The Czech Republic needs more political satire.

Česká Soda, photo: www.ceskatelevize.cz

Let’s face it – Czech politics and Czech politicians are funny. They may not be any more funny than in the US or Britain, but there is one key difference, in the Czech Republic a crucial counter-balance is largely absent – political satire.

Back in the nineties, a television show called Česká Soda or Czech Soda did what you would expect from any political satire, it mocked, lampooned and poked fun at all the inconsistencies, outrages and downright dishonesties that is modern politics. There was also the somewhat less refined Gumáci – a typical Spitting Image style latex puppet show, which basically made anyone in power look as stupid as possible. Today, that crucial societal outlet, or mirror, is largely absent and the result is that Czech politicians are again being permitted to take themselves far too seriously. It certainly isn’t the case that the cast of characters in the Czech political spectrum is not worthy of satire – Klaus, Topolánek, Čunek, Paroubek, Filip, Bursík – all of the above could merit a genuine bit of clever lampooning for their views, their actions, their foibles... In democratic societies, image is everything – how politicians look can make or break their political careers. The news media is often called the fourth estate, perhaps the fifth is political satire - without it, democracy suffers.

In the United States, the well-known Daily Show is a classic example – politicians from all sides of the political spectrum have appeared on it, even though they know full well that they will be subjected to clever, but never rude ridicule. Case in point: Hillary Clinton appeared on the Daily Show a day before the recent primaries in Texas and Ohio. Why? Because the simple fact is that a politician that has the guts to risk being made fun of, proves to the electorate that they are not petty or fearful of opposing views. And also, if they are lucky, their participation demonstrates that they are “in” with the young people of the country. Even die-hard “neocons” have appeared on the show, because they know that they will get a fair chance to put across their beliefs. And whenever something scandalous happens in US politics, one can be sure that many a politician thinks to themselves “Oh no, the Daily Show is going to have a field day with that one!” And the irony is that everyone is a target, as long as they do something or say something silly. The Czech Republic desperately needs a Daily Show of its own – too much potentially comedic material is simply being ignored, the result being that politicians have no way of knowing how absurd they often look. That kind of isolation from the populace is indicative of the former communist system, when those in the castle or in the parliament rotted away in their own worlds, completely oblivious of or indifferent to the real needs of the public.

Czech President Václav Klaus
But a functional democracy requires active feedback from the populace. And along with independent journalism and civic participation, satire is a crucial way to let politicians really know what we think of them. And as much as they may think they don’t want that, deep down, they know they do. Why? Because without such a crucial form of reflection, those in power would simply turn into foul-mouthed, rude, scheming, power-hungry, petty, corrupt, dogmatic, ideologically blinded, untrustworthy, detached and ignorant incompetents. And of course, no one thinks anything of the sort about Czech politicians, do they?