I am wondering what Buddha would have said about late night talk shows that are now busy making fun of Donald Trump. Do they break the precept on gossiping and frivolous talk since they are making fun of people. Its also true that they make people laugh and remove their sorrows for a while. Would this count as good Karma -- to make people laugh?
[AN 5.198] Right speech is:
- Spoken at the right time
- Spoken in truth
- Spoken affectionately
- Spoken beneficially
- Spoken with a mind of good-will
It may be a bit subjective, but I don't think talk-show mockery is right speech.
No. The answer to this question can be found in Talaputa Sutta: To Talaputa the Actor (SN 42.2). The Blessed One said:
"Apparently, headman, I haven't been able to get past you by saying, 'Enough, headman, put that aside. Don't ask me that.' So I will simply answer you. Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."
I guess it may be classified as "lowly talk".
Several suttas say something like this:
Whereas some brahmans and contemplatives, living off food given in faith, are addicted to talking about lowly topics such as these — talking about kings, robbers, ministers of state; armies, alarms, and battles; food and drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, and scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women and heroes; the gossip of the street and the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity [philosophical discussions of the past and future], the creation of the world and of the sea, and talk of whether things exist or not — he abstains from talking about lowly topics such as these. This, too, is part of his virtue.
I guess that talk which is "busy making fun of Donald Trump" is the same as "talking about kings" etc.
So I think that would be considered "lowly talk", for monks: and I don't see why it would be better, for lay-people. Well, being politically active might be part of a lay-person's social responsibility: but if that is your intention you might find better ways to do that than by watching or producing mockery.
Would this count as good Karma -- to make people laugh?
A talk show "making fun of" is mockery, I suppose, or taunting, ridicule (and a war of words).
I'm not sure about karma but I suspect that, instead, exhorting people to virtue, telling them things that are to their long-term benefit, might be considered as good karma (or better karma).
Also I'm not even sure it's usually good to watch television at all. I suppose it's a kind of activity that's often contrary to the seventh precept (see also Wermske's answer).
Instead of "talk of kings" the suttas contain recommendation like this
Why should you not do this? Such talk, monks, is not related to the goal, it is not fundamental to the holy life, does not conduce to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, tranquillity, higher knowledge, enlightenment or to Nibbana. When you have discussions, monks, you should discuss Suffering, the Arising of Suffering, its Cessation, and the Path that leads to its Cessation. Why is that? Because such talk is related to the goal... it conduces to disenchantment... to Nibbana. This is the task you must accomplish.
And like this:
"Monks, there are these ten grounds for praise. Which ten?
"There is the case where a monk himself is modest and instigates talk on modesty among the monks. The fact that he is modest and instigates talk on modesty among the monks is grounds for praise.
"He himself is contented and instigates talk on contentment among the monks...
"He himself is secluded and instigates talk on seclusion among the monks...
"He himself is non-entangled and instigates talk on non-entanglement among the monks...
"He himself has his persistence aroused and instigates talk on arousing persistence among the monks...
"He himself is consummate in virtue and instigates talk on being consummate in virtue among the monks...
"He himself is consummate in concentration and instigates talk on being consummate in concentration among the monks...
"He himself is consummate in discernment and instigates talk on being consummate in discernment among the monks...
"He himself is consummate in release and instigates talk on being consummate in release among the monks...
"He himself is consummate in knowledge & vision of release and instigates talk on being consummate in knowledge & vision of release among the monks. The fact that he is consummate in knowledge & vision of release and instigates talk on being consummate in knowledge & vision of release among the monks is grounds for praise.
"These are the ten grounds for praise."
Engaging in slander, lies & cruelty is wrong speech in Buddhism.
Today, is it very difficult to know what is true or false in politics.
Further, making people laugh often distracts them from the real political issues.
That is why the USA is in upheaval at the moment.
When a Republican government promises to help the lower classes from the economic problems created by the Democrat government, this shows how distracted the people have been.