Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Life In The Catbox: One Foot In and One Foot Out (L'affair Colbert, Part Two)


For some insane reason, I find myself watching a little bit of 'Scarborough Country'. The original Wonkette, Anna Marie Cox, is ventilating the burning question of the moment: did Colbert 'bomb' on Saturday night? Cox took the Yglesias line: he was neither great nor awful, but 'okay' (Matt's exact adjective for what Colbert does). Dislike-him or like-him I can understand, but 'okay'? I guess when you're a budding Assistant Manager Trainee DC Insider, it pays to pretend to be as world-weary and unflappable as humanly possible (and then some); Cox's take: how amusing that Left Blogostan was - characteristically - declasse enough to assume that if you didn't think Colbert's material was hilarious you disagreed with his implied criticism. (Rule number one inside the beltway is, evidently: preempt any possibility that you might be perceived to be a knee-jerk liberal). Cox is mostly wrong here. The aggregate Left blogostan may not be as articulate as the fabulous Ms Cox, but of course the visceral glee most of us felt watching Colbert's performance was not, and could not have been, due to a dispassionate critical appreciation of his objective comedic qualities (a completely imaginary concept, by the way); as ought to have been protuberantly obvious to her, what we reveled in was the sheer theatre of it. Hello?! He was insulting the president and press to their faces! In a very pointed way! On television! As I said, I find Matt Yglesias to be generally an excellent journalist and blogger, and I've gotten a few laughs at Wonkette.com here and there - she's okay - but sometimes I wonder if these people are numb from the ears down. If you think the way to evaluate the event in question is to answer the question 'Did Colbert bomb?' - no matter how clever you are about it - the joke is on you. Bleat.

Dear Liberal-ish Assistant Manager Trainees:

Real satire - like politics itself - is not mere entertainment; it draws blood. Not 'kind of'; not 'sort of'. Really. Ever get frustrated with our stultifyingly boring American culture? Our crappy, disposable, derivative, remake-stripmined pop music and movies, for instance? Long for the olden days when things 'really happened' - long for them via either envy or its twin (a too-virulent scorn)? Know what the effective synonym is for the words 'quirky' and 'snarky'? It's 'harmless'. Also 'tame'. And 'tractable'. If you're smart enough to know that the Culturo-commercial Borg co-opts and commodifies everything (you are, and it does), you are certainly smart enough to see that, since it will eat anything, there is utility in putting a little 'poison' in its food when you can. Perhaps you are smart enough, but don't care.

You have inherited an atomized, decadent, nihilistic culture. In some rather fundamental ways, it's definitely not 'all good'. Difficult and disconcerting as it is, please try to examine the water in which you're swimming, particularly if it's in the Potomac.

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