Thursday, October 21, 2010


Even though lately I've felt like one of the "humorless and wrongheaded lefty scolds" he talks about, I absolutely agree with Kevin K's recommendation of this Wonkette piece by Jack Stuef, which takes on Timothy Noah's attack on the upcoming Colbert/Stewart rally in Slate. I'm going to put on my humorless hat for just one second and say that I really, really don't think the rally will be a huge boon for Democrats, nor is it intended to be -- I agree with Stuef that "this 'rally' probably will make as many jokes about bears as jokes about Teabaggers" -- but now I want to remove the hat and say I think it'll be hilarious (though other plans are going to keep me away, alas).

Whatever the rally is like, I find Noah's hand-wringing insufferable:

... You can argue, as my friend and mentor Charles Peters does, that the ridicule in Stewart's and Colbert's satire, like the ridicule in much contemporary popular comedy, carries a screw-those-uneducated-yokels message that you never found in, say, the humor of Will Rogers. Rogers once quipped: "An ignorant person is one who doesn't know what you have just found out."

... Stewart-Colbertism scorns extremism of all types, but especially conservative extremism, and most especially conservative extremism driven by ignorance or religious fundamentalism. It is mildly critical of liberalism, but mainly for failing to combat conservative bombast more effectively.... All this works well as humor, but as a sentiment shouted through a bullhorn to thousands stretched between the U.S. Capitol and the Washington Monument, it will translate into, well, judging other people for what they don't know. It will do so no matter how much everyone laughs....

There's still a lot we don't fully understand about the Tea Partiers and the political independents who have lost faith in Obama. But one thing we should all be pretty clear on by now is that they
hate, hate, hate anything that smacks of elitism. The spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers will, I fear, have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull.... let Republicans regain the House (and maybe even the Senate) in part because Comedy Central used mockery not merely to burlesque political protest but also, to some inevitable extent, to practice it -- and I think Stewart and Colbert will be sorry they came....

Oh, right -- this rally is going to change the course of the entire election. As it stands now, the Senate is likely to remain in Democratic hands -- but after the rally tens of thousands of swing voters who haven't yet been swayed by endless hours of right-wing rhetoric are suddenly going to storm the polling places to vote for teabaggers because Jon Stewart will have stood on the National Mall and called Steve Doocy a "douche." Right-- that sure is plausible.

Of course, this is the classic argument that hamstrings liberals everywhere, most notably in the White House: if we're really, really nice and deferential to the people who despise us, surely they'll see the light and meet us halfway.... Get it through your head, Tim: these people are going to hate, hate, hate us for our elitism whether we're elitist or not.

The only way Stewart and Colbert could do outreach to these clowns would be to say nothing insulting or belittling or even mildly irreverent about right-wingers and the tea party movement at their rally, and, instead, to lay into liberals and Democrats relentlessly and mercilessly. Think that would lay the groundwork for rapprochement, Tim? No. It would just lay the groundwork for a thousand blog headlines along the lines of "Even the Liberal Jon Stewart Rejects NObama and Socialism."

Yeah, I know -- a couple of days ago I was praising people who tiptoe around climate-change skepticism as they try to sell green-energy ideas.

But those are people trying to implement policy in a right-leaning environment where they have little power to change opinions (and where they've been failed by the higher-profile people who could marshal and disseminate arguments that might change opinions, but have never done so effectively).

Stewart and Colbert are political comedians, fer crissake -- they have a different job. Are they supposed to not do political comedy whenever enough people are yelling loudly enough that their feelings are hurt, constantly, by everything and everyone they don't like?

Stewart and Colbert are going to hit a lot of targets, including you and me. That's their job. Let them get on with their work.

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