Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Profile in Courage? You Betcha!

While everyone's hyperventilating and getting their knickers in a bunch (especially the right wing who felt their poster boy was attacked) over Stephen Colbert's comments at the Washington Correspondents' Dinner last week, here's one voice of appreciation for the courage it took to face power eye to eye and use satire and parody so masterfully that even Mark Twain would have been envious.

satire, term applied to any work of literature or art whose objective is ridicule. It is more easily recognized than defined. From ancient times satirists have shared a common aim: to expose foolishness in all its guises - vanity, hypocrisy, pedantry, idolatry, bigotry, sentimentality, and to effect reform through such exposure. The many diverse forms their statements have taken reflect the origin of the word satire, which is derived from the Latin satura, meaning "dish of mixed fruits," hence a medley. - Columbia University Press


I don't think I could have done that, not sure I'm that brave.

The critique as to whether or not that was the proper venue for what he did has its place, I supppose, but isn't that the whole point of satire anyway? One critique was that he just wasn't funny. Of course, it's the press corps saying he wasn't funny. What do they know? They were skewered by his biting remarks just as dramatically as was the President.

Isn't satire meant to make you squirm?

Isn't satire meant to address real issues and follies in the guise of humor, or, in Colbert's case, the advocacy of positions he's criticizing?

Of course they didn't think it was funny...they were the punch line. But for the benefit of the powerless looking in - a measure of comeuppance is sweet, oh so sweet.

Take a look -

There is nothing more fundamentally American than what Colbert did.


And I would remind those who think we don't do such things to the President - contrary to how we've had to live with the unabashed abuse of power in the executive branch, we do not have a King of America (Check out "King W" post of some time ago for more on that one), we have the product of a democracy. (And yes, we can debate the validity of that one, too).

But it is what it is.

And when we can no longer face power and call it into account, we might as well close the doors, cause this experiment in democracy will be over.

"Parodies and caricatures are the most penetrating of criticisms." - Aldous Huxley

Colbert's "truthiness" - Colbert introduced the word "truthiness" on the premiere episode of The Colbert Report, on October 17, 2005. He came up with the idea of "truthiness" just moments before filming for the show began. [2] He used "truthiness" in a monologue that emphasized its role as an ironic political polemic compressed into a single word, as demonstrated in the following excerpts:
"I will speak to you in plain, simple English. And that brings us to tonight's word: 'truthiness.' Now I'm sure some of the 'word police,' the 'wordanistas' over at
Webster's are gonna say, 'Hey, that's not a word.' Well, anyone who knows me knows I'm no fan of dictionaries or reference books....
"I don't trust books. They're all fact, no heart. And that's exactly what's pulling our country apart today. 'Cause face it, folks; we are a divided nation. Not between
Democrats and Republicans, or conservatives and liberals, or tops and bottoms. No, we are divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart...
Harriet Miers. If you 'think' about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination's absurd. But the president didn't say he 'thought' about his selection. He said this:
(video clip of
President Bush:) 'I know her heart.'
"Notice he didn't say anything about her brain? He didn't have to. He 'feels' the truth about Harriet Miers.
"And what about
Iraq? If you 'think' about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn't taking Saddam out 'feel' like the right thing?..."
Colbert gave an out-of-character interview with
The Onion's A.V. Club, in which he responded to the question, "What's your take on the 'truthiness' imbroglio that's tearing our country apart?" by elaborating on the critique he intended to convey with the word "truthiness":
"Truthiness is tearing apart our country, and I don't mean the argument over who came up with the word...
"It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. It's certainty. People love the President because he's certain of his choices as a leader, even if the facts that back him up don't seem to exist. It's the fact that he's certain that is very appealing to a certain section of the country. I really feel a dichotomy in the American populace. What is important? What you want to be true, or what is true?...
"Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality."
[3] from

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