High Comedy from Jonah Goldberg

So it seems the author of that staid, factual work of history, “Liberal Fascism,” has a bone to pick with potty-mouthed comedians who cheapen our politics with smears and theater.  No, really. The blubbery Babel of Bullshit took to the LATimes to type the following:

Stephen Colbert’s “testimony” before Congress last week was a clear sign that ironic rot (if you’ve got a better term, let me know) is sinking into the foundation of our political system.

Well, given that Jonah Goldberg has been in the LATimes for years, I’d say “ironic rot,” which is admittedly a pretty pathetic attempt at coining a term, has eaten well into the structure.  Maybe his readers will try to help him write better, maybe not.  (He was riding a humiliating 1 1/2 stars (out of five) when I copied this.)

Irony or post-irony or ironic post-whatever has been metastasizing through the culture for decades. The most famous example was “Seinfeld,” a hilarious show that was famously “about nothing” and much-derided by earnest writers on the left and right for its detached mockery of any deeply held principle or conviction.

A more famous example would be Jonah’s ol’ cocktailhag ma, Lucianne, of course, but Jonah understandably changes the subject to the supposedly “elevated” discussion of an irrelevant old TV show.  He must have just eaten a pair of Double Downs, and isn’t thinking too clearly.

But it hardly began with “Seinfeld.” David Letterman launched a talk show that made fun of talk shows. Before that, “Saturday Night Live” crafted brilliant fake commercials and newscasts (which, sadly, are the only funny parts of the show these days).

Funnier than your column, Fatstuff, unless you count the unintentional humor.

In the 1990s, Washington fell in love with Hollywood in an unprecedented way. In countless films, politicians, reporters and pundits played themselves. There was also an influential, and occasionally funny, sitcom called “Murphy Brown” that jumped back and forth from make-believe to reality. Things got particularly confusing when Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the show for glamorizing out-of-wedlock birth, and the show’s creators responded by having the fictional Murphy Brown whine about personal attacks on her lifestyle.

Goldberg must have forgotten how effective that was, and that Bush and Quayle deservedly lost for their stupidity….  Not content to let Quayle get all the thrown tomatoes,  (or were they potatoes?) Bush also mocked “The Simpsons,” and Bart himself responded, and made him look like a losing, out of touch ass, which he was.

Things got outright weird with the creation of “The Daily Show,” a fake news program hosted by Jon Stewart since 1999 that often provides some of the best (and occasionally the worst) criticism of American politics (and is revered on the left as somehow newsier than news). For what it’s worth, a senior Republican congressmen told me that “The Daily Show’s” piece on the GOP “Pledge to America” was the only one that drew blood.

Ah, now we see what’s got Jonah’s skidmarked undies in a twist…  Liberals are funny, and he is not.

“The Daily Show” begat “The Colbert Report,” in which Colbert plays a jingoistic, know-it-all, borderline bigot. In other words, he pretends to be what many liberals claim Bill O’Reilly is. That’s the joke, get it?

He was going to be you, Jonah, but you’re too fat and uncharismatic, so he picked someone better.

It was this Stephen Colbert who was invited to testify before a House judiciary subcommittee on immigration and labor. It was an excruciatingly inappropriate spectacle. “This is America,” Colbert inveighed. “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican.”

Of course, Colbert said many other things, several of them quite serious and thus demeaning to Republicans, who constantly vilify immigrants while taking money from the industries who need a steady supply.  Jonah must have run up against, uh, space constraints, to have left that out.

But who, exactly, is Colbert parodying here? O’Reilly doesn’t talk like that. Nor does Sean Hannity or any of the usual targets Colbert’s supposed to be lampooning. The real upshot of Colbert’s shtick is that he’s mocking people who disagree with him — or with the left-wing base of the Democratic Party — on the complicated issue of immigration.

Well, both are kind of white supremacists, as is their network, and they often talk just like that, but evidently Jonah can’t hear over the crunching of the Cheetohs.

This was made abundantly clear by the sober testimony of Carol Swain, a Vanderbilt University professor of law and political science, who argued quite effectively that a steady flow of cheap migrant labor depresses wages for poor blacks and other American workers while keeping working conditions grim.

Which is exactly what Republicans like, unless they’re lightweight hacks like Jonah who get paid to write whether they have an argument or not.  Republican support of amnesty and immigration in the past, which was actual law rather than the current impotent bluster, is quite well known.  Time for some big-time misdirection, however inept, from our paunchy pontificator:

Though Colbert would obviously deny it, his testimony amounted to calling Swain — an African American woman of very humble background — an ignorant bigot, because her analysis runs counter to the liberal party line.

Ah, just like calling liberals fascists…  No, wait a minute….

Colbert’s defenders point to the fact that other celebrities have testified before Congress. “I would like to point out,” Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte) noted during the hearing, “that in the past the Republicans have had witnesses such as Loretta Swit, who played ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan from ‘MASH,’ to testify on crush videos.” True enough. But she didn’t testify as “Hot Lips.”

No, but James Inhofe did call in crazy fiction author Michael Crichton to testify, falsely, about global warming, and Republicans frequently bring in all sorts of uncredentialed charlatans to “support” their demented arguments.  They have no choice, you know.

Colbert’s testimony reduced the topic to a black-and-white issue in which people on the other side are fools or bigots worthy of cheap mockery. I thought the whole point of Colbert was to stand against that sort of thing by making fun of it, not by doing it. Are our politics really improved by making congressional hearings even more of a joke?

Your presence on the op-ed page of a major American newspaper, Jonah, is the joke, and unlike Colbert, it isn’t funny.

On Oct. 30, Colbert’s “March to Keep Fear Alive” will join Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” on the National Mall. They will rationalize the stunts as send-ups and putdowns of all that is wrong with our politics. But by slowly degenerating from satire into plain old mockery, these guys are slowly becoming too-clever-by-half versions of the very people they claim to deplore.

So much better to be too dumb by several factors of magnitude, Jonah.  You, defending standards of decency in politics?  What are you going to do for an encore?  Call Al Gore fat?


  1. dirigo says:

    Yes, well earnest rot is so much more ennobling, plus, you don’t have to be on constant alert, running about, helter skelter, putting your hands over the kids’ ears, or hiding the TV remote.

  2. cocktailhag says:

    Maybe we should go over to the LAT and try to give Jonah some needed ideas. Alliteration might help.

  3. michlib says:

    Good old Bart. I remember it went something like -
    Bush 1 – ” we need families less like the Simpsons and more like the Waltons “.

    Bart’s rejoinder – ” we are like the Waltons – we’re waiting for an end to the depression too “.


  4. mikeinportc says:

    So the Doughy One is now on the same page as Steny Hoyer. Lol!

    You’re both “embarassments” , not Colbert.