Yes, I saw that Stephen Colbert is “running” for president.

No, I don’t think it’s funny.

Jon Stewart and Colbert are both hillarious and smart, and I love the satire…..but I really I think they’ve become part of the problem overall.

For a certain age group, they’ve both become a surrogate for actually engaging at a political level more deeply, or treating it all as anything other than a cynical joke. That, to me, is just another form of self-involved, intellectual laziness: “Politics is ridiculous, Politicians are damaged liars, so let’s just treat it all like a big joke.”

The problem with that is that it breeds complacency. Cynical, I-really-know-better-and-aren’t-I-therefore-clever Complacency, but complacency nonetheless. We *have* to engage ourselves politically. If the Bush Administration has taught us nothing, its that the complacency of the public is what allows outrages to occur. Snarky comments and hi-minded chuckling makes us feel smarter, but it doesn’t improve our political process, nor does it have a hope for saving this country from the ignorant.

Because believe me, while you’re laughing, and trading video clips, and quoting zingers….. they’re organizing.

20 Replies to “Colbert”

  1. The whole thing seems really poorly planned, and unfunny. I’ve seen some of Colbert’s post-run announcement interviews with folks like Tim Russert and they consistently fall flat. Political talking heads are not renowned for their humor and when facing off with Colbert’s dry delivery, it comes across as stilted and boring.

    It’s a bad joke that’s gone on too long already.

  2. On his show, Colbert is constantly highlighting the absurd in the flawed thinking of *everyone.* He makes fun of the mindset of complacency, of the talking head. He says, “This is what they’re doing – you think it’s a joke, but I’m not exagerrating that much.”

    Sure, there are some people who engage only on the comic level, but they aren’t going to engage any more with someone like Keith Olbermann anyway(if they’ve even heard of him).

    He and Stewart are the ONLY ONES reminding us that it’s all ridiculous.

    While you’re not laughing, they’re still organizing.

  3. He and Stewart are the ONLY ONES reminding us that it’s all ridiculous.

    Holy missed-the-point, Batman….

    It’s not all ridiculous. That’s the problem. Stewart & Colbert only feed the impression that it is, which prevents otherwise-smart people from engaging meaningfully.

  4. Did you see what the Daily Show did with Rob Riggle in Iraq? It was very pointed. Funny, yes. But also meaningful.

    And what about Colbert using for his campaign? The joke is overt, but all the benefits go to schools and kids. When he broke his wrist, he made unbelievably long-drawn jokes about it, and in the end auctioned his cast (signed by a diverse crowd like O’Reilly and Pelosi) for veterans.

    Colbert ALWAYS brings his satire back to the realities of what’s happening in our world. He’s not just talking, or cracking jokes.

  5. What keeps people from engaging is GRAPHIC NOVELS!!!! ummmm, I mean cowardice, indecision and ignorance. TV shows and personalities are not responsible for this individual minds are.

  6. You don’t think that the shows offer a convenient surrogate? Making people *feel* like they’re engaging, passively?

    I mean, it’s pretty much the same category as slacktivism.

    I’m not saying that they’re solely to blame — as I said in the main post, they’re part of the problem.

  7. I’d already heard of Dailykos, but I’m willing to bet a lot of people learned of it for the first time on the Colbert Report. I’d never heard of True Majority until Stephen Colbert brought Ben Cohen in for an interview. Just a couple of examples that spring to mind.

    Yes, they joke, but no, I don’t think they encourage their demographic to disengage from the process. Their demographic is actually pretty darn hard to engage in the process, so anything they do to help that is really just gravy.

  8. Ten excuses or ten thousand? Depending on the individual, anything could be pointed to as the contributing factor (Damn you Tyra Banks!). But the common factor is the lack of engagement. I propose the cause as internal.

  9. While I think that it’s true in many cases, I know some people who would still be entirely and willfully oblivious if they hadn’t been exposed to issues on The Daily Show (or Colbert.)

    It’s shudder-worthy, but it’s true.

  10. my two cents

    If Colbert and Stewart can manage to get any of the apathetic masses to actually think about the reality of things, I think that is a good thing. It’s sad that they have to use satire that is too close to truth to do it, but I’m willing to take what I can get under the circumstances. From thought, if it’s disturbing enough, there is a better chance of getting action.

  11. I pretty much hate to admit it, but I see Gareth’s point and I think it’s aiming right at me. I’ve been lulled into a sense of surrogate engagement by being an avid fan of TDS and TCR.

    But oh, how I still love them.

    In any case, thanks for keeping me honest and making me think, G.

  12. Art part of the problem? Please.

    If they’re not organizing now, why do you think the millions of viewers aren’t going to organize because they have to decide what to do for an hour of broadcast time? Yeah, a majority of their viewers have righteous anger that goes no where productive thanks to their messages. But without them, they’d be watching Half-Baked and be completely uninformed. I’m willing to bet that we have more people taking a stand that we would without them, however marginal that difference might be. And maybe we’ve seen the effects. The left has gotten so much more organized during the same years that their popularity grew. Sure, maybe Stewart on a stump telling people to organize would be more effective, but then few would watch.

    The only people they are a surrogate for are ones who would do nothing anyway.

  13. For a certain age group, they’ve both become a surrogate for actually engaging at a political level

    I’m unsure why you’re laying the blame for this at the feet of Stewart and Colbert. I couldn’t care less if you don’t find them funny, but saying it’s their fault that people “of a certain age group” are lazy idiots is simply misplaced.

  14. 1) I’m not “laying the blame” — I’m saying that they’ve become part of the problem.

    2) I do find them funny — just not Colbert’s presidential run.

    3) The thing that pretty much 100% of the commentors here missed (and so I must not have made it clear enough) is that I absolutely include myself as part of that “certain age group” — that I have often found it more intellectually comforting to sit back and enjoy the snark, instead of trying to do something about it. That at times it’s felt like participation, when really it’s passive. Physician, Heal Thyself, and all that.

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