May 9, 2006


The Left's Digital Lynch Mob (Richard Cohen, 5/09/06, Real Clear Politics)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about Al Gore's new movie on global warming. I liked the film. In response, I instantly got more than over 1,000 e-mails, most of them praising Gore, some of them calling him the usual names and some, in what passes for logic nowadays, concluding there was no such thing as global warming if only because Gore said there was. I put the messages aside for a slow day when I would answer them. Then I wrote about Stephen Colbert and his unfunny performance at the White House Correspondents' dinner.

Kapow! Within a day, I got more than 2,000 e-mails. A day later, I got 1,000 more. By the fourth day, the number had reached 3,499 -- a figure that does not include the usual offers of nubile Russian women or loot from African dictators. The Colbert messages began with Patrick Manley (``You wouldn't know funny if it slapped you in the face'') and ended with Ron (``Colbert ROCKS, you MURDER'') who was so proud of his thought that he copied countless others. Ron, you're a genius.

Truth to tell, I peeked into only a few of the e-mails. I did this because I would sometimes recognize a name I thought I knew, which was almost always a mistake. When I guilelessly clicked on the name, I would get a bucket of raw, untreated and disease-laden sewage right in the face. [...]

The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred. This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated.

The hatred is back. I know it's only words now appearing on my computer screen, but the words are so angry, so roiled with rage, that they are the functional equivalent of rocks once so furiously hurled during anti-war demonstrations.

In fairness to the Deranged Democrats who wrote to Mr. Cohen, it was a very silly column. The lines by Mr. Colbert that he cited with disapproval were all quite funny:
He referred to the recent staff changes at the White House, chiding the media for supposedly repeating the cliche "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" when he would have put it differently: "This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."

What Mr. Cohen mostly did, unintentionally, was demonstrate that the Left is humorless. Of course, that makes the reaction to his essay even more amusing, because his fellow travelers just drove the point home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 9, 2006 1:37 PM

Richard continues to maintain his column's batting average about 50 points above the Mendoza Line.

Posted by: John at May 9, 2006 1:53 PM

So you don't agree with Cohen that Colbert's act was basically rude? That's my take. The comic doing a "roast" must tread carefully: the point is "good-natured joshing at the expense of the host," not "stick it to the Man and make him squirm in his seat." That's why the act went over so poorly among the audience: the anger and seriousness behind the jokes created more embarassment than laughter.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 9, 2006 6:50 PM

It went over badly because it was a room of self-important nitwits. Comedy depends on making people uncomfortable. That's why it's conservative.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2006 7:03 PM

The best take I heard was that he was performing not for the audience in the room, but the audience watching on C-SPAN and who would hear about it later. And with the latter, based on their reaction, he was a big hit.

The rude part is that the audience in the room was paying for his act, and he didn't deliver.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 9, 2006 7:12 PM

Sure, he did. He was funny. That's his job. Not truckling to the press and pols.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2006 7:18 PM

He was paid to "entertain" the in-person audience, and, based on their reactions and reviews, he failed. He didn't do his job, or misreprented the job he was going to do. Do you apply the same standard to the people who provide personal services for you? Don't know about you, but when I go to have my vehicle fixed, I don't really care if their usual customers love the lousy job done for me. (And if I go back, I deserve to be called a "chump".)

Of course, the solution is to just keep the cameras out, or better yet, make it pay-per-view. Imagine the demographics of those who'd actually pay to see something like the White House Correspondence Dinner. Talk about your wonks and dateless wonders...

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 9, 2006 8:35 PM

Plenty of it was very funny but expecting the president and others to laugh when it was so one-sided is unrealistic. Colbert ought to mix it up a little, particularly since the Democrats are such a target-rich environment.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 9, 2006 10:49 PM


Making fun of the powerless is needlessly cruel.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2006 11:44 PM

Not laughing at rude jokes at your expense doesn't make you a self-important nitwit. Comedy may depend on some psychological "discomfort," but if you make people too uncomfortable, you lose the comedy, which was the core of the job Colbert was hired for. There's a difference between a tap to the ribs with an elbow and a kick to the groin, especially in a social situation where manners forbid your target from responding. As Matt said, too one-sided, and as Raoul said, it didn't suit the primary audience.

Posted by: PapayaSF at May 9, 2006 11:55 PM


Yes. If I hire a painter to paint my house brown and then decide I don't like the color it doesn't mean he's a bad painter.

Posted by: oj at May 9, 2006 11:57 PM

Those are only kicks to the groin for humorless self-important gits. W will have found him funny. Remember, his old man invited Dana Carvey to the White House after he lost to cheer folks up.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 12:03 AM


Making fun of the powerless is needlessly cruel.

Now THAT'S funny. :-)

Also, note you've just directed that biting jab at the Democrats. You prove my point.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 10, 2006 12:19 AM


Humor is cruel.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 12:28 AM

I didn't see Colbert's part of the show, so I don't know what happened. But if thousands of people are so whacked that they wrote Richard Cohen to tell him that he is insufficiently doctrinaire, it proves that humor is conservative, that the left has no idea what this dinner means, and that people don't remember Don Rickles.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 10, 2006 1:49 AM


Yep. It's understandable that GOP politicos don't like cruelty directed exclusively towards them.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 10, 2006 1:55 AM

Humor, and there's no evidence that the President didn't enjoy it.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 7:07 AM

I'd guess half of the thousands who wrote never saw the show and were just doing a BDS kneejerk to Rich's article.

"He who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas."

Posted by: Genecis at May 10, 2006 9:18 AM

Except the painter used two shades of brown so that various words appear in the right lighting angle on one wall (talented guy, him) , and he added some foreign material (is the dog constipated again, the yard seems cleaner than usual?) to the paint on the other. But you got your "brown house".

"no evidence that the President didn't enjoy it."

Naming the logical fallacy (in Latin) shown here is an exercise for the student.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 10, 2006 11:33 AM

Mr. Judd;

What, are you saying that remote psychological diagnoses based on irrelevant visual artifacts doesn't constitute proof?

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 10, 2006 12:20 PM


If he's capable of that he's an excellent painter, no?

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 12:22 PM


No, I'm saying that Colbert was funny and the President likely thought him so.

Posted by: oj at May 10, 2006 12:24 PM

And hasn't America's Funniest Home Videos thrived for years on kicks to the groin videos? Somebody thinks they are funny.

Posted by: sharon at May 10, 2006 12:53 PM


Never said it wasn't humor. Cruel behavior is frequently funny.

The reports I came across relayed that the president got pretty stone-faced halfway through the monologue. That said, media analysis of the president's behavior is usually a joke in itself.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 10, 2006 2:53 PM