Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Stephen Colbert: Not a Joke

DOOM, to be filed under "Plato was right":

A new article in the International Journal of Press / Politics studies the opinions of those who watch The Colbert Report. The authors find that "individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of [Stephen] Colbert's political ideology": Although "there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny," conservatives "were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said" whereas liberals "were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements."


BobbySue said...

This seems to be a good sign, rather than a sign of doom. It suggests that Stephen Colbert, Southpark, and the like have little influence.

Glaucon said...


How can such numbskullery be a good thing? Isn't the inability to detect irony and satire -- especially when you're its target -- bad? I get that it can be good for the numbskull; self-deception can be psychologically beneficial at times. But is stupidity good in itself, or good for the rest of us, who have to live with these numbskulls?

Anonymous said...

And how about the dumbassery of conducting such a "study" for publication!

Brett said...

Fascinating, from a "perspective" perspective. Perhaps a sign also of Stephen Colbert the character being an effectively blended character, played by a skilled actor/comedian, who's leaving enough dimensions for him to be understood ....differently.

PA said...

Anon @ 8:47

Unless, of course, it was published in "Stephen Colbert and Philosophy."

reg said...

Interesting. I'm liberal, but after reading up on Colbert (yes, mostly wikipedia), I'd guess he believes what he says, but not as strongly as it seems.

Krinos said...

Poe's Law, but in conservative politics. Notice that nobody says this about John Stewart, though.

Neil said...

reg, having read the wikipedia article, as well as seen the Colbert Report, I have one question: are you sure you're a liberal?

Anonymous said...

I think if anyone harbors even the slightest suspicion that Colbert's persona is not entirely ironic, he need only watch Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

James Gaitis said...

As a writer of satire, I would strenuously argue that the failure to comprehend satire is something of a self-indictment. That is the point of the study. Its conclusions are echoed in a recent review of my novel by Barbara Ardinger, of ForeWord Magazine:

From ForeWord Magazine: http://www.kunati.com/news/2009/5/13/a-super-review-uses-satire-to-review-satire.html

“With Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death galloping around the planet (and Pollution keeping up in his Hummer), public discourse today seems to have no place for humor except in movies about the pranks of adolescents of all ages. Satire? Hardly anyone recognizes it. How many people get it that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are doing satire every night? What would happen if Jonathan Swift were reincarnated and set his Modest Proposal in, say, Darfur or Pakistan?

Although James Gaitis, who holds a B.A. in English and a J.D., is no Swift, he manufactures a brave new world that runs with Marxian competence (and makes one wonder if he is a Libertarian). An unnamed nation that is presumably a reconstituted United States is going to present its highest honor, the Nolebody Medal, to Dadaist poet and maker of found art, Leonard Bentwood. The medal is named for Philip Nolebody (is the reader supposed to remember Odysseus' reply to the Cyclops, ‘I am Nobody’?), a monster robber baron who acquired just about everything and thirty years ago invented a vaccine ‘which brought an instant and permanent end not only to war … but to virtually every other manifestation of mass violence, whether in the form of organized rebellion or protest, or in the guise of spontaneous eruptions in the form of riots or panic- or greed-driven stampede’ (p. 59).

Plot demands complications. First, Bentwood thinks the government functionary who brings him news of his honor is just trying to sell him something. Bentwood, who lives in the desert (which lets Gaitis compose Mahleresque descriptions of the flora, fauna, and monsoons), is, like Chance the Gardener, pretty much non compos mentis. So is the President. Second, world governments, having purchased the Nolebody Vaccine, have all apparently disbanded their military and police and remaindered the materiel. Governments are now, in fact, manifesting the Peter Principle. (This is new??) Third, the military having been abolished, there are apparently no more guns. But wait….

Suddenly the government learns that the Nolebody Vaccine has a half-life of thirty years and its effects will expire on the day of the Nolebody ceremony. Aggression and competition will inevitably resurface. Now what? The government turns (more) paranoid and decides that Leonard Bentwood is their last best hope, the plotting continues with flim-flammery on the part of both the government and private citizens, and the verboten Nobody Movement comes back to life. Run for the hills!” (May) Barbara Ardinger

James Gaitis
Author of:
The Nation’s Highest Honor—A Literary Satire (Kunati Books 2009)
A Stout Cord and a Good Drop¬—A Novel of the Founding of Montana (Globe Pequot 2006)
The View From Stansberry Lookout—A Literary Satire (Now seeking publication)