About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Colbert-Stewart 2008

By now most people who pay attention even superficially to the news know about the spectacular appearance of Comedy Central’s Steve Colbert at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner a few days ago. At first I thought it was superfluous to write about it, because it has already been all over the blogosphere, so why add my obviously liberally biased two cents? (In a nutshell: I thought he was very funny, incredibly gutsy, and that any talk of being “offensive” to the President entirely misses the point.)

Yet, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is a serious issue concerning comedians-turned-journalists who mock the establishment and manage to tell it like it really is. Jon Stewart, also of Comedy Central fame, did a similar number last year with those buffoons who used to conduct the now thankfully defunct “Crossfire” show on CNN, taking them to task for the idiots they really are. Very much like Colbert did with Bush, Scalia, McCain and an assorted number of generals who were sitting right next to him the other night.

The issue is this: why don’t we see people who actually have a frank (and even funny!) view of reality actually run for office? Why not start a campaign for a Colbert-Stewart (or Stewart-Colbert, I don’t care) Presidential run in ‘08? Oh, you think it’s ridiculous to ask two comedians to run for an office of such importance? But we have had a bad actor (Regan) in the past, and we have a bubbling idiot (Bush) at the moment. We even have a former body builder-turned-mediocre-actor in charge of California, where he has had the galls of coming out against immigration, despite delivering his speech in a thick Austrian accent. I seriously doubt that Colbert-Stewart would do worse than these characters.

You might say, yes, that’s fine for you to say, since you are a liberal, but that kind of candidate would polarize the country, which isn’t a good thing, we want bipartisan cooperation. No, we don’t. First of all, the country is in fact polarized, split right down the middle, and it will stay this way for a while, until either enough progressives give up and move to Canada and Europe, or enough conservatives will abandon their country bumpkin attitude toward life (especially the part about controlling how people behave in their bedrooms, and the one about starting wars on false pretenses). Second, I don’t want Democrats to embark in bipartisan operations with people who are determined to turn this country into a theocracy, or to roll back the social net to the levels of England’s industrial revolution, or whose idea of capitalism is so simplistic that even Adam Smith himself would laugh at it. No thanks, I’d rather have a multi-partisan system, possibly with several more parties joining the fun.

In this blog I usually try to stay as level-headed as possible, while true to my convictions. This is about dialog, not one-way monologues. But Colbert’s spectacular performance a few days ago reminded me that occasionally one simply needs to hear the brutal truth – better yet if presented with intelligence and humor. Therefore, I hereby invite readers to start a petition to get Colbert and Stewart to run for office in 2008. You can visit the iPetition web site and add your name to the call to be sent to Colbert and Stewart. Come on, we need you, and besides, imagine the ratings of the Presidential debates!

29 comments:

  1. You never know when something like this will take off. I'm not sure that either comedian fits my political philosophy but I have to think that they would be better than the current choices offered by the mainstream parties. I've signed the petition using my real name and email address.

    Eat well, stay fit, Die Anyway!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It works for me - I'd quite like to see Rik Mayall and Billy Connolly start "The Funny Party" and get elected in the UK... can't be worse than The Rev. Bliar and co...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Naaahhhh....I'm not for it. I think they're great at pointing out the fallacies of the PR machine & other modern silliness, but offering humorous commentary on what's already been done is quite a bit different, and much easier, than devising forward-looking plans to address complicated issues.

    Plus, it would ruin them as comedians.

    With respect to Stewart, even though I think he's tremendously funny, I don't think he's all that savvy in a lot of ways. The great thing about him is, he admits it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Colbert for President! Stranger things have happened. Like Bush receiving the popular vote in 2004! Silly Americans...they cannot even see the shadows on the wall. And now I'm afraid Canadians are no better. 'Bush Lite' (aka Harper) has already collapsed over the softwood lumber issue. He is ready to rally troops behind Bush's misguided torrent of military prowess directed at Iran.

    ex-cretin: Is a president buoyed by tv ratings whoring that much less desirable than a misguided puppet president who believes that each of his actions is divinely intended and therefore right and just?

    I agree that the country needs someone with intelligence and prescience to implement a forward-thinking platform to re-stabilize international relations and bolster national economy. Who would you suggest since I have yet to hear of such a candidate? ;) Perhaps it's just because I'm an ignorant Canuck...or perhaps...the fall of the west is an inevitably that will be realized sooner than we think?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Btw, "inevitably" should read "inevitability". ;) When my spelling goes I know it's time for bed!

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chris, I don't know who I'd support. Maybe Colin Powell. He at least seems to have a conscience, even though he suppressed it to do the administration's bidding. But at least he has the skill set and background.

    On the democrat side, Gore has eliminated himself from any kind of serious consideration, but I still think Kerry would do a reasonable job. Problem is, Americans like dynamic infotainment, and Kerry just isn't able to make reality seem as simple as a Hollywood action movie, so that works against him. Voting machine malfeasance and felon purge lists don't help, either.

    Hillary shouldn't run. Americans will not elect a woman president -- especially their first -- during wartime.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A lot of people in our culture complain (about whatever) just because they can. We are truly a symptomatically bored, pathetic and unenlightened culture.

    Emphasis on "pathetic"

    There is a whole huge list of countries where the right to complain publicly does not even exist. And what is worse, about our awareness level, is that collectively,(Americans, Canadians, Europeans) we are such spoiled, complaining people there's no doubt in my mind that we get politically what we deserve! And sometimes, certainly not because WE ARE great, we even get BETTER than we deserve.

    To those of you who think that your politicians are marginal in their convictions, and wouldn't know an intelligent idea if it bit em -- what makes you think that you are any less marginal or any more inclined towards what is intelligent than certain politicians?

    When have you personally ever REALLY stuck your neck out self-sacrificially and contributed to humanity?

    I think those who complain , and especially about conservative politicians, do so that they can continue living they way they want at the expense of other people. There really is no other sensible reason to complain in the wealth and prosperity that we live in.

    So you really want to have someone else run GWs place?

    Why not just do it yourself? I mean, since it's so easy and all.

    GO for it.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  8. Massimo can't just "go for it" Cal. At least not until they remove that small barrier of needing to be born in this country..

    ReplyDelete
  9. Cal, of course, you could start a petition to change the Constitution and allow me to become President... they tried it with Arnold in CA, this time it may succeed (Italians are notoriously more charming than Austrians :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. "Cal, of course, you could start a petition to change the Constitution and allow me to become President... (Italians are notoriously more charming than Austrians :)"

    Men are men, don't ya think.

    But as I've commented to a gentleman who is running for congress, and is managing his own petition drive (the independent party, I believe) ...firstly: do it for the love of people, not just out of a passion for your own grips and complaints. Everybody does that. And we're tired of it.

    So if you're basically like everybody else, M, why should I sign or start a petition to get you in a position to become President? I don't even care if you're Italian. That's not the problem. If you were a "foreigner" but you had a loyal sincere heart, I'd sign it anyway. After all, most of our families were also foreign at one time.

    cal

    ps
    Most did not arrive here, however, with a view to flip flop our societal structure.

    ReplyDelete
  11. So what are you saying, Cal? That we should count ourselves so lucky to have the RIGHT to complain, that we shouldn’t exercise it?

    Sorry, bub, there’s a lot that just ain’t right, and it takes people speaking out to get it fixed.

    I agree that a lot of people, even most, complain merely out of their personal interests and not out of a desire for a better society for all. But you can’t just discount everyone on that basis.

    One of my largest complaints is that our government values real education so little that we ARE a pathetically unenlightened culture. We should learn our history AT LEAST as well as legal immigrants are required to. We should have an understanding of how our policies – political and corporate – affect the world at large. We should be required to look unflinchingly at our failures, as well as our successes. But it seems like our government wants the main body of the public to be dumb, uninformed, and easily marginalized. Easier to govern that way? Easier to sweep things under the rug, and turn the blind eye, and state certain values and convictions while perpetrating others?

    If that cultural heritage – truly, a more universal basis for common ground than religious convictions or ethnic heritage – were taught and emphasized in school, then people might have enough of a sense of perspective to know what is worth complaining about, and what isn’t.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "One of my largest complaints is that our government values real education so little that we ARE a pathetically unenlightened culture."

    WE ARE the government.

    Whatever the constituency of the beliefs of our population happens to be, it is still we who have chosen whatever it is we have for a government. It is all too easy, (and that's the whole problem) to shift the responsibility on to whoever the ruling political party is, and say that they, or those who voted for them, are the reason for "name your problem".

    Persons who think this way, do not deserve and nor could they hope to maintain a better educational system.


    And when you say 'unenlightened', do you mean merely uninformed on general matters of the day? Or a person who is not only uniformed, but not interested in, let's say, the goals and beliefs of progressivism?

    Progressivism is mainly built on self-interest, so how could enlightened people conscientiously follow it? Enlightenment implies that one understands what is both "bad" and good about one's self. Progressivists live in the what's "bad" about "name your" repressive religion. That's not enlightenment, FYI.


    cal

    ReplyDelete
  13. "We" are not the government when only a bare majority (if even that) of those qualified to vote are motivated enough to do so; when there are only two parties ALLOWED to hold power (through a variety of means) and both are to greater and lesser extents beholden to corporate interests (with the Republican party additionally burdened with having to slavishly bow to the theocratic wing of the party); when there is convincing evidence of vote-tampering and fraud on a massive scale to influence the outcomes of elections in our ridiculous winner-take-all system that effectively disenfranchises 49% of the voting populace - no, that's not WE who are the government.

    "We" are the government only in a completely democratic system, which the United States is NOT founded on, for many reasons which I agree with (I, no less than Madison, DO fear the "madness of crowds" and the passions of unruly mobs). Ultimate political power does eventually rest with the individual, but there is a long way to go through layers of Constitutional checks, legalistic blockers, and public inertia before you reach that point.

    I do agree with "Ex-Cretin" in that we should emphasis the Enlightenment principles from which the Constitution was drawn, rather than any divisive sectarian concept that we tribalize ourselves by. Whether it be from the religious zealots ("This is a Christian nation"), the ultra-P.C.ers ("I am a nationality-hyphen-nationality-hyphen-nationality-hyphen-nationality-American"), or our ineffectual and malfunctioning two-party system politicians (more like 1.5 parties), the philosophies and machinations that divide the overwhelming majority of the people against each other serve only those whose interest is to remain in, and profit by, power.

    I am not so naive as to believe that those who seek public office do so out of their desire to serve. The incredibly low approval ratings of Congress would lead one to believe that most people feel the same way. You cannot have honest government without ACCOUNTABILITY - and when districts are gerrymandered, when voters are left virtually NO real choice between two mediocre candidates, when the press seeks to titillate rather than inform, and when miscreants are let off the hook by their own brethren (otherwise, George the Illegitimate would have been impeached by now) - the belief in "We, the People" as the ultimate source of power in our Republic is laughable.

    ~ Bob

    ReplyDelete
  14. Bob: "...in our ridiculous winner-take-all system that effectively disenfranchises 49% of the voting populace - no, that's not WE who are the government."

    Voters (who vote particular politicians in) can also be responsible for polarization. That is, maybe you just voted for weak people, people who would increase the tendency towards polarization. You seem to forget that the constituency of politicians that YOU sent to Washington could manage to do things betters too. To suggest that they have no power and no control whatsoever is equally ridiculous.

    That's some sort of a welfare mentality, to be sure.

    The respectable thing to do is to work harder than the other party, and shut-up. You might find that somewhat of a cruel position, but I know that is the first thing that I take note of and immediately respect in others. But maybe I'm like the only one?

    tis a matter of form vs. function
    or Greek vs. Hebrew.(thinking)

    Philosophy matters.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  15. Cal writes: "Voters (who vote particular politicians in) can also be responsible for polarization."

    Of course they can! Ask those who vote for extremist candidates (George Wallace comes to mine), or the voters for Hamas. These are not people for whom "compromise" is a word worth mentioning any longer. You will concede that I do not have to admire them for the strength of their (wrong) convictions.

    "That is, maybe you just voted for weak people, people who would increase the tendency towards polarization."

    Or, perhaps I voted for the INTELLIGENT choice, while others voted the STUPID choice. Weak, strong, intelligent, stupid - you say toe-MAY-toe, I say toe-MAH-toe.

    "You seem to forget that the constituency of politicians that YOU sent to Washington could manage to do things betters too."

    You are making an assumption that I (a) voted on the Democratic side, and (b) excuse the foibles of the Democrats while glorifying in those of the Republicans. Not so. I, unlike many modern-day Republicans (in my opinion), am willing to criticize the party that most closely mirrors my viewpoints. Nor do I give my loyalty while wearing blinders. Take a for instance: the current 33% support for Bush is, in my opinion, the hard-core that would never, ever, deny the man, despite any proof to the contrary - sort of like Creationists denial of the evidence for evolution. NO amount of evidence will ever convince a mind that has a comfortable, predetermined worldview that it is wrong.

    "The respectable thing to do is to work harder than the other party, and shut-up."

    Thomas Paine didn't shut up. As a matter of fact, I have a Constitionally-given right NOT to shut up, as well as a patriotic duty to speak out. And, by the way, if you think that the current administration is in power because of hard work and NOT underhanded political shenanigans (vote rigging, voter suppression, cutthroat tactics [McCain in SC, anyone?]), and so forth - well, I'd say that your "function" isn't in any decent "form", wot?

    Tongue in cheekily yours,

    ~ Bob

    ReplyDelete
  16. Cal, I just cannot agree that "we are the government". That's a democracy, not a republic. Ours was intended to be a democratic republic, which relegates democracy to an adjectival modifier. Even so, it is less democratic now than it has been in the past.

    As far as defining "enlightenment", let me just say that your artificially narrowing it to two options: (1) uninformed on contemporary matters, or (2) uninformed AND uninterested in progressivism, is most assuredly NOT an enlightened attitude. On the contrary, it is disingenuous and manipulative. There's a hole in your bucket, dear Henry. So plug it with your straw man, and let's have a collaborative discussion, not a game of gotcha.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "Or, perhaps I voted for the INTELLIGENT choice, while others voted the STUPID choice. Weak, strong, intelligent, stupid .."

    Voters who are pathologically self-referencing and arrogant always figure in to the political process too. (they obviously elect what and whom they think will flatter and enhance their wants and interests) I swear, people who hate what they perceive as arrogant about political leaders, are probably absolutely the worst at it themselves.

    I doubt anyone on this blog would want to own "that". But that’s just the way human nature works.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  18. "...That's a democracy, not a republic. Ours was intended to be a democratic republic, which relegates democracy to an adjectival modifier. Even so, it is less democratic now than it has been in the past."

    People generally, and voters, have made it that way. By such and such person running out and getting himself an attorney if the smallest of offenses is thought to have been committed, (spilled coffee at micky d's or whatever) THAT is how you are losing your democracy. We are a citizenry of whiners, and we'll get a whiners reward. which is, of course, less freedom.

    ("1) uninformed on contemporary matters, or (2) uninformed AND uninterested in progressivism, is most assuredly NOT an enlightened attitude. On the contrary, it is disingenuous and manipulative."

    Compared to what, may I ask? When people pull out comments like that in the middle of an otherwise non-adhom conversation, THAT is "disingenuous and manipulative".


    "let me just say that your artificially narrowing it to two options"

    Unwarranted assumption.

    And what is your un-artificial alternative, btw?

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  19. Paradoxically, politicians are supposedly much funnier in private than in public. Al Gore is the classic example. Bush was supposed to be quite a card as well, in a stupid frat boy sort of way. There must be something that dissuades them from being humorous in public. Proabably it's because lots of people don't value humor (or actual honesty) in their leaders. Wasn't the '50's expression, "Nobody likes a wise guy" ?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Stewart/Colbert 2008 merch

    Well, at least we can pretend with the best of them that they're really running...

    ReplyDelete
  21. STEWART COLBERT 2008!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  22. "There really is no other sensible reason to complain in the wealth and prosperity that we live in."

    I guess the "we" in that statement indicates pretty clearly how unbiased you are. People who criticize this plutocracy are to be derided, and complainers on the conservative side like Limblaugh are to be congratulated.

    And if this isn't a plutocracy why is it that CEO's salaries increase obscenely while workers fight to hang on to a marginaly livable wage?

    Oh and another group that probably isn't represented in your "we" is the illegal aliens who are used by business-which has been described by some as defacto slavery.
    Illegals have no rights and if they complain they're turned in and deported.

    The fact that the left sees what the right wants desperately to ignore and then even bitterly attack those who see and comment only proves, sir, how blind you are!

    ReplyDelete
  23. I started a web site to track the Stewart/Colbert 2008 Campaign news at my blog http://www.stewartcolbert2008.net
    Posted a link to this article. I must say your thought is similar to why i started the site and you said it so well:

    "But Colbert’s spectacular performance a few days ago reminded me that occasionally one simply needs to hear the brutal truth – better yet if presented with intelligence and humor. "

    And the daily show does make you think about what is presented. It's comedy, but the best comedy is making fun of the truth we don't notice or refuse to openly recognize.

    so, nice article, hopefully, comedians, fake news and satire will get more people thinking in 2008 than just towing whatever party line they believe they should follow.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I completely agree. I'd love to see them run for office. And I tell you what... If they ran you'd see the biggest voter turn out ever recorded! Why? Probably hype (sad statement about our nation I guess).
    You can get great Stewart Colbert 08 t-shirts and bumper stickers (cover up that out of date Kerry Edwards sticker!) at http://www.tuskdesigns.com

    ReplyDelete
  25. As a liberal you should be cautious
    using terms like 'country bumpkin
    attitude' ... being from a rural area,
    or the 'country' does not necessarily
    make one a close minded bigot.

    I wholeheartedly support your notion
    that Stewart and Colbert should run
    for office.

    But it has a flaw...it just makes
    way too much sense.

    ;)

    Shaun from West Virginia

    ReplyDelete
  26. I was searching the net today for arguments for the new "Stewart/Colbert 2008" uprise, and I came across your blog, and this port. I see this was posted back in May. very interesting. As well, you make some very good arguments for Stewart / Colbert.

    Apparently now someone has even begun selling massive amounts of T-shirts in support of Stewart / Colbert 2008. Even though it doesn't appear that John Stewart will be following his viewers request, and running for president, I think I will have to get one of these T-shirts anyone for the statement that it makes. As well, how knows, maybe we can change his mind one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I just came across this blog, after googling stewart/colbert 08. after this uprise in the senate and house for the dems i have a renewed faith in our democratic process, even if i'm not, as of yet, eligiable to vote. and after watching the hilarious 'midterm midtacular' the other night, i have a renewed respect towards Jon and Stephen.
    personally i like Jon Stewart much more; I think he presents in a more intelligent style, that follows my political views more closley. I've also been watching his show religiously for about 4 or 5 years now. (pre Report)
    I think you should all check out the stewart colbert interview in this weeks Rolling Stone, very funny, very good.
    I'll definately be buying a tee shirt and bumper stick for their 'campaign'. Although I don't see it happening I think that in our country today they would stand a legitimate chance if they ran. also I think they'd be a huge success with getting their viewer age group (younger people for the most part) to get out the vote.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.