to noticing the absurd nuance before so many others?
LC: Part of it is that the job of “comedian” self-selects people who are willing to go against the grain, willing to stand in front of a large group of people and possibly alienate some of them. Of course the irony of that is that many comedians get into it because we desperately want to be loved. But being a comic is often a difficult loner kind of life, so those who stick with it long term tend to be people willing to fight for their ideas. However, I think the real reason comedians are good at noticing inconsistencies is that whether you’re a political comedian or an observational comedian or an absurdist, you have spent your formative years trying to look skeptically at the world. We comedians are tasked with finding the things that are odd or don’t fit together because that’s where humor lives. One of my first jokes that I was really proud of was simply, “We now put sweaters on dogs. Dogs ARE sweaters. That’s like putting a bathing suit on a fish.” And I think the fact that I crafted and honed my ability to see what was odd about the world is ultimately what made me realize what was “wrong” or “out of place” with our political system, our economic system, and our way of life. If you don’t craft that ability, it’s easy to stumble through life thinking things exist in a certain way for a good reason. …But most don’t.
KW: You cite a very basic notion on your show that escapes most in our society, that of finite resources. I think your description of it as a hotdog eating contest in which they run out of hot dogs and the contestants have to start eating each other is about the best description possible. In the same segment, you reference University of California geophysicist Brad Werner’s study which utilized complex system theory and considered our current trajectory to ask “Is Earth fucked?” The answer being yes, it is fucked unless widespread dynamic resistance to corporate rule becomes common. I know it is a broad and sort of overwhelming question, but how optimistic are you that this will occur?
LC: I guess I’m moderately optimistic. I believe there’s a chance for people to wake up and change things and that’s all I need to keep fighting. And beyond that, even if I had very little hope, I want to go down swinging. I want to say I did what I could, using my genre of comedy, to create a better world. And I hope others are using their talents and areas of expertise in the ways they can. It needs to be a mental awakening. The elite at the top are battling for hegemony, not just of America over the rest of the world, but of unfettered capitalist domination over each of us – the lowly unwashed masses. If we develop learned helplessness or we accept that we can’t change anything, then they have won.
Podcasts and links to Redacted Tonight at http://leecamp.net/
Kathleen Wallace lives east of Los Angeles and west of New York.