Sometimes satire can expose truths in ways that straight journalists can only envy. This is particularly when you are dealing with hard-to-believe developments like the rise of Donald Trump as a hero of the poor and oppressed.”Saturday Night Live,” whose skits can be hit-or-miss in terms of provoking laughs, hit a bull’s eye with Alec Baldwin and SNL’s Kate McKinnon impersonating Trump and Hillary Clinton’s debates. I can no longer hear Trump say “Wrong” to Clinton’s put-downs without thinking of Baldwin’s foghorn voice delivering it.But as a depiction of Trump’s popular-yet-divisive appeal, a later skit with Tom Hanks playing “Black Jeopardy” deserves special praise, if you’re not too thin-skinned about stereotypes.As regular viewers know, “Black Jeopardy” is a black-oriented version of the “Jeopardy!” game show, hosted by “Darnell Hayes,” played by SNL’s Kenan Thompson. It also features three contestants, one of whom usually is white or, in the case of Drake, a biracial Canadian.Laughs usually come from the cluelessness of the non-black guest in answering questions geared to customs and jargon of everyday black culture. But Tom Hanks put a hilarious twist on that premise. He portrayed “Doug,” a stereotypical Trump supporter in a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap and a bald-eagle T-shirt.Yet, as far removed as his life might have been from the black American experience, he was surprisingly in sync with the black folks onstage in, among other matters, his paranoid attitudes toward power elites.For example, in a category titled “They out here saying…,” the clue was: “They out here saying, ‘The new iPhone wants your thumbprint “for your protection.'”Doug immediately answered in the form of a question, as real-world “Jeopardy” rules dictate, “What is, ‘I don’t think so. That’s how they get ya’?””Yes!” a surprised Darnell exclaims. “That’s it!” Doug’s fellow contestants, played by Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata, agree.Under the category: “They out here saying….,” Darnell reads the clue, “They out here saying that every vote counts.”Again Doug beats others to the buzzer with: “What is ‘Come on, they already decided who wins even before it happens’?”Darnell cheerfully agrees. “The Illuminati figured that out months ago,” he says. “That’s another one for Doug.”The Illuminati, in case you don’t know, was an ancient secret Bavarian society that nowadays gets blamed by various conspiracy theories for just about everything that goes right or wrong and defies easy explanation.It is an appropriate reference for a time in which Trump has made conspiracy theories between government, the media, Clinton’s campaign and “international bankers” into key aspects of his final campaign message.Of course, some conspiracies are real or, at least, could be. Team Trump has been trying in recent days to put the Clinton campaign on the defensive with an undercover video of Democratic National Committee operatives Scott Foval and Robert Creamer. They appear to be discussing what could be unseemly tactics, such as instigating violence at Trump rallies and arranging for fraudulent voting.Although evidence of wrongdoing is far from clear in the video and the DNC and Clinton campaigns are distancing themselves from the two men they have raised another embarrassment for candidate Clinton in the final days of her campaign. When her opponents have little else new to bring up, a good conspiracy can go a long way.”American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” wrote historian Richard Hofstadter in his classic 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” The paranoid style way predates the United States, he noted, and while it was quite visible in the Barry Goldwater movement in Hofstadter’s time, it is “a style of mind that is far from new” or limited to the right or left wings.Indeed, it is not mental illness, but “the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant,” the historian wrote.Paranoid thinking is a useful shortcut to making sense of a complicated world, a talent that also distinguishes many politicians. But more often than not, it is delusional, moving us away from the real world into the realm of magical thinking.Our paranoid views can unite us like contestants on “Black Jeopardy” or divide us in the way our current presidential campaigns have. Either way, we voters have to deal with real life, not a game show.
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