By any historical standards, the last decade has been an extremely eventful and difficult one for America. With the flawed and still-debated 2000 presidential election we witnessed a fault line in our democracy and the election of a politically radical president; September 11th forced many Americans to re-think our nation's worldwide standing and global role; the war in Iraq tested our economic, military, and political power, opening deep fissures in public opinion in the process. A quick look at the voting results of the 2004 election, with the blue states in the West and North East, and the red states everywhere in between, seemed to show an increasingly divided nation. Much of the news media seems to support this. If one were to tune in to any of the dozens of talk radio programs, or turn the television to the virulently pro-Bush, anti-liberal Fox News channel, one could quickly become convinced that America was in the middle of a full-blown culture war. According to the Fox News channel, traditional conservative Americans are fighting a deeply rooted liberal conspiracy that is undermining the security and moral fabric of our fair nation. This could be a stretch, but Fox News isn't worried about stretching. Their facts aren't always correct, and their tactics aren't always fair, but they don't let these considerations get in their way.
[...] Writers for the Atlantic and ABC News online wrote lengthy analyses of Colbert's possible affects on the primaries, and The New York Times blog urged Colbert to keep his campaign going the sheer fun of Not everyone was amused. Some commentators took issue with his essentially making light of the entire presidential election, and Times London writer Andrew Sullivan, a fan of the show, wrote that “Colbert's presidential run may be a step too (17). Eric Boehlert, columnist for the left-leaning Media Matters for America, called Colbert's announcement a publicity stunt designed to sell more books, and chastised mainstream media for its inattention to important matters ABC News columnist Jake Tapper's article on the announcement is headlined by the almost downcast question the '08 Election Becoming a as if he is disappointed, though not particularly surprised. [...]
[...] Truthiness was named Word of the Year by Merriam-Webster and the American Dialect Society, and is officially defined as quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts of facts known to be true” In Colbert's character's words, “it's knowing with your gut, not thinking with your head” Colbert proved himself adept at shaping language to his advantage. He created another word later, in a July 2006 segment. Discussing the online encyclopedia wikipedia.org, Colbert invents the term “wikiality,” or truth by popular consensus, around the idea that anybody can edit wikipedia entries, so if enough people write a falsity into an entry they can, by wikipedia's logic, create a truth Both of these concepts are central to the character's logic he doesn't have to be swayed by facts if his gut tells him otherwise, and facts themselves can and should be subject to manipulation. [...]
[...] They don't have the money or political connections of Fox News' heads, and in average daily viewers The O'Reilly Factor still beats The Colbert Report. But Colbert and Stewart have carved a place for themselves in opposition to these figures, and though they don't have the means to create and disseminate a parallel reality, like Fox does, in the instances when their comedy overlaps with reality (Stewart on Crossfire, the Press Association Dinner, Colbert's running for office), the nation takes them seriously, perhaps more seriously than Stewart and Colbert take themselves. [...]
[...] While Stephen Colbert may have conceived of his character as a satirical Bill O'Reilly, this character, in the context of our changing times, and riding the groundswell of Colbert's increasing influence, has become much more. There are two dimensions of The Colbert Report's comedy; it is at once a well-thought out parody of a recognizable celebrity, O'Reilly and those like him, who, through his (and their) pure odiousness, will always be a rich source of comic material. More significantly, the show puts the lie to the idealized America trumpeted by Bush and Fox News, by bringing those lies to the light of satire. [...]
[...] When he woke up the next day he saw no mention of his name in the newspaper, though The New York Times did mention a different skit at the dinner involving President Bush and a Bush impersonator. Colbert didn't hear that the speech, broadcasted live on SPAN, had become an online phenomenon until he went to work. Two days later Comedy Central had received nearly 2,000 e-mail messages by Monday morning, a reaction rivaled only by that following Stewart's appearance on Crossfire. [...]
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