Blumenthal: Colbert Spoke Truth, not Truthiness, to Power
Sidney Blumenthal says Stephen Colbert delivered the “most scathing public critique of the Bush presidency and the complicity of a craven press corps,” so it’s not surprising his routine was met by silence by the journalists in the room.
WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
by Sidney Blumenthal
May 4, 2006 | The most scathing public critique of the Bush presidency and the complicity of a craven press corps yet was delivered at the annual black-tie White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on Saturday night by a comedian. President Bush was reported afterward to be seething, while the press corps responded to the zingers with stone cold silence, playing the classic straight man. Subsequently, many news reports of the event airbrushed out the joker. (You can watch Colbert here.)
Stephen Colbert plays a crank conservative commentator in a parody on Comedy Central five nights a week. Performing his routine within 10 yards of Bush’s hostile stare and before 2,600 members of the press and their celebrated guests, Colbert’s offense of lèse-majesté affronted the amour-propre of the embedded audience. After his mock praise of Bush as a rock against reality, Colbert censured the press by flattering its misfeasance. “Over the last five years you people were so good — over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out … Here’s how it works: The president makes decisions. He’s ‘the decider.’ The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put ’em through a spell check and go home … Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know — fiction!” (Silence)
Perhaps ironically, on the day after Colbert’s performance, the New York Times published a front-page story on the latest phase of the administration’s war on the press. Now Bush is weighing “the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.” Since the Washington Post exposed the existence of CIA “black site” prisons holding untold numbers of detainees without due process of law and the New York Times disclosed the president’s order to the National Security Agency to engage in domestic surveillance without court warrants, the administration has applied new draconian methods to clamp down.
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