Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Colbert is (Still) Important

Certainly there are plausible reasons why the story of Stephen Colbert at the White House Corresponents Dinner last Saturday didn't get much coverage in the traditional media. It can be argued that he wasn't funny. Or that he's just a comedian -- how much ink did Cedric the Entertainer get? Or that it was an insiders' party, and they want to keep it that way. But there are other stories here, and important ones. And those stories are out, and the media can't ignore them because they won't go away. I'll mention three of them.

The Coverup

One story surrounds the large number of people who think something is being covered up. You can't dismiss them as conspiracy theorists and the tinfoil hat brigade. Just go to blogsearch.google.com and type in "Colbert blackout". Perhaps, had it been covered, the story itself might have died down by today. But a coverup, real or perceived, can take on a life of its own. Just ask Karl Rove.

The Bypass

Another story is how the traditional media have been bypassed by streaming video (for the source material) and blogs (for the discussion). Whether you thought Colbert's performance inspired or pathetic, within hours you could find dozens who agreed with you. Not only didn't it matter much whether Colbert's routine was covered by the Washington Post or CNN, by the time they could have covered it, much opinion had already coalesced around these two poles.

The Big Lie
The third story is the beginning of the end of the "liberal media" lie. We could all see the reactions in the audience: if the media were really so "liberal" then why weren't they laughing? The age of Bill Paley giving Ed Murrow free reign is long gone. Whether they can't, won't, or don't want to speak truth to power, the perception is growing that the media are muzzled by their owners. As Colbert stated, "reality has a well-known liberal bias".

I believe we're reaching a tipping point, where the "middle of the road" voter is going to decide to "give the other guys a chance" by either voting or looking the other way come next November. If there's a chance to turn things around, I believe it will depend on breaking the stranglehold the traditional media have had on framing the stories that make up our political consciousness.

Thank you, Stephen Colbert.


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