Tuesday, May 02, 2006

White House Press Correspondents' Dinner Menu - First Course: Skewered Media, slow roasted on a spit over Stephen Colbert's righteous anger

Stephen Colbert's skewering of both George Bush and the cowardly White House Press Corps at the recent White House Correspondents' Dinner has to be read or seen to be believed.

Colbert's reception was very chilly at the event itself - unsurprisingly. Remember that this was the event where in 2004 Bush showed a video of himself searching for WMD's behind sofa cushions in the Oval Office. That knee-slapping reference to the false premise on which over 2600 Coalition forces, and uncounted Iraqis, have now been slaughtered was lapped up by a sycophantic press.

Colbert's Saturday night routine was profoundly ignored by the mainstream media in the days following the dinner. Instead news reports treated viewers to clips of the President and his bizarre, numbingly un-funny "impersonator" (whose best joke seems to have been "I could be home but no, I have to be here. Pretending to enjoy myself") with nary a mention of Colbert's scathing indictment of the administration and the press which covers it most closely.

But something happened that couldn't have before the internet. The Colbert performance is being passed around like a softcore porn magazine at a middle school and is garnering a wildly enthusiastic reception among bloggers and pretty much everybody else who is tired of the press rolling on its back and peeing on itself in the face of power in the post 9/11 world. His brand of truthiness spoke to an increasingly-fed up population, in the US and elsewhere. And maybe, just maybe, the reaction will shame some of the press that covers the media to rouse themselves in response.



Blogger BrianFies said...

I enjoyed Colbert's performance. Although I think he misread the room as a comedic performer, looking at the larger picture he displayed balls of steel and, I suspect, woke up the next morning feeling a mixture of mortification and pride. Or maybe just pride.

The event didn't tell me anything about the Bush Administration I didn't already know (and I'll point out that I've never revealed my political leanings and they'd probably surprise you) but tons about the press. I understand why Bush was visibly unamused. But the press was, if anything, even more uncomfortable being called to account. For a reporter, Washington DC is a good gig, a career capper, and to be exposed as a dictation-taking hypocrite is a terrible affront. But they put on their tuxedos and gowns, flit about the same circles as the people they cover, yearn to be seen at the right parties and mentioned in the best gossip columns, want to be stars in their own right.

As a one-time newspaper reporter, I always wish the press were better than that. Presidents come and go, they are what they are. The press should live by a higher standard. In my mind, the moment you put on a tux to go to Lincoln Center hoping to wheedle an introduction to the prime minister of Freedonia...or George Clooney...the minute you become a bigger star than any of the people or events you're covering...you ought to turn in your press card and go home.

7:59 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As another former newsroom person, I was reminded of this quote from yet another former newsroom person: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Mike Peterson

6:50 a.m.  

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