Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 269- Truthiness

Dear Mr. President,

My fangirl enthusiasm for the political comedy of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and their writers is rivaled only by my geeky obsession with international law. Since international law is taking a beating today, I thought I'd write instead about the ventures in to mainstream political discourse Stewart and Colbert have made lately. It can't have slipped your notice that both are holding Glenn Beck-inspired rallies to restore sanity and keep fear alive in Washington DC. While some Democrats have expressed mixed feelings about the event, citing a possible dampening of get out the vote efforts, I think that, as the right embraced Beck and Palin's event in August, Democrats ought to be capitalizing on Stewart's call for moderate, reasonable discourse. Demonstrating a sense of humor about themselves can't possibly hurt their election prospect this fall, and I believe that the rallying cry from a figure widely loved on the left will be more effective than all the possible phone banking and door-knocking that may be missed as a result.

Similarly, the non-controversy controversy over Colbert's testimony before the House seems to be more absurd than the comedian's own schtick. Elmo testified before a House committee; surely the bar for legitimate expertise from witnesses was lowered long before Mr. Colbert was invited to testify. Even if his testimony was compelled for no reason more legitimate than to increase awareness of the hearings and of the "take our jobs" program, than I think there are far more important things to be upset about. That Democrats are joining in this chorus of disapproving voices is deeply disappointing. Colbert and Stewart should be the reasonable answer to Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck. Their satire of these clownish right-wing puppets almost always works in the favor of the Democratic party (or, at least the parts of it that still have the the courage to act and talk like Democrats.) Yes, they are comedians. They tell more jokes than they do truth, but still, I think, one would be hard-pressed to find a more effective way of combating the absurd and depressing tactics of the right wing media than by mocking them.

I'm not suggesting Stewart or Colbert run for office or anything ridiculous like that. Their value is in their outsider status- their commentary would not be effective if they were saddled with the responsibility of actual governing. But in their attempts to keep our public servants and the rest of the media honest, I think that they do serve a purpose with even more value than mere entertainment. I hope that Democrats stop disparaging their attempts to rally unenthusiastic young voters and learn to laugh at themselves a bit more.

Respectfully yours,


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