Stephen Colbert Befuddles Even “Liberal” Chuck Todd

cain colbertStephen Colbert’s SuperPAC exposes the corporate news media’s incapability to express what would be in normal life circumstances a totally justified sense of righteous outrage. Why do people become upset with the notion of anonymous corporate donors filling the coffers of SuperPACS and corporations being considered “people?” It must offend a sense of propriety somewhere.

The TV political reporter, Chuck Todd, doesn’t get what Stephen Colbert is doing because he’s blinded by his position as a corporate media conduit (even on “liberal” MSNBC). Colbert and Jon Stewart, of that prestigious political organization Comedy Central, are playing the roles that Mark Twain or Will Rogers or Pat Paulson played in earlier periods: public foils and jokesters exposing deeper truths about the corruption and dysfunction of our nation’s money-drenched politics.

If someone like Todd who represents a “liberal” network can’t see this parody for what it is then it truly illustrates how disconnected the corporate media have become. Todd got the story backwards. He faults Colbert for “making a mockery” out of our nation’s politics. Remember it was just four short years ago when 43 percent of American voters believed Sarah Palin was qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. And the recent spectacle of the Republican primaries — with Donald Trump’s “birtherism,” Herman Cain’s “the Koch brothers’ brother from another mother,” and Rick Perry’s “Oops,” and with the burlesque that has become the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court’s small-minded and partisan Citizens United ruling, and the metastasizing of SuperPACs and the corruption all around us – Colbert and Stewart are merely parodying the parody that already is our nation’s politics.

I found it interesting that MSNBC’s anchors felt compelled recently to disclose to viewers when reporting on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital days that General Electric (GE), MSNBC’s parent company, is co-owner of the Weather Channel with Bain. I only wish they would have shown the same sense of propriety during the run up to the Iraq War and tell their viewers that GE is also a major military contractor and that many of the retired military officers and other “experts” they had on the air were in a position to personally profit from the outbreak of war.

chuck toddThe real mockery comes from the terrible ideas we’ve heard spewed forth from the GOP candidates: zero taxes for corporations, huge increases in military spending, attacking Iran, putting poor kids to work as janitors at their schools, breaking up labor unions, another round of tax cuts for the richest Americans, eliminating entire federal departments without explaining what the country would look like without them, slavishly serving an imaginary group they call “job creators,” pimping for TransCanada’s XL pipeline, calling for the repeal of every environmental regulation on the books, denouncing Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” and so on. None of their public policy prescriptions make a lick of sense yet do we hear Chuck Todd or CNN’s John King calling them out on the substance of what these rich white men are proposing?

The flaccid exchanges between the debate moderators and the candidates that flare up now and again, which the cable news shows cover as being confrontations worthy of an Edward R. Murrow, drive home just how inadequately political “news” is spoon-fed to the American people. For example, John King let Newt Gingrich divert his question about his ex-wife’s recent ABC interview. The only question that matters is not what Newt did in private with “Little Newtie,” but the hypocrisy involved in denouncing President Bill Clinton and trumpeting his commitment to “family values” while carrying on an adulterous affair himself – that is the issue. At the very least King could have asked Gingrich to clarify whether or not he was calling his ex wife a liar? The racist stuff that has already come out of Newt’s mouth about President Obama being the “food stamp president” and poor children scrubbing toilets and cleaning up vomit at their schools as a way of teaching them “work habits” should already disqualify him for the nation’s highest office. But the corporate political media is expert at one thing: swaddling corporate hacks like Newt in raiment befitting an emperor.

joseph palermoIt’s the media system Chuck Todd and John King serve that has become a closed circle of opinion and ideas that snuffs out or marginalizes opposing views that stray too far from orthodoxy. This circumscribing of our political debate wouldn’t matter much if it did not severely limit our capacity as a nation to respond to the daunting challenges confronting us (from the financial sector thievery to global climate change).

Klepto-capitalism appears to have prevailed with the nation’s political “representatives” openly shilling for giant corporations or industry trade groups. This wholesale corruption violates a hidden feeling in many of us that is still capable of discerning between right and wrong. Most figures inside the corporate news media have lost this sense, because, as Upton Sinclair pointed out a century ago: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

With this kind of toxic media context it’s a miracle that the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA, H.R. 3261), didn’t sail through the U.S. Congress unopposed. The SOPA/ Protect IP Act (PIPA, S. 968), deal was all set to glide right through greased by the millions of dollars in lobbying money by giant media conglomerates, yet people power (with a heroic effort by the tech sector – thank you Google and Wikipedia!) slowed it down. The same is true with TransCanada’s XL pipeline; it too was all set to glide through the Congress until people came out in massive protest.

Joseph PalermoWith hope, the Occupy Wall Street movement will reemerge even bigger going into the 2012 elections and people power might begin to finally move the federal machinery away from its servitude to the top 1 percent and give the victims of the big banks a way forward to seek some modicum of justice. But don’t expect corporate media personalities to recognize these efforts for what they are — if they can’t challenge Newt Gingrich or even comprehend the antics of Stephen Colbert don’t expect them to be guiding lights in the life-and-death struggles that lie ahead.

Joseph Palermo
Joseph Palermo’s Blog

Published by the LA Progressive on January 22, 2012
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Joseph Palermo

Joseph Palermo is Professor of History, California State University, Sacramento. Professor Palermo's most recent book is The Eighties (Pearson 2012). He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (Columbia, 2001); and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism (Pearson, 2008). Before earning a Master's degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor's degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master's degree in History from San Jose State University. His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Professor Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 (Scholarly Resources Press, 2003); and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon (CQ Press, 2004).