Conservatives are flipping the f*ck out over Colbert replacing Letterman, and it is just adorable
It is natural to have mixed feelings about Stephen Colbert taking over “The Late Show.” I’m a bit bummed, actually, because I happen to like “The Colbert Report” far more than I like regular late night shows. But I’m happy for Stephen Colbert, who is awesome and deserving of nice things.
Conservatives, however, are losing their fucking minds. Rush Limbaugh announced yesterday that hiring Colbert amounts to CBS declaring WAR on the Heartland of America.
“I’ll give you the short version: CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservative values — now it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy and they’re blowing up the 11:30 format under the guise of ‘the world’s changing.’”
He then went on to be sad about how all the comedy wasn’t Johnny Carson, who was also a liberal, by the way. I think he probably meant to refer to Bob Hope. Sorry Rush, it’s not our fault that we’re funnier than you are. We cannot help it. And we’re probably not going to stop being hilarious because it makes conservatives feel insecure about their inability to be hilarious.
Then, we were graced with Ben Shapiro’s thoughts on the matter, which were equally histrionic. He thinks that what Colbert does in character amounts to… I shit you not, “conservative blackface” that is “racist” against conservatives. Which, allow me to hep you, is not in fact a thing.
This routine, in which Colbert plays at conservatism in order to portray it as unendingly ugly, should be labeled for what it is: vile political blackface. When Colbert plays “Colbert,” it’s not mere mockery or satire or spoof. It’s something far nastier.
Blackface, which has an ugly history dating back to at least the fifteenth century according to historian John Strausbaugh, was used to portray demeaning and horrifying stereotypes of blacks. Such stereotypical imitation has not been limited to blacks, of course; actors tasked with playing stereotypical Jew Shylock often donned a fake nose and red wig, as did actors who were supposed to play Barabas in The Jew of Malta. Such stereotypical potrayals create a false sense of blacks, or Jews, or whomever becomes the target of such nastiness.
And this is precisely what Colbert does with regard to politics: he engages in Conservativeface. He needs no makeup or bulbous appendage to play a conservative – after all, conservatives come in every shape and size. Instead, he acts as though he is a conservative – an idiotic, racist, sexist, bigoted, brutal conservative. He out-Archie Bunkers Archie Bunker. His audience laughs and scoffs at brutal religious “Colbert” who wishes to persecute gays; they chortle at evil sexist “Colbert” who thinks men are victims of sexism. This is the purpose of Colbert’s routine. His show is about pure hatred for conservatives in the same way that blackface was about pure hatred of blacks. In order to justify their racism, racists had to create a false perception of blacks; in the same way, Colbert and his audience can justify their racism only by creating a false perception of conservatives.
The sad fact is, most of the things Stephen Colbert says in character are not even half as outrageous, horrid or vile as what conservatives actually say and do. Like, out loud and in front of other humans. They say vile things about the poor, about women, about LGBT people, about minorities. It’s disgusting and it’s heartbreaking. I wish to god all these assholes were figments of my overactive liberal imagination, and I’m constantly surprised to find out they’re not. It is my actual job to write about these people, and every day I am consistently surprised at how terrible they are.
Just this week, literally all of the Republican Senators voted against equal freaking pay for women! They’re still trying to dismantle the Voting Rights Act! Equal pay for women and black people voting are actual things we still have to argue about with these people. Making fun of people for thinking things like that is not anywhere near as bad as actually thinking them.
But Ben Shapiro is not being earnest about this. Not in the least. It’s just that the latest conservative rhetorical tactic is to try to take things that liberals find abhorrent (ie: blackface, slavery, the Holocaust, bullying, etc.) and try to twist them around so that it seems like they are “victims” of similar atrocities. The Right believes that the Left is overly concerned with victims and are thus cynically trying to portray themselves as such. And it would work, too, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re a tad too clever to buy it. Which again, is why we’re better at being funny.
Shapiro is right about one thing though–it is virtually impossible to differentiate between what Colbert says and what actual conservatives say and believe. Here are some actual quotes from actual conservatives to prove my point:
“When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh shut up’ I’m so sick of them because they’re always complaining.” – Glenn Beck
“Facts are stupid things.” – Ronald Reagan
“Trees cause more pollution than automobiles.” – Ronald Reagan
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” — Todd Akin
“I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it, If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important lesson.”- Del. Ray Canterbury (R-Greenbrier)
“Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society.”- Rush Limbaugh
“What a terrible thing to have lost one’s mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is.” – Vice President Dan Quayle, on “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste”
And I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship… There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, “M-Fer, I want more iced tea.”– Bill O’Reilly on going to a restaurant in Harlem
“But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. … I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly — men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.” -Rep. Michele Bachmann
“I think [women] should be armed but should not vote…women have no capacity to understand how money is earned. They have a lot of ideas on how to spend it…it’s always more money on education, more money on child care, more money on day care.”– Ann Coulter
Every single one of these quotes–and indeed, so many others–could work just as well as satire. In fact, I am pretty sure that I couldn’t actually write satire as good as the things these people earnestly say, which I had a hard time with when writing satire was my job. These people are so horrid that the only way we can deal with their existence other than bursting into tears all day is to laugh at them. You can’t say dumb things and then get mad when they are repeated back at you.
The reason the Colbert character has been so successful, and why he’s so reviled by the Right, is that he essentially does exactly what I always say is the best argumentative tactic–repeating people’s words right back to them. He doesn’t say or advocate for anything the actual Right doesn’t–he just shines a light on how ridiculous it is.
If you don’t want people who are funnier than you to make fun of you for being terrible, you should perhaps consider being less terrible.
EDIT: In the original version of this I included a John Ashcroft quote I’d seen many places but which may have, in fact, been satire. Which, I guess, goes to show you that it really is difficult to ascertain the difference between satire and what these people actually say. Nevertheless, I apologize for not having been more thorough.