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The King is delighted when the Village Idiot is mocked by the Fool. The King is delighted when anyone is mocked by the Fool other than the King. Unfortunately for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, their job is to mock the King and they have failed to do that for quite some time.
How would today’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have covered the Irish Potato Famine?
“Stephen, did you see this piece in the Fine Outstanding Xenophobian today? I mean really. Blaming all the famine deaths in Ireland on a Papist pact with the devil.”
“Jon, how can you appear shocked? Those drooling cretins come up with the most ludicrous stories every day. Please, aren’t we above such things?”
“Stephen, true. We are above all this, but it doesn’t make their rants any less hilarious.”
“True, Jon. I mean really, do you see where they say Papists all have tails like the devil, which is why God is punishing them with this famine?”
“Stephen, you are so right. Everyone knows Papists don’t have tails. Even imagining Papists with tails has to be the silliest thing I’ve seen in a long time.”
“Jon, Papists with tails. The Xenophobian has done it again. Aren’t they just the village idiot? We are so much cooler than that.”
“Right, Stephen. Now, moving right along to today’s silly cat drawing.”
Not a word about the suffering Irish. Not a word about where the surplus food in Ireland was being shipped. Not a word about all those profiting from this particular genocide. Instead, they discuss the alleged flaws of the British propaganda system. Jewels before swine. Parody gold ignored for cheap laughs.
And there you have it. Even back then the Fox network would have decided the topic of discussion. And Stewart and Colbert would be more than willing to echo the distraction of the day. Fox tells you where to look, classic misdirection, and the two of them, for whatever reasons, are all too willing to follow Roger Ailes commands.
At times it feels like half of their broadcasts are wasted calling the Fox Village Idiot an idiot. Pitiful. Lazy.
It’s as if Stewart and Colbert were in high school and instead of mocking the principal, they decide to pick on the special education kids, who the principal encourages to smash ice cream cones against their own foreheads.
If Roger Ailes and his paymasters at Fox aren’t paying Stewart and Colbert, they should be. If they’re not being paid by Fox directly, they’re either complete morons or being reimbursed indirectly. “I don’t care what they say about me as long as they spell my name right.” Fox thanks both of them whenever they broadcast.
Satirists have to be held to a higher standard than the obvious low bar Stewart and Colbert have now set for themselves. They keep reveling in the awards received from those who benefit from their harmless (to them) form of social criticism. At the moment neither are worthy to lick Russell Brand’s boots.
We know they’re both middle-aged men with families, well, that probably says it all. Family men often have good reason to act in ways that others might call cowardly. It’s the same type of knee jerk fear which Fox feeds upon. Perhaps it’s time for both to pull a Chappelle and simply walk away. They’ve lost their edge. Leave it to younger or older people to carry on the attack. Leave before they become caricatures of themselves. Leave before they become even more of an embarrassment.
“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” Not long ago that quote cited by Peter O’Toole was brought to mind. Comedy is hard, gentlemen, and the two of you have gotten far too soft.
Peter Breschard is the author of Circus Rider and other works of fiction and fact. His work has appeared elsewhere and here.