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News Parody and Social Media: The Rise of Egypt’s Fifth Estate

April 4, 2012

Bassem Youssef’s El Bernameg was the main focus of the paper on news parody I gave this week at the International Studies Association meetings in San Francisco.

On Monday April 2nd I presented a paper entitled “News Parody and Social Media: The Rise of Egypt’s Fifth Estate”  at the International Studies Association meetings in San Diego.

There are multiple versions of this paper, all of which center around the potential of news parody like Bassem Youssef’s B+ and El Bernameg to use humor to entertain, but also to offer a critique at once of the absurdities of political posturing, on the one hand, and the ways media construct authoritative accounts (and hence get used by politicians), on the other.

You can read the longer version here. The ten minute oral version is reprinted below.

Here’s my abstract:

The capacity of social media to copy, quote, cite, link to, transform, and otherwise engage in metacommentary on mainstream media was crucial to the roles it played in Egypt’s 25 January uprising. More recently, news parodies like the Bassem Youssef shows and El Koshary Today have emerged to play similar roles. These parody news programs represent a shift of political parody and ironic humor from the private realm of interpersonal interactivity to the public sphere. They offer a continuation of the anti-structural elements that began in Tahrir Square and offer a carnivalesque experience that exposes and inverts traditional hierarchies. Collectively, these institutions may comprise an emerging “Fifth Estate, a watchdog on the news media, who are supposed to be the watchdog on government and corporate intrusions into people’s liberty, but too often become their voices.

The panel was entitled “All the News? Reporting and Media 2.0” and featured two papers on social media use in the context of the drug war in Mexico, an analysis of news media preference and knowledge about the Iraq War in the US, and my personal favorite, which concluded by criticizing International Relations specialists who pontificate and write for the media without any accountability for the continued failure of their claims and predictions.

Here’s the panel line-up with links to their abstracts and long versions of their papers.

And here’s the truncated spoken version I actually gave in a desperate (and not entirely successful) effort to keep the talk down to the ten minute limit requested by the panel organizer:

Peterson, Mark Allen. 2012. “News Parody and Social Media: The Rise of Egypt’s Fifth Estate” Paper given at the panel “All the News? Reporting and Media 2.0” at the International Studies Association meetings in San Diego, CA April 2, 2012.

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Additional Resources:

An Al-Jazeera report one year after:

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