The Power of Sarcasm

The extra­or­di­nary appear­ance of Stephen Col­bert’s at the White House Press Club Din­ner last month (which we can still offer him thanks for) was all the more remark­able for the fact that he unleashed his par­o­dy of con­ser­v­a­tive pun­dit­ry not 20 feet from King George him­self! The video has been played all over the Inter­net and the tran­scripts are all over the place, but I can’t help quot­ing my favourite bit:

“So the White House has per­son­nel changes. Then you write, “Oh, they’re just rear­rang­ing the deck chairs on the Titan­ic.” First of all, that is a ter­ri­ble metaphor. This admin­is­tra­tion is not sink­ing. This admin­is­tra­tion is soar­ing. If any­thing, they are rear­rang­ing the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!”

I’ve asked many the same ques­tions: How did it hap­pen? Why did the press club invite him in the first place? Was this their way of final­ly mak­ing it clear how idi­ot­ic the admin­is­tra­tion is through the mouth­piece of a come­di­an rather than a jour­nal­ist? Were they expect­ing him to play nice and just be a lit­tle wacky? Nah, I’ve come to the con­clu­sion that it’s sim­pler. The peo­ple in charge of the invi­ta­tions saw a few clips of Col­bert’s show and did­n’t get the joke. Appar­ent­ly irony and satire is a bit too sophis­ti­cat­ed for some of those on the Right. Col­bert is play­ing a part, a sort of Pro­to-Fox News Pun­dit. He does­n’t real­ly admire Bush or ‘Papa Bear’ (O’Reil­ly) or real­ly think that Cre­ation­ism is the Answer because Sci­ence is Just Too Hard… It’s all a per­sona! As they say in Eng­land, he’s “Tak­ing the Mick­ey out on them!”

What made me come to this real­iza­tion that they missed the satire is that it’s hap­pened again. Today, Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense fund sent out a mass email crit­i­ciz­ing a new doc­u­men­tary ‘The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Con­gress’ by Robert Green­wald, whose pre­vi­ous film was “Out­foxed”. The email uses as its lead item, Green­wald’s appear­ance as a guest on Col­bert’s show, when Col­bert (again, in char­ac­ter) pro­ceed­ed to give him a hard time. Now per­haps the Tom Delay Legal Defense fund thinks that the peo­ple that they are send­ing the email to are so dumb that they won’t get the joke. Or maybe they did­n’t get the joke, either.

I won­der how long this can go on, with Stephen Col­bert con­tin­u­ing to con­vince the Right that he’s on their side, all the while rip­ping them to shreds? Some­one once told me that Mar­garet Dumont was so stu­pid that she thought she was doing dra­mat­ic movies with Grou­cho, and some­how man­aged to for­get all of those times he insult­ed or tried to get a rise out of her. Maybe some of these guys are a throw­back to that Dumont-ian blind­ness to a smarter, wit­ti­er Marx­ist (the ‘Broth­ers’ kind, that is).

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