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12 May 2006

Thank you Steven Colbert

I haven’t weighed in on the whole Steven Colbert controversey (whether he was unspeakably rude at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner–decide for yourself). Mostly because I think Colbert was bitingly funny. The emperor had no clothes, but no one in the room wanted to point that out.

Anyway, the New Republic sent me this in my inbox this morning:

Obviously enough, this is designed not to amuse, but to wound, to goad, to irritate. It is not comedy; the discourse has moved location, from the funhouse to the church, and it has become preachy and a little earnest. We are in the realm of the blogosphere. Again and again, Colbert chides the MSM in much the way that the alternative press does: “John McCain, John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you, it wasn’t a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There’s no predicting him.” Actually, this last jibe is pretty funny, and it neatly pops both John McCain’s ballooning self-regard and the tedious reverence of the establishment media….

So we have a heaven-made circularity: Colbert, abjuring comedy for bitter irony, attacks the MSM like the bloggers do; the MSM decide not to mention Colbert, or decide that he wasn’t funny, or was rude; and the bloggers get to cry foul, charging that this shows, at best, exactly what is wrong with the cloth-eared MSM–or, at worst, that a conspiracy to silence Colbert has begun. At which point the MSM, in their stolid, evenhanded way, write up the “controversy.” Who can blame the bloggers? They are right that Colbert was often not trying to be funny, but to be insulting–and there is something breathtakingly, sublimely insulting about the way Colbert, in the midst of his rudeness, continues to use the words “sir” and “Mr. President” not ten feet from the man he is dressing down. And, if they are not right about a conspiracy of silence, they are right about the press’s reflexive respect for authority, for only this can explain the chummy way in which, say, The New York Times first reported the event, with its relaxed and relaxing account of the comic genius of Steve Bridges (he was prepped in the White House!).

(Sidenote: I can tell that I don’t spend time in certain parts of the blogosphere, because when I first saw “MSM” I didn’t think of the MainStream Media but of Men who have Sex with Men.)

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