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May 01, 2006

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Someday private spirituality will be Buddhist, public spirituality will be Confucian, Festivals will be Hindu in form and the Cults of Abraham will be marginalized as too violent.
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Did you see Colbert flinch when he mentioned Val's name?

And I Love Luesy; how has Joe kept Val safe?

(jerry just doesn't fit. I'm the kim so self-absorbed as to underline.)
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Go to www.thankyoustephencolbert.org and post your thanks to this incredibly brave man.

Yeah, those Easterners never made war, or tortured prisoners, or ate the flesh stripped fresh off of a still-live, de-furred animal, practiced human vivisection. Give me a break.
We don't need a new brand of bullshit here... no bullshit at all for me, thanks.

I'll admit I'm old and farty enough to have wondered, while I was watching the Colbert routine, if there was something inappropriate about what he was doing. I hate the whole "we're at each others' throats most of the time but, what the hell, we can still have one night of fun" thing that emptywheel references here, but it is, in fact, tradition, and I don't think there's any question Colbert violated it -- he pissed long and hard into the punch bowl. I think you can make a strong case that extraordinary times require such speaking truth to power -- that business as usual won't do now, when the country is being wrecked in so many ways. But I can understand why many in the audience felt uncomfortable; I felt uncomfortable, throughout (maybe I'm just a sensitive guy).

All that said...there's no excuse for Colbert being essentially "disappeared" from the coverage. To watch TV -- or even read the execrable Bumiller in the NY Times -- the evening's entertainment consisted of Bush and the impressionist, end story. Did Stephen scare them that much, that they can't even acknowledge his act took place?

emptywheel,

Very perceptive. I really wonder what the booker for that gig thought they were going to get. Too often, the press doesn't seem to "get" that Stewart and Colbert are laughing at them, rather than with them. It was a little disconcerting for everybody to see Colbert stick with his on-screen persona for the whole bit. Colbert is a sort of Carnival figure every day. By bringing that to the Correspondents Dinner, he "went all in" on press criticism and they folded. That means they realize he has all the cards. I hope that spurs them to reconsider their position.

he pissed long and hard into the punch bowl

A pretty succinct description of his speech. I'm of the opinion it was needed. But I may be younger than you, demtom. And I've always been a bit of an anti-authoritarian.

Still, I couldn't help but think of Gustave Flaubert, who was absolutely brilliant at wielding the irony, but whom I've always hated because of the thickness of his disdain. Why do I love Colbert's disdain but not Flaubert's?

I wonder what happens now, now that the press corps has been denied their annual Carnival fun.

Of course they will basically revert to their normal behaviour, but with a difference. Colbert broached a taboo which can't be unbroached. As you note, he was as harsh on the press as he was on the Pres. They will resent that mightily. But since they report on not so much the actual news, but rather the Conventional Wisdom of it, and Colbert's brilliant roast is, however subtly, a part of CW now, it can't help but have some effect. The press poodles are essentially passive (generalizing) and Colbert shifted the wind a little. The 'scales' aren't going to 'fall from their eyes'. etc., but I'm positive there was an impact.

WO

I think there's a bit of self-deceptive bluster on the part of most people who celebrate Jon Stewart or Colbert. They welcome a challenge and really believe they're up to that challenge--of bantering with Colbert and Stewart.

They do poorly enough when they're in an interview with one of them; witness Kristol last week, who is generally very skillful at handling hostile interviewers. But to give Colbert a (long) monologue? You don't stand a chance.

As always, EW, you see worlds where others see vaguely discomforting jibes.

Bakhtin's view of Carnival and social processes in Medieval Europe has been generalized by a couple of very deep thinkers. Gregory Bateson saw the periodic reversal of social roles as a basic means of maintaining social cohesion, present in similar forms across many cultures, and he also recognized its connection to social adaptation - calling it "schizmogenesis."

Mircea Eliade, the great historian of religion, connected the Spring festival to a basic underlying dynamic in pre-Mosaic historical comprehension - what he termed "The Myth of Eternal Return." In brief, this idea says that ancient agricultural societies in the northern temperate zones all had some form of Spring ritual to deal with the occasional occurence of an unusually harsh Winter famine, when the existence of the entire community came under threat, and there had to be imposed a "taboo on the first harvest," whereby some members of society would have to be sacrificed (to starvation, if not some more pointed end) in order to save seed corn for the new planting. This situation became ritualized with ceremonies celebrating the death and rebirth of a society-founding deity. In this ceremony, time itself comes to an end, and the birth of all things is celebrated as symbolic acknowledgement of the necessity of sacrifice.

Stephen Colbert, in his brilliant riffing on Carnival reversal, gave those of us with an eye for deep symbolism a ritual dance - fascinating, and riveting, portending, we hope, the return of a more glorious Spring, and the birth of a new freedom, after the long Winter of our discontent under the yoke of the usurpers.

semiot

Thanks for adding that. I was too tired this morning to even haul my sorry arse downstairs to get my copy of Bakhtin for a direct quote. I'm glad you added some of the rich thinkers that intersect with Bakhtin.

Yes, EW, it's self-deceptive bluster, born of the incredible cultural cluelessness, humorlessness and insularity you find in DC (watch the Kristol interview, but also the Barney Frank one). Who is easier to seduce and con than someone who is utterly self-absorbed?

And it's a Cultural Borg phenom. Stewart and Colbert are 'hot' right now, so these self-styled inside-the Beltway Masters of the Universe can't not appear. They're PR geniuses, you see; profound shapers of Opinion. How did it come to be that a major corporation released and made millions on an album with the song called 'Kill the Police' on it? Because it was 'hot'; because it sold. Same sort of deal.

I can miss the Daily Show if I have to, but I NEVER miss Colbert.

Sorry, I meant 'Commercial Borg'. I've always agreed with those who thought that the proper response to the Borg's tendency to co-opt and commodify everything is to put some poison in its 'food', to make it choke itself, rather than the (IMO) hopeless approach of 'dropping out', remaining 'pure', etc. If the Borg will eat anything (and it will), why not use that to advantage?

You nailed it. ew! I usually have little patience for the court jester phenomenon since much of what Stewart does seems to normalize, anesthetize (a la Bakhtinian carnivale) but Colbert was brilliant, performing politics. It was an emperor has no clothes moment. And as for disdain, it wasn't about disdain or even irony, it was as the cliche goes, speaking truth to power.

I appreciated Colbert's balls. I just wish he'd been funnier. Comedy is tricky in any event, but it's especially hard when you're trying to be funny and make a point at the same time. Colbert's character is a blow hard. That combined with heavy handed comedy earned my appreciation and respect more than my laughter.

Linking to the historical record with respect to the place of "Carnival" in society, the genius that keeps all of us coming back to your posts. Thanks ew. Your post reminded me that the movie, "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," opens with a scene from the Paris "Carnival."
I think a lot of us focussed on Colbert's dissecting of Bush and lost sight of how effective he was with the Press.
Bill, thank you so much for the link to "thankyoustephencolbert." I linked it to the latest FDL thread. Last I checked, there were around 8700 gratitde comments for Colbert.

Did folk see the 60 Minutes piece last night about Colbert? Ut was an interview with him by Bob Schieffer, most of it done out of his "report" character. It was a great follow-on to the previous night's performance -- covering about ten years (and two political convention seasons) of Stewert and Colbert's craft. In many respects it was the perfect Dessert to the Correspondant's dinner.

Schieffer's focus was on what an absolutely ordinary guy Colbert actually is -- Wife and three kids, lives in the suburbs, born in South Carolina but noticed early on that few TV performers had Southern Accents, so he made a great effort not to get one. Covered some of his work with Second City in Chicago -- his gigs on Saturday Night Live and then on to Comedy Centeral. Made the point that the four half hour shows per week require 14 writers -- but in the end Colbert does the final write of his own material. And Colbert out of character is indeed really quite ordinary, which makes what he did Saturday Night at the WH Correspondant's dinner all that more powerful and astounding.

My guess is that Bush had not really seen Colbert's stik before -- afterall he goes to bed at 9 PM, and in DC, the program is on at 11:30. But I think he got it, and I suspect Bush is not yet aware, as Ted Koppel so nicely put it, that the Good Lord had invented Tivo for just this purpose. I don't see GWB programing a Tivo to capture Faux News and Leno and Letterman's monologues.

Does anyone know which midia outfit bought the up front table and had Joe Wilson and his significant other as guests?

Damn good question, Sara. I saw somewhere (I think the complaints from NRO) that it was the AP.

does anyone know where the Colbert piece will be rebroadcast or where it can be found on the web?

Here it is, dug.

According to Froomkin, Frederick over at Kos had the most complete

Colbert Transcript
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marky, you're confusing spirituality and religion, and I guess I'll have to make more explicit that Hindu festivals are Carneval like, with many suspensions of everyday tabu.

And you can form bullshit into anything you like; it is still warm. Desicated, it's flammable.
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duginni:
Go to YouTube to see Colbert skewer Bush . . .

Sara - EW is correct. JW and VP were guests of AP

I wonder what happens now, now that the press corps has been denied their annual Carnival fun.

They will pretend it didn't happen, just like they always do.

Though I love the comments regarding the history, sociology and anthropology of comedy I think the upshot of Colbert's performance, as EW suggests, will be the deeper realization by Bush that he has succeeded at what he has tried to do in marginalizing the press and assuming unprecedented powers.
And this is an old story whereby the congruence and ecology of "the eternal return" are corrupted by politicians until society disintegrates. It is what is illustrated in the decline of the balanced shamanic mayan cultures, the emergence of the brutal blood thirsty urbane aztec societies, and the ultimate abandonment of the entire socio/cultural/religio Meso American project under the weight of imperial invasion leaving only vestiges of a deep hidden rural/suburban paganism. Don Juan was rural/suburban right?

I think we can count on more secrecy from the administration from here on out with the thrust of covert operations being a zealous covert military engagement of Iran and the creation of an indentured class here at home. The instinct to freedom is an inherent impulse in the soul of all men indeed.

At this point the balance of Bush's political fortunes are in the hands of the press to the degree that they are serving up the symbols but why should the MSM turn on the story of the "good" war where the benefit of the servile class is just now in reach. It should also be noted that INS sweeps have begun in New Mexico though not much reported. The war has been realized and gas prices are oppressive. The human costs mount. These are the tools of the shifts in social power which are the true savage agenda of the administration. Remember how blithely Laura Bush related a farcical tale of the President sexually manipulating a horse last year. This just didn't seem to come forth naturally out of that deep ole time religion. It is the cynical comedy of a corrupt elite class. Surely from this standard Colbert's comedy was a complement only to be privately acknowledged.

Interesting times indeed.

The cuts to audience revealing awkward, sneaking glances at companions, checking each other as to how to respond instead of behaving spontaneously, were the indicators of why the press has done such a poor job for the past 25 years. All honesty had gone out of the room, as it were. And, these people were really acting scared, as if they should share in the indictments about to be handed down by Fitzgerald.

Colbert, with his irony, was the one true thing.

AP -- That's interesting. Yes, they would have an up front table. I was worried that the Downscale and more populist Puritan (when it comes to money) and Quakerly "The Nation" had bought the farm.

Bit of news on Hardball -- or was it Obermann -- anyhow, when VP was working at the CIA as a Covert Oofficer her beaty was WMD in Iran. Apparently she was versed in the arts of tracking down illegal purchases of equiptment and personnel, and tracked the integration of all this into their Nuke program. Those guys in Cheney's circle shre seem to know how to pick smear targets well, don't they? Perhaps the story is they really didn't want an expert with depth in the subject matter positioned to challenge the ideological precepts. If correct it is a fascinating mite of intelligence. Wonder who leaked?

sara - the other half of the story is that she was tracking WMDs out of Iran, as well as in. I dont quite know what to make of that part of the story.

Cool Bakhtin fact:
He was a chain smoker, and amidst the privation of WW II was unable to obtain cigarette papers and actually smoked one of his own book manuscripts.

More seriously: He'd make a damned good object lesson for some of the bastards in the audience at the Correspondents' Dinner. Sent into internal exile for his religious and political beliefs, he continued to work under dire conditions (incl. having a leg amputated) with no expectation of ever being able to return to European Russia or publish under his own name, because he felt the work itself was important.

In other words, nowadays he'd be blogging.

Colbert is a hero, IMHO. But what is worthy of even more attention than his performance is the performance at the same event a year previous by our fucking Commander in Chief. If you haven't seen the video of that one, by all means try to find it. Bush tried to make a joke out of the fact that he couldn't find the missing WMD's. He looked under and around the podium, feigning surprise that the deadly weapons providing his rationale for bombing Iraq were nowhere to be found.

Imagine what that must have felt like to a 24-year old soldier who is lying in Bethesda with no legs, or arms, or is perhaps blind for life; how does he react when he sees his President on TV joking and laughing about the missing WMD's?

The reason the pinstriped pimps of Versailles-on-the-Potomac haven't had anything to say is it's hard to talk when you have a skewer rammed up the old back door so hard and so far that it pops out your mouth.

How nice it would be if the "marshmallow center" of that swamp was run out of town on a regular basis and actually forced to find real jobs - and I mean that more about the volunteers who go there and stay there forever than those elected to go there. "Perfumed pimps" is about the nicest thing I can think of to call those imperial courtiers (of both parties).

FWIW, my take on l'affair Colbert is here.

margaret

Good point--one of the most precious parts of the video was the image of the pundits unable to make up their own minds.

Though for my money, the most uncomfortable person captured on film was Little Scottie, not too happy that his firing is now the subject of Colbert's jokes.

rcauthen

Thanks for that. Yes, Bakhtin would be an object lesson for these folks.

The anthropology views are helpful, in the thread here at tnh-ew.
If anyone is reprising this thought-stream, there is a transcript of the schtick there today.
My predilection is for history above comedic arts, though there is merit in the occasional reversal of that point, counterpoint; so, I know little of the speaker, though have had political affiliations like the participants at that repast.
I was reminded of a specific environment conference with invitees from the corporate world as well as many professors, and one activist speaker had difficulty reining in wild rhetoric following the lunchbreak which included a decanter of wine. So I think some of the comedy was a bit anarchical because of that effect.

Some clips [ellipsis is mine]:
...Somebody shoo...
...members of the factinista
...unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the "No Fact Zone."
...I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there.
...everyone has the right to their own...there are infinite paths to [name of a prophet]...
...Sir, pay no attention to the people who say...
...aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded...
...By 2008 we will have a mesquite-powered car...
...Panama...let history decide what did or did not happen...
...he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will...
...News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side...
...the rest of you [liberal media], what are you thinking...Those things are secret for a very important reason...
...Those were good times, as far as we knew...
...the one...[fictional] intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration...
...the Hindenburg...
...Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to be on my show...How's Tuesday for you?...
...support Rumsfeld...
...these retired generals causing...trouble: don't let them retire...we've got a stop-loss program; let's use it on these [military officials who are still on the job]...
...[Addressing Senator McCain]...I have a summer house in South Carolina; look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University...
...Scott McClellan could say nothing like nobody else...
[FADE TO FILM CLIP]
The website where this transcript is available skips the soundtrack from the video segment which follows.

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