Stephen Colbert certainly made a big impression at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Many people in the room and covering the event were not impressed. Hey, he made the press out to be lapdogs. They almost came off worse than Bush. But if he hurt some itty bitty feelings in the press corps, good for him. The transcript from the event is pretty funny, and that’s what counts in a comedy routine.
Personally, I’m inclined to appreciate that Colbert threw stuff this scalding at the POTUS from but a few steps away. Rock and roll! Slap that sumbitch around like an ugly, redheaded stepchild. Keep him humble.
Just do not pretend like you’re seriously participating in political debate. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are mere comedians, not intellectuals whose material should be taken seriously. Colbert is not, in fact, a legitimate political commentator making rational arguments based on facts. He’s a liar and a slander artist. That’s his job.
Look, comedy isn’t fair. That’s a given. Fair and balanced comedy is probably going to be worthless, and not even funny. Yuck!
But of course, you don’t run the country based on frickin’ comedy routines. I feel stupid for needing to say something that obvious, but we can’t run our military based on punch lines from Comedy Central. It’s going to take a little more than a half-assed Jon Stewart monologue to deal with crazy nuclear mullahs in Iran.
Specifically, I reject the underlying point of Colbert’s claim of “truthiness.” In his backwards comic way, he’s arguing that he’s speaking truth to power and that the power (Bush, et al.) is lying. That is, in fact, substantially exactly backwards on both counts. In reality, President Bush has been among the more honest presidents of recent memory — if only because he knows he couldn’t get away with acting like Bill Clinton.
But more significantly, Colbert, et al., routinely make crap up. Colbert said at this dinner, “I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the “No Fact Zone.” In context, he obviously means Bill O’Reilly, but in all real truthiness, it’s even more applicable when speaking of The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. I think O’Reilly’s a slug who’ll twist facts and make mountains out of molehills, but he’s generally not just making crap up. O’Reilly runs, perhaps, a selective facts zone, but Colbert and Stewart pretty much DO run “no facts zones.”
Colbert’s idea of political argument, on the other hand, runs to:
General Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff. General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They still support Rumsfeld. Right, you guys aren’t retired yet, right? Right, they still support Rumsfeld.
Now, you could say that this is just a joke — though not particularly humorous. But that’s not how people who were gaga over Colbert’s performance want to take it. They want to say, yeah, he really told the president what time it is!
Okay then, let’s look at that statement as an argument. The implication is pretty clear and simple: that Rumsfeld and the Bush administration have really screwed the pooch, and any major military guy who was speaking honestly would tell you that.
Except that there’s no significant evidence supporting this implication. It is a statement of fact, not opinion, that there is no basis for these implications. There were half a dozen retired generals with who knows what combinations of personal and professional axes to grind who spoke out a couple of weeks ago. Out of all the retired high level military, this isn’t very many — certainly not enough to begin to justify the implications of Colbert’s lines.
In the taped skit, speaking of the Iraq War, Helen Thomas said, “Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true.” That’s a lie. She, and anyone taking her seriously, are childishly refusing to acknowledge FACTS. For starters, there clearly is significant evidence that, in fact, Hussein’s representatives really were attempting to acquire Nigerian uranium, as per W’s famous 16 words from the SOTU.
Now, I don’t that much fault Colbert for any of this. Again, he’s a comedian, not a legitimate news analyst. Establishing truth and justice is beyond his job description or pay grade. His main job is to make people laugh. He tends to make me laugh, so I figure he’s doing his job. I would hope that he’s got enough sense not to believe his own press. He just needs to be truthy enough with himself to accept that a lot of this shtick is just whoring for his liberal audience.
But what’s really whack is the way that many Bush haters rely on Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert as their primary arguments. For example, Brother Blogcritic Steven Hart posits that “Colbert was after something more than just laughs.” Yeah, buddy, don’t kid yourself.
It is, to understate it significantly, intellectually disreputable. They’re trying to get away with a whole bunch of absolutely unearned points, bunches of bullshit presumption and character assassination with no actual backing in reality. Note how it is precisely the most whacked lefty moonbats with little regard for facts who are the most adamant about Bush lying and how they’re “reality based” — as expressed backwardsly in Colbert’s “truthiness” shtick.
In the real world of America 2006 though, it is the Bush haters — the core cheering section for Stewart and Colbert — who are most clearly getting their truth from down deep in their guts rather than anything to do with external evidence.
Basically, offering comedy like this up in the place of actual political argument is demagoguery. It’s an appeal to emotions rather than logic. Get the audience on your side on a personal level as a funny fellow, and then slide in the bullshit friendly-like where they’re more likely to just go along with your “joke” than to think any of it through.
But when some specific piece of your pinko fantasia gets busted by some truth patrol, and it gets to the point where simple childish refusal to acknowledge doesn’t work — hey, it’s just comedy. You’re not taking this crap seriously, are you? Lighten up.