That cold open from last week’s Saturday Night Live was a perfect illustration of the maxim, best articulated by the late, great, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, that “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” Satire must be granted considerable license, but basing nasty mockery on a deliberate misrepresentation is unethical even if it is funny. The SNL skit above isn’t funny, unless one finds deliberate misrepresentation and outrageous laziness funny. I don’t.
The opening narration essentially takes the skit out of the realm of humor into the murky world of propaganda and public disinformation. Alito’s draft only states that “no woman has a right to an abortion” in the context of Roe v. Wade’s legally flawed and factually sloppy argument that the U.S. Constitution guarantees such a right through the unenumerated right of privacy. The SNL phrasing is deceitful, technically accurate but misleading. The draft does not state that no woman should have an abortion, and specifically states that the opinion takes no position on whether abortion should be legal or not.
The next statement, however, is an outright lie: “Alito explains…that abortion is in fact a crime.” No, he does not. Alito performs a historical overview to show that, unlike other rights in the Constitution, abortion had never been regarded a right before Roe, and in fact had been a crime in many settings for centuries. That is a fact. Alito never states that abortion “is” a crime. No Supreme Court Justice would.
Then the narration says, “To prove it, he cites a treatise from 13th Century England. .. which laid such a clear foundation for what our laws should be in 2022.” Since “it” is the false claim that Alito stated that abortion is a crime, this statement is also a lie, as well as deceit: the phrasing implies that the old treatise is all Alito references, which is false, as well as falsely stating that his purpose is to “prove” abortion “is” a crime.
The skit’s authors obviously didn’t read the opinion they are mocking: that’s unethical and unprofessional. They were apparently basing their attempted satire on hearsay falsehood fed to them by pro-abortion activists, or, in the alternative, morons. Either way, the skit was despicable. It also epitomized the downward spiral of the show, which has become more focused on signalling its progressive bona fides than actually doing its job, which once was presenting pointed, perceptive satire. Making fun of a draft opinion that you misrepresent, haven’t read, and don’t understand is just political hackery, not professional comedy. I must also say that the smug certitude of host Benedict Cumberbatch was especially nauseating, as he took part in the skit though hosts usually stay out of the open. He’s a British citizen, and knows nothing about our system and the function of the Supreme Court. To mock something one must have a legitimate basis for mockery: he had even less than the rest of the SNL cast.
Oh, but the mainstream media pronounced the skit hilarious, or at least neglected to point out that it was utter crap. Mother Jones, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, Vanity Fair (which called it “brilliant”) all reviewed the skit as if it was worthy of Voltaire. Facts Don’t Matter to these people.
And they think that’s funny.