Category Archives: PSCI

Farnsworth Discusses the Political Humor of Charlie Chaplin on C-SPAN

Although Charlie Chaplin honed his craft in the now dust-covered formats of vaudeville and silent film, the world’s first global movie star remains an important voice who speaks to us across time about key questions involving political power, mass culture and our shared humanity.

In his films, Chaplin asked: do ever-expanding media formats empower political elites and allow them to manipulate and thereby dominate ordinary citizens? Does technology rob us of our natural connections to each other as fellow citizens? How can we fight back?

Chaplin’s work did not always offer satisfying answers to these questions, but at least he made sure we laughed along the journey. Unlike many filmmakers of his era, Chaplin often challenged political authority and power, and in particular highlighted the absurdity of following the lead of political blowhards and would-be dictators. To Chaplin, even “The Tramp” knew that human beings were smarter, kinder and better than to do that.

The iconoclastic, controversial and tumultuous life of Chaplin provides an important backdrop for appreciating his work as one of the history’s most effective users of mass media to shape political and cultural messages – messages that speak to his time, and ours.


What can Joe Biden use against Donald Trump? (Pravda, Slovakia)

Stephen Farnsworth, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Director, Center for Leadership and Media Studies, University of Mary Washington said: “In this moment of crisis, Joe Biden’s exceptionally long record of public service is his greatest asset. When compared to the chaotic Trump presidency , Biden’s years as a senator and as Vice President offer a professional approach that may comfort anxious voters in the midst of deep health and economic troubles.”

“Biden needs to do well with younger voters who backed Bernie Sanders. They need to remain excited about politics so they will turn out in November. Choosing a more liberal running mate, like Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren , could help with that.”

“President Trump is very good at attacking opponents and now Biden will have to be more effective in countering attacks than he has been in past elections.”

Link to English translation:

Farnsworth Publishes Book on Political Humor and the Presidency

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, is co-author of a new book, Late Night with Trump: Political Humor and the American Presidency, published by Routledge Press.

The publisher’s description: “Political humor has been a staple of late-night television for decades. The Trump White House, however, has received significantly greater attention than that of past presidents, such as Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and even Bill Clinton. In response to Trump’s strident politics, late-night comics, including Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Trevor Noah and Jimmy Fallon, have sounded key policy notes, further blurring the boundary between news and satire. Weekly humorists, including John Oliver and Samantha Bee, extend the critique with in-depth probing of key issues, while Saturday Night Live continues to tap the progression from outrage to outrageousness.”

“Using unique content analysis techniques and qualitative discussions of political humor, Farnsworth and Lichter show how late-night political humor, and these seven programs in particular, have responded to the Trump presidency. Employing a dataset of more than 100,000 late night jokes going back decades, these noted media scholars discuss how the treatment of Trump differs from previous presidents, and how the Trump era is likely to shape the future of political humor. The authors also employ public opinion survey data to consider the growing role these late-night programs play in framing public opinion and priorities. This book will interest scholars, the curious public, and students of politics, communications and the media, and contemporary American culture.”

Ordering info

C-SPAN “Book TV” Segment on the book

Feature story on the book

“Viewpoints” radio interview on book (10 minutes into the program)

UMW poll shows Trump lagging in Virginia (Daily Press)

“The latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates that Donald Trump faces an uphill battle in Virginia next year against a range of possible challengers,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Link to report

Trump: Trump Criticizes US Jewish Democrats (CTV News Canada)

“It’s very clear from the American Jewish groups that Donald Trump is once again trying to divide the country using religion as a vehicle to advance his own interests …,” said University of Mary Washington Professor of Political Science Stephen Farnsworth. “I don’t know that a lot of Jewish Americans are going to take Donald Trump’s advice all that seriously. They certainly didn’t support him in 2016. About four-to-one, Jewish Americans voted for Hillary Clinton.”

Link to report