2018-01-05 07:16:49 UTC
watch the two short excerpts of the political comedy
actually just crude mockery of Stephen Colbert.
The first shows Colbert on Monday night, and the second is from
In both, he makes essentially the same joke about Donald Trump
fellating Vladimir Putin. (Hilarious and creative, right?) The
truly troubling thing isnt the joke itself there will always
be comedians willing to go low for a laugh, after all but the
Watch again. Listen to the screaming and cheering.
If you want an explanation for why the Colberts of the world say
the things they do, there it is in the adulation of the
audience. He is their voice. Hes speaking out their rage. Hes
not leading them; hes riding their wave of progressive scorn,
anger, and hate. If he fell, another would rise to take his
place. Angry progressives demand cathartic mockery, and they
shall have it one way or another.
Which is not to say that this phenomenon is unique to the Left.
Spend time with core Trump supporters, the folks who boarded the
train early, and youll find that many of them genuinely love
the presidents angry, personal schoolyard taunts. They glory in
his trolling and relish every single liberal tantrum it prompts.
Its not just Trump, either. Countless thousands of
conservatives laughed heartily when Milo Yiannopoulos called
comedienne Leslie Jones a black dude. (So creative! So funny!)
Some of these same conservatives ripped anyone who asked for
better discourse as a cuck or a beta unwilling to do what
was necessary to win. Angry conservatives demand vicious
insults, and they shall have them.
There was an interesting phenomenon that took hold on AM radio
last year. Conservative talk-show hosts who were used to leading
found instead that they faced a stark choice: follow their
audience onto the Trump train or face an unrelenting, angry
backlash. Conservatives had been begging for warriors for years,
and when Trump stepped up and truly fought the Clintons and the
mainstream media, they had no patience for anyone who would try
and restrain him.
Yes, Stephen Colbert is responsible for his actions. Of course
he went too far. But its time to understand that when it comes
to elections, to ratings, and to pop culture moments, the
demagogue goes nowhere without the people. Without the demand,
there is no supply.
To wander around America is to discover the happy reality that
most liberals and most conservatives are perfectly nice, not
particularly smug, and seldom if ever vitriolic, Conor
Friedersdorf recently observed in The Atlantic. Yes indeed. And
to wander around a college campus is to discover the happy
reality that most students and faculty members dislike rioters
and radicals, and just want to finish their degrees or immerse
themselves in their research.
The problem is that this silent majority is largely irrelevant
to the prevailing discourse. Our political and cultural agenda
is typically dictated by those who care the most, and right now
those who care the most also tend to hate their opponents on the
other side with a fiery, reflexive passion. Colberts crowd may
be smaller than, say, the less-political Jimmy Fallons, but it
is much, much more likely to set the terms of the American
In short, the people who truly care move this country, and the
people who truly care are truly angry. Their anger is so all-
consuming that it often forecloses the possibility of a debate
about ideas. One of the more remarkable things about the 2016
election was that it was simultaneously the most vitriolic of my
adult lifetime and the least ideological. Trump and Clinton were
and are extraordinarily malleable, driven by self-interest above
all else. Trump shifts positions almost daily. Yet the partisan
devotion remains. Hillary is celebrated as a martyr to the
progressive cause, and Trumps base holds firm behind him.
There is nothing new under the sun. In ancient times, the people
were forced to choose between Jesus and Barrabas, and they chose
Barrabas. They choose him still today. There is no shortage of
opportunists willing to fill his shoes, just as there is no
shortage of onlookers willing to chant his name. The sad irony
here is that Colbert himself is a Christian, a man who has
spoken frequently and with great feeling about his faith.
Hopefully, he will soon remember its commands.