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"I don't want a tomato picked by a Mexican," Colbert testified. "I want it picked by an American, sliced by a Guatemalan . . . and served in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian."
September 24, 2010 9:28 AM   Subscribe

This morning comedian Stephen Colbert testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security, where he appeared as a witness on the issue of migrant farm work. He did so in character: "a fake blowhard before a panel of real pontificators. "It's unclear upon how many members of the committee the joke was lost." [Video | 05:19].
"'Maybe we should spend less time watching Comedy Central and more time thinking about real jobs that are out there,' grumbled Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who added that he respects American workers who 'prefer the aroma of fresh dirt than the sewage of American elitists.'

Colbert smiled wide, obviously respecting the dig, as the gallery murmured."*
posted by ericb (156 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Colbert has fun with life. If everyone did that, instead of arguing and fighting, the world would be a better place.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:29 AM on September 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


Was he sworn in? Is satire covered under perjury laws?
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Brings to mind when he was invited to perform at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Some believe that those who invited him didn't realize his character is not real, but satirical. He was nvited to speak at the dinner by Mark Smith, outgoing president of the White House Press Corps Association. According New York magazine, "Smith later told the Times he hadn't seen much of Colbert's work".

And, boy did he deliver right in front of President Bush and the Washington insiders. "Peter Daou on Salon called it 'a biting rebuke of George W. Bush and the lily-livered press corps.'"
"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."
Video of Colbert's performance [starts at 53:35].
posted by ericb at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


By that I mean, is it okay to lie to congress if it's really funny?
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's funny and all, but I do wonder how much things like this hurt the political process and further detach people from politics.

Why do anything when everything is one big joke?

As much as I like the idea of the Stewart/Colbert rallys, I also fear they diminish the power of legitimate protest.
posted by mazola at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can't wait to see how FOX News, Beck, O'Reilly and others react to and comment on his upcoming October 30th. March to Keep Fear Alive rally in D.C.
posted by ericb at 9:35 AM on September 24, 2010


Is Dana Bash listening? I know the woman has a sense of humor. I saw her on the Kathy Griffin show.
posted by spec80 at 9:36 AM on September 24, 2010


We all know that, "It's funny because it's true". Ipso Facto it can't be perjury. Done.
posted by Babblesort at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Tough crowd, huh?
posted by wayland at 9:37 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm looking for a reference here, and I can't find it, so I might be making this up. I think I read it somewhere though.

But apparently, Charlie Chaplin was going to be called before HUAC to testify about communists working in Hollywood, but they cancelled his summons when word leaked that he planned to appear in character.

Would have made for great history.
posted by keratacon at 9:38 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hearings are a complete waste of time about 99.999% of the time. And yet I'm still annoyed that they would waste their time (and my money) by doing this. Whatever member (or members) of Congress was responsible for having Colbert as a witness should be run out on a rail.
posted by The World Famous at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Sorry for saying cornpacker, I know it's an offensive term for gay Iowans," he told conservative Iowa Rep. Steve King.
posted by exogenous at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


empath, my understanding is he wasn't under oath.

And ericb, here you go.
posted by saturday_morning at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2010


It's unclear upon how many members of the committee the joke was lost.

A couple years ago I caught my dad watching the Colbert Report. Since he usually watches Fox News, my reaction was "WHY ARE YOU WATCHING THIS???"

His answer, "because he has a different perspective than that Jon Stewart guy and a lot of other folks out there."

"You realize it's a joke, right?" I say, "he's not actually, you know, serious?"

It became clear at that point that my dad, who despite the Fox News watching is generally pretty reasonable and with-it, did not know it was satire.

I also found him watching Napoleon Dynamite the next day when it was on TV, so maybe he was just really out of it that weekend.
posted by phunniemee at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2010 [24 favorites]


Steve King (R-Iowa) [...] respects American workers who 'prefer the aroma of fresh dirt than the sewage of American elitists.'

And if you've ever driven through a recently-fertilized Iowa field, you know the "fresh dirt" smell he's talking about.
posted by nickmark at 9:41 AM on September 24, 2010 [13 favorites]


phunniemee: My dad does this too. :/
posted by wayland at 9:42 AM on September 24, 2010


We really don't have to wait to see what Beck has to say, do we?
Glenn Beck Calls Stewart/Colbert Rally a Progressive Plot.

Glenn Beck: Stewart and Colbert have "shown [their] colors" and will "activate the youth" to "vote with the labor unions."
posted by ericb at 9:42 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this one of those moments when farces collide? When the boy who cried wolf points out that the emperor has no clothes and we just stop caring about mixing our metaphors?
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:46 AM on September 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


That's pretty damned LOLtastic.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:46 AM on September 24, 2010


wayland & phunniemee-- this has been studied.
there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


As much as I support the right for people to assemble, I also fear that rallies like the one Glenn Beck held might diminish the faith that fellow Americans are critical thinkers with a broader grasp of US history.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's funny and all, but I do wonder how much things like this hurt the political process and further detach people from politics.

I agree with respect to his testimony above. It strikes me as one more entertainer with an opinion, however clever or well read. However, I disagree with respect to the rallies. They seem to be an attempt to be more populist, as opposed to just one voice.
posted by acheekymonkey at 9:47 AM on September 24, 2010


I caught a little of Colbert being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. The subject was this upcoming testimony as well as his March to Keep Fear Alive.

My favorite exchange was when Stephanopoulos told Colbert that Democratic strategists felt his and Stewart's marches were going to help in November. Colbert promptly snorted and said nothing was going to help in November . . . except leadership. Tell it, Stephen!

Second favorite comment: Colbert said as to his testimony, that he thought he was the fourth of fourteen Americans who had signed up to take an immigrant's job. He said it went well until he suffered a medical condition -- something called a blister -- and had to stop on doctor's advice. He said that a little lancing and bed rest did take care of it, so George shouldn't be concerned. As usual, his fake persona did a great job delivering a stinging satire of obnoxious political positions like saving US jobs for Us workers.
posted by bearwife at 9:48 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


But apparently, Charlie Chaplin was going to be called before HUAC to testify about communists working in Hollywood, but they cancelled his summons when word leaked that he planned to appear in character.

In 1947, anticipating that he would be called in front of the committee, Chaplin wrote the following telegram to HUAC Committee Chair J. Parnell Thomas: "In order that you be completely up-to-date on my thinking I suggest that you carefully view my latest production 'Monsieur Verdoux.' It is against war and the futile slaughter of our youth. I trust you will find its humane message distatsteful. While you are preparing your engraved subpoena I will give you a hint on where I stand. I am not a Communist. I am a peace-monger."
posted by blucevalo at 9:49 AM on September 24, 2010 [46 favorites]


Love Colbert, but I'm not sure of the wisdom of this. Migrant labour is a serious issue and I'm not entirely sure this is the best way to get politicians on board... doing the stuff on his show is a great way to draw attention to this issue, but testifying before Congress this way may turn off a lot of people that could actually be effective in solving the issue (ie, the Representatives).
posted by modernnomad at 9:50 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm a liberal, yeah, I'll probably vote for a Democrat, yeah, I laugh at Colbert once in a while, but, give me a break, the political process is fucked up enough without turning hearings into a comedy club for Colbert.
posted by HuronBob at 9:50 AM on September 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


I caught a little of Colbert being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America.

Video | 08:21.
posted by ericb at 9:52 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who invited him to speak? I'm surprised they brought him in considering how many congressmen he's burned before:

"Then you can't be from the United States, can you? By your own logic!"

"I enjoy cocaine because..."

ಠ_ಠ
posted by Rhaomi at 9:52 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was brilliant.
posted by caddis at 9:52 AM on September 24, 2010


mazola said: "...I also fear they diminish the power of legitimate protest."

Thread digressions, alas, seem to be what makes me jump in, but: What's the last "legitimate protest" you remember? I'm not sure I can point to one in my memory and say "that was legit".

Out here in the Bay Area, the anti-Iraq war protests were all co-opted by the "social justice" crowd to the point where they were... well... pretty ineffectual. The various G7/WTO/whatever protests? Kids smashing Starbucks windows pretty much turned those into a "whatever the cause, it's not something I can support" for most people. The Million... uh... 400,000 Man March? Anyone remember Louis Farrakhan?

And the recent Beck/Palin wankery?

I think the point of the Stewart/Colbert rally is that "legitimate protest" has been solidly co-opted by whiners, and there hasn't really been one since sometime around the end of the Vietnam war.

I think a similar point can be made about Colbert testifying before Congress: Occasionally there's some thing meaningful happening in front of Congress, I think getting Ollie North to say "On advice of council I'm refusing to answer that question pursuant to my rights under the Fifth Amendment" over and over again was a demonstration of something worthwhile, but for the most part it's meaningless blowhards grandstanding for the cameras, not actual thoughtful working out political solutions.

So, no, Stewart and Colbert don't diminish the power of legitimate protest, they reflect the fact that protest, and political testimony, has become a mockery of anything that once made those parts of the process worthy of respect. The sooner we stop giving those any additional power, the sooner we can start to replace them with something that may be worth respecting.
posted by straw at 9:53 AM on September 24, 2010 [85 favorites]


I'm a progressive who thought it was both funny and not any more a waste of time than Congressional Hearings usually are. Despite being "in character", Colbert had some really important points about the trade-off between restricting immigration and the outsourcing of jobs.
posted by muddgirl at 9:57 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


and there hasn't really been one since sometime around the end of the Vietnam war.

I wasn't there, but from what I learned in history class there were a lot of what you call whiners at those protests, too.
posted by muddgirl at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can't say anything better than what straw just said.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2010


It's funny and all, but I do wonder how much things like this hurt the political process and further detach people from politics... As much as I like the idea of the Stewart/Colbert rallys, I also fear they diminish the power of legitimate protest.

If they can pull off an emptier gesture than the Beck rally, I will be very impressed.

As far as this testimony is concerned, he's sitting in front of a bunch of people who are making every decision based on toeing some party line instead of doing what's good for the country. Excuse my language for saying so, but fuck'em. Making your decisions based on the penalties you face during the next election is one thing, but centering your entire political career around maintaining power instead of performing your civic duty is another. They can be exposed to the truth at least once a year.

You'll notice the one thing that neither party wants to discuss is term limits. I think it's time we took that as the best indicator that introducing them into law should become a priority.
posted by notion at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I dropped in to basically say what straw said, above. With apologies to Sagan:

No words to describe it! They should have sent a poet comedian.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:00 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Colbert is the Aristophanes of the modern American political scene. Consider Aristophanes whose powers of ridicule were feared and acknowledged by contemporaries! Consider Colbert whose powers are similar! Both men have something unlike the vast majority of the politicos and their sycophantic lapdogs - the main stream media. To wit:

wit and the ability to eviscerate the powerful.
posted by mfoight at 10:02 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Colbert may have been in character, but he wasn't joking. He makes real, substantial and important points about the poor working conditions for migrant farm labour, how we will always have immigrants and people who have few other options doing this work because it is so difficult -- and that we need to give those people the protection of legal status if we ever hope to improve their working conditions.

It's all there - stated more clearly and more succinctly than I have ever heard before. He sweetens his points with some humour, but his message came through loud and clear. Farm labourers need legal immigration status and better working conditions -- otherwise they will continue to be exploited, and if conditions don't improve, the demand for illegal immigrant labour will never go away.

If you care about border security, he says, you have to care about working conditions for farm labourers. It's all tied together.
posted by jb at 10:04 AM on September 24, 2010 [39 favorites]


I also fear they diminish the power of legitimate protest.

Personally I think the Stewart part, at least, is legitimate protest. We do need to restore sanity to the political dialog around here.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's funny and all, but I do wonder how much things like this hurt the political process and further detach people from politics.

If anything, Colbert's satiric persona is a genuine gift to American democracy, in that he helps engage a demographic that traditionally rarely votes or shows much interest in politics. He's also values-based, rather than partisan, and discussing common shared values can only be a good thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


straw once again says it with much more clarity and precision than I can muster.

Mocking something which is a parody of itself is some sort of recursive tautology that makes my brain hurt. I suppose I could do like so many of our Congressmen, and simply turn off the brain.

Of course, kudos to Stephen Colbert, for doing the right thing, and sticking to his guns. He is the preeminent satirist of our age.
posted by Xoebe at 10:06 AM on September 24, 2010


Colbert may have been in character, but he wasn't joking. He makes real, substantial and important points about the poor working conditions for migrant farm labour, how we will always have immigrants and people who have few other options doing this work because it is so difficult -- and that we need to give those people the protection of legal status if we ever hope to improve their working conditions.

Exactly. At the end of his schtick he dropped character and said, "Hey, no Americans are lining up for these jobs, so why not give them a visa?"
posted by KokuRyu at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's funny and all, but I do wonder how much things like this hurt the political process and further detach people from politics.

Indeed. In this era of great reform, when crusaders like James Inhofe have brought important pulp novelists to Congress to bring the real truth about climate change to the people and then built a snow fort with his family to demonstrate for all the myth of climate science, when Sarah Palin quits her job in order to do it better and Glenn Beck drapes himself in the legacies of Lincoln and Martin Luther King and Harry Reid uses the most senior position in the Senate to bend before the slightest of pressures from vested interests to ensure that nothing at all is done and lobbyists number in the thousands and the construction of a cultural centre in lower Manhattan or the burning of books by a deranged religious lunatic in Florida are treated as serious political issues by Washington's press corps and nakedly partisan political pointscoring derails a bill to bring equality to the American military and a plurality of the American public believes the president of the United States is not an American citizen and/or a Muslim terrorist sleeper cell of one - yes, in such a momentous time in such a noble place, it could do grave damage to the sanctity of American political discourse for a satirist to attempt to demonstrate the bald hypocrisy of American immigration law in an amusing and insightful manner.

Indeed.
posted by gompa at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2010 [72 favorites]


Migrant labour is a serious issue and I'm not entirely sure this is the best way to get politicians on board

I don't know about that. I think this helps to remind them that it's an issue that the public is interested in talking about about, and is on people's minds, which means that it should be on their minds.

Colbert is in an interesting place in that he will argue for reasonable left-wing policy in an extreme right wing voice, and the people on the right just aren't too sure how to deal with that.

I think it's brilliant.
posted by quin at 10:08 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who invited him? I love Corbert and all, but unless I'm mistaken, he doesn't have any expertise or experience in immagration issues. Was it just a stunt?
posted by rtimmel at 10:08 AM on September 24, 2010


I'm still annoyed that they would waste their time (and my money) by doing this. Whatever member (or members) of Congress was responsible for having Colbert as a witness should be run out on a rail.

Stephen Colbert responds to the "waste our taxpayer dollars" accusation about his testimony.

Basically, he's paying for his own meals and lodging to be there, but congress is going to have to pay for his water, and the 5 minutes of electricity required to power his microphone during his testimony.
posted by hippybear at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


but unless I'm mistaken, he doesn't have any expertise or experience in immagration issues. Was it just a stunt?

You want undocumented immigrants to read the articles and links for you, too?
posted by joe lisboa at 10:10 AM on September 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


It's funny and all, but I do wonder how much things like this hurt the political process and further detach people from politics.

Why do anything when everything is one big joke?

As much as I like the idea of the Stewart/Colbert rallys, I also fear they diminish the power of legitimate protest.


I guess it depends on what you think makes "legitimate protest" powerful. There are some forms of protest that directly force change, like boycotts or strikes that actually force a change through economic or logistical pressure. Of course that only works if the people doing the protesting have a significant collective power over the targeted group, along with the will and ability to exert that power as a group.

But the possibly more effective aspect of protest is in framing an issue and making that view public. Stewart and Colbert don't even need to hold a rally or stage some sort of event to get their views published, because they have extremely popular televisions shows that broadcast their messages to millions of people. And really, with the Internet the kind of publicity that traditional protests were designed to produce is much easier to come by today than it was when holding up signs and handing out fliers was the most effective way to get a message out to a lot of people. Glenn Beck's stunt in Washington was aping what was actually an effective strategy back in the Civil Rights movement, but if MLK had his own TV show back then he probably wouldn't have had to organize a march to get his speech heard in the first place. If the point of protest is to get an idea out to as many people as possible, a satirical comedy show is going to be more effective than legitimate protest ever will be, even if the political topics are played for laughs.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:12 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Colbert may have been in character, but he wasn't joking. He makes real, substantial and important points about the poor working conditions for migrant farm labour, how we will always have immigrants and people who have few other options doing this work because it is so difficult -- and that we need to give those people the protection of legal status if we ever hope to improve their working conditions.

I think you're missing the meaning of the words "witness" and "testimony."
posted by The World Famous at 10:13 AM on September 24, 2010


I love Corbert and all, but unless I'm mistaken, he doesn't have any expertise or experience in immagration issues. Was it just a stunt?

Well, he did just do a two-part segment on migrant farm labor issues where he went out and worked on a farm for a day. That seems to be the focus of his testimony.

Mostly, i think it was done to get cameras in the hearing room and people talking about these specific hearings. Which was wildly successful. (Witness this MeFi thread. Would we have a FPP to the Blue about migrant labor issues today without Colbert's participation?)
posted by hippybear at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


What's the last "legitimate protest" you remember?

I dunno, maybe this one. Or this one.
posted by exogenous at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ok! Ok! I'm wrong, or at least my fears are misplaced -- I'm worried about preserving a system that doesn't exist.

Do stunts like this help engage people in issues or does it enable a 'it's all just laughs' mentality? And does it matter...
posted by mazola at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2010


I live in and grew up in Iowa. As a teenager, I hated it and couldn't wait to move to a big city, but after college I ended up moving back with my future wife, since our families were here. And much had changed, and continues to change. Iowa is a great place to live in a be from, even though as a sullen teenager I was embarrassed to be associated with it, with the corn and pigs and whatnot.
All of this is to say that nowadays pretty much the only reason I'm embarrassed to be from Iowa is Rep. Steve King.

Also of interest is this footage of Jon Stewart on The O'Reilly Factor discussing, among other things, the upcoming rally (apologies that the website is a pain to load.)
posted by cottoncandybeard at 10:14 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Satire is a legitimate form of protest.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:15 AM on September 24, 2010 [9 favorites]


Mostly, i think it was done to get cameras in the hearing room and people talking about these specific hearings.

You almost have it right. It was done to get cameras in the hearing room to help the members of Congress who brought him there to get on camera. Before TV coverage of hearings, the members just sent their staff members to sit on the dais and ask the questions. And they didn't have stunty "witnesses."

There may have been a time when hearings weren't a waste of time and money. But that time has passed.
posted by The World Famous at 10:16 AM on September 24, 2010


Stewart and Colbert don't even need to hold a rally or stage some sort of event to get their views published, because they have extremely popular televisions shows that broadcast their messages to millions of people.

Well, the official numbers are between 1.5 and 2 million people for each of their shows. I suspect their viewership is higher, but maybe only double that. Even if it's 4 million people, that's only around 1% of the US population.
posted by hippybear at 10:16 AM on September 24, 2010


It strikes me as one more entertainer with an opinion, however clever or well read.

Half the elected officials who pontificate in committee hearings, on Fox, and the Sunday morning talk shows are less clever and less well-read than either Colbert or Stewart, and they're nowhere near as entertaining.
posted by rtha at 10:17 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Seems like Steve King was also in character. He does that humorless, bigoted asshole thing so well.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:20 AM on September 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


The three additional steps that turn protest into effective action are organized voting blocks, economic action and of course, legal action.

Though it's false to say that immigration activism hasn't been using all 4 - the biggest difference here is that between the Patriot Act, Homeland Security and the switch from INS to ICE, the US has built a giant legal wall that gives people zero rights rendering the legal battles from difficult to ridiculous. It is in many ways a regression to the Chinese Exclusion laws- people can be held without reason or cause for months or years at a time, with no lawyers or contact to the outside world - just because, and just as arbitrarily, deported.

It's not really fair to say, "Activism is just whiners" when the state of US law moved back 5 generations in less than 10 years anymore than it is to say, "That guy standing in front of the tank in China sure was dumb."
posted by yeloson at 10:22 AM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do stunts like this help engage people in issues or does it enable a 'it's all just laughs' mentality? And does it matter...

Well, I've always credited Bloom County (alongside some of the stuff I read in Rolling Stone once I'd finished with the Def Leppard profile) as a prime mover in my own progressive political awakening as a teen in the 1980s. No way to demonstrate this conclusively, but I think there's a strong possibility that a great many young people today might similarly become more engaged in politics through the satirical lens of Stewart and Colbert.

Alas, one of the first things they'd learn is that their political system is almost irreparably busted and no amount of engagement in the issues is likely to make a lick of difference to policy unless they've got a Fortune 500 company and/or an army of lobbyists at their command, so I'm not sure where it might lead them.
posted by gompa at 10:22 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Hey, no Americans are lining up for these jobs, so why not give them a visa?"

When we pontificate over things like increasing income disparity, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, schools and other public services, what we're really talking about are corporations being given free rein to pay less for more labor across multiple borders, carving away at the tax base until the locals are in hock to private interests.

The new immigration situation is that capital gets to move across borders, while people don't. Immigration laws are never enforced against the real offenders: the CEOs of corporations that pay very little for undocumented workers. So people — documented or not — are stuck with whatever exploitive local economy they are in. It's a global serfdom, in a way.

Do more visas help solve this problem, or is it a larger systemic problem of private capital taking over the roles of public government, and controlling where people can go in order to exploit their economic situation, so as to squeeze labor costs down to virtually nothing?

If your now-all-but-corporatized government — which more or less describes the United States at this point — controls where the labor pool can go, it's easy to pit workers against each other. I love me some Colbert, I'm not certain that throwing visas at this is addressing the problem.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:26 AM on September 24, 2010 [12 favorites]


I love the idea, but the result is pretty lame. The writing was badly off.
posted by Chuckles at 10:29 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Congress has invited numerous celebrities to testify in the past.

In April 2002 Republican congressmen invited Elmo to testify before the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Committee about music education in public schools.
posted by ericb at 10:31 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


For the record, I'm uncomfortable with Elmo testifying, too.

Celebraties, being people with their own self-interest, are fair game by me. Fictional characters... not so much. But I'm old fashioned that way.
posted by mazola at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]




testifying before Congress this way may turn off a lot of people that could actually be effective in solving the issue (ie, the Representatives).

Yes, God knows we should not be in the business of turning off representatives.
posted by blucevalo at 10:39 AM on September 24, 2010


Personally I think we need fewer people in the business of turning on representatives.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:41 AM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why do anything when everything is one big joke?

Have you watched American politics recently? It's already all one big joke, and no one does anything.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:47 AM on September 24, 2010


Celebrities testify on the Hill all the time. Would we be talking about this issue if it was "just" a bunch of actual migrant farmworkers speaking? (Not to mention, they would probably have been personally hog-tied and deported by Steve King...)
posted by JoanArkham at 10:51 AM on September 24, 2010


Again I relent. The FPP video (and what I've seen quoted in the media) all focus on the prepared statement.

This turned it around for me. So long as there's a real person delivering a real point of view, I'm ok with it.

Elmo testifiying is over the line for me. Stephen Colbert (in character) is borderline. His answers, out of character, spoken plainly and honestly, reeled me back in.

(Yay Colbert!)
posted by mazola at 10:56 AM on September 24, 2010


Thanks Rhaomi. I remember those days when Colbert was enough of an unknown that he could still get away with stunts like that.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:56 AM on September 24, 2010


He neglected to mention a few minor things:

"Hey, no Americans are lining up for these jobs [at the current wages offered], so why not give them a visa [so that agribusiness won't have to have to pay more!]?"

The idea that 'Americans won't do these jobs' is bullshit. Lots of people do all sorts of unpleasant, physically strenuous, and frankly dangerous jobs all the time. Legal American workers work in coal mines. At dumps. In steel mills. On oil rigs. Etc.

But they do so because those jobs pay a premium. Farm work is pretty damn unpleasant; it too should be well-compensated.

However, when you allow a continuous stream of desperate people into the country to work on those jobs, it pretty much guarantees two things: (1) that the wages for those jobs will never increase to the level that the market would otherwise demand; and (2) that only very desperate people without any other options will work those jobs. Anybody with a clue will realize pretty quickly—just by looking at who is working there if by no other metric—that those jobs are underpaid, and refuse to take them.

I'm not completely insensitive to the plight of people in Mexico right now, particularly considering how much of the problems there are a result of our failed drug policy. But Colbert is one very small step away from shilling for Big Agriculture, which depends on the wink-and-nudge non-enforcement of labor laws that ensure a ready supply of cheap laborers, and the false perception that Americans are just too fat and lazy to do the jobs—thus there can be no alternative.

There is currently a labor surplus in the US. I guarantee you that everyone has a price at which they'd be willing to do farm work. For many people, it would be pretty high (if you already have a cushy job you'd probably want a significant premium on top of what you're making now, if you'd have to move you'd want additional compensation, etc., but in each case the price exists). For other people, it's probably not that much higher than the market rate right now. Cut off the supply of illegal labor and you would see wages rise until the positions are filled. Big Ag would just have to suck it up and deal.

I suspect that salaries ought to even out at something comparable to working in a mine or a factory.

At some point in the future, should there be an actual labor shortage, then we might want to talk about an agricultural-laborer visa program. But there certainly isn't a shortage right now.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:00 AM on September 24, 2010 [15 favorites]


"Alas, one of the first things they'd learn is that their political system is almost irreparably busted and no amount of engagement in the issues is likely to make a lick of difference to policy unless they've got a Fortune 500 company and/or an army of lobbyists at their command, so I'm not sure where it might lead them."

Maybe to reform the system. The worst thing is to get mad, despair, and then ignore the subject forever after, which is what usually happens with most people on most political or social issues. If Colbert succeeds in making his young audience laugh at the absurdity of the situation, then they're more likely to feel that it can be changed, and may be instrumental in fixing things later, and that's s a win for the good guys. So hooray for the court jesters! Keep 'em laughing, Stewart and Colbert.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:01 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If there are concerns about whether these kinds of events just make a mockery of the process or set too light a tone, I think you need go no farther than his opening remarks.

If there are concerns about his commitment or sincerity, read some of his answers to Senators' questions. From the comments section of the WaPo blog:
At the end of Congressional testimony, Colbert was asked why, of all the issues he could talk about did he decide to get involved in this issue.

Colbert dropped out of character. "I like talking about people who don't have any power...I feel the need to speak for those who can't speak for themselves....We ask them to come and work, and then we ask them to leave again. They suffer, and have no rights."


He quoted Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
posted by Hardcore Poser at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


Did the Republican Congressmen know that Elmo was appearing in character?
posted by Joe Beese at 11:04 AM on September 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did the Republican Congressmen know that Elmo was appearing in character?

I wonder if Elmo will be asked in front of Congress again due to the scandalous Katy Perry outfit last week.
posted by birdherder at 11:22 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


As much as I like the idea of the Stewart/Colbert rallys, I also fear they diminish the power of legitimate protest.

Swift stirred quite a pot in his time. And a lot of people had no idea he was kidding about Irish parents serving up their children as food.

The best part is that this reveals the myopia and disconnectedness of the thought processes of the people involved. Someone who can’t detect humor and irony within their ideals typically won’t have the mental capacity devoted to any rational thinking about that/those subject(s).
Usually having given over all their thinking to the group or icons laying it down.
I remember some NRA folks saying Jesus wants you to have a gun. And I just laughed. Because, hey, they’ve got to be kidding right? Apparently not. No one else was laughing. I’m pro-firearm, sitting with a bunch of pro-gun guys thinking “what, am I the only guy who sees how stupid a statement that is?”

Now, ok, sometimes theatrics and hyperbole can be just goofy and people can genuinely be in earnest about some conflation of concepts that are externally just silly sounding.
But there’s an actual disconnect being revealed here between reality and the internal vision many people – far more than I’d have thought actually – are bound into.
And ‘bound’ is the proper term. They are beguiled. They’re not thinking. And Colbert to a great degree reveals this. He’s not simply making fun of them or the subject or being humorous.

What he’s doing is liberating if one allows oneself to see it.
Satire is a kind of psychic judo. If your ego is bloated and overbearing, you’re going to have your own power used against you and you’re going to get thrown.
If not. If you get it, then either you find it funny when the blowhards fail to see the joke or you find the satire academic because your reality picture is calibrated properly and to perform it seems obvious, tedious or unnecessary.

Which is fine concerning the humor, matter of taste. But as to the necessity? I think Colbert often reveals, in a startling manner, the depth of navel gazing going on in social and public affairs which can serve as a catalyst for serious protest because it heightens awareness.

The fact that anyone at all takes Beck or O’Reily seriously is startling.
I mean, some people say they’re entertainers. Ok. But I think the criticisms levied at gamers, RPGers, science fiction fans, etc – that they live in a fantasy world – is far more accurate when applied to those people.

They live in essentially a parallel universe where the things they want to be true are said by the talking heads and everyone else plays along.
That, alone, is f’ing hilarious. Colbert augments that to highlight it. Which is good because it always amazes me how indwelling people can be.
(I spoke to a guy at a buddy of mine's funeral, mentioned something I saw on the internet that was funny. (I'm one of those 'lighten the mood' type of guy. People do weird things to corpses. Dress them in suits they never wore in life. Put watches on their wrists. They were closing the casket and I said 'good thing that's a luminox.' Yeah, I'm that guy.) - anyway this guy said the internet was full of filth and he would never use it so he couldn't imagine what I would find funny. I mean - wha? Where to start with what's wrong there? Like what, I'm going to be talking about comical child porn? Or that's all there is on the web? Shocking to meet people that disconnected with reality.)

Apparently there are a lot of people who can’t deal with the shift between the sometimes necessary fictions (money, hierarchy, etc) or pleasurable ones we theater in our lives, and the things they want to be true and pay people to, what, GM them?

That’s really all Beck, et.al. is doing. Live action fantasy gaming: ‘You’re in a dark cave. You see an Orc. A MEXICAN Orc! He’s taking all your jobs! What do you do!!??’ 'I rally! RALLY!' *rolls dice* 'Natural 20! The GOP wins in a landslide and he's deported! Also you get a bag of holding.'

Same shit with that recent GOP pledge, etc. Just pretension to some identity they wish they had. ‘I’m a 10th level knight taking a pledge to love America.’

Colbert is just overselling it to show how unreal it actually is. Which reveals the illegitimacy of the pantomime.

I remember O'Reily telling him that Colbert wouldn't have a job without him. And Colbert is saying "yes, exactly." And O'Reily keeps repeating it as though it's a valid criticism and Colbert keeps saying (in essence) "Yes, my job is mocking you. Precisely." And O'Reily keeps missing the point.

Matter of taste as to whether it's frustrating or funny. But it certainly reveals the extent to which he, and many people, are lost in their concepts - not only of politics - but of what 'success' means, what is genuine, or real.

I don't know that other avenues of protest are more legitimate per se. But simply because Colbert is essentially subversive doesn't mean he's not engaging in a kind of resistance.

I'm not a big fan of his, I can enjoy it in small doses, but I do greatly respect his mimicry. He seems to drop it from time to time on his show and it lacks the punch something like this has. But hell, I couldn't do a show day in and day out like that and make every bit a scathing insightful piece of satire. He's got to maintain the day to day stuff to position himself to do the fun stuff like this.
Even Alexander Pope needed patrons.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:23 AM on September 24, 2010 [37 favorites]


I love me some Colbert, I'm not certain that throwing visas at this is addressing the problem.

I don't believe Visas are supposed to address the problem of Corporate corruption and globalisation, though. I agree with your overall point, I just don't think it's the point visas are supposed to address. I think Visas are supposed to address the point of what to do with these workers. I like the Visas idea more than the mass deportation one. certainly more than the border militia one.
posted by shmegegge at 11:38 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the question above was asked: Who asked Colbert to appear?

It was Zoe Lofgren.

Conyers tried to force him to submit his remarks for the record instead of actually speaking.
posted by blucevalo at 11:51 AM on September 24, 2010


Yeesh, gompa, that reads like a Heinlein line from the crazy years, which, I suppose, is apropos.
posted by LD Feral at 11:54 AM on September 24, 2010


They should do this kind of thing more often - make The Senate to face up to its own ludicrousness in the way it runs itself and the country.
posted by Bwithh at 12:04 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I suspect that salaries ought to even out at something comparable to working in a mine or a factory.

At some point in the future, should there be an actual labor shortage, then we might want to talk about an agricultural-laborer visa program. But there certainly isn't a shortage right now.


In my view this is backwards - farms can not operate as a perfectly capitalist system. America likes to prevent people from starving, so we take various measures to keep the cost of food low. Farmers don't pay competitive wages because they think that they can't afford it. Americans can't or won't work for those wages, so yes, there is a labor shortage that is and has been filled with migrant labor for a long time. If we magically erased all the migrant labor in the US, the millions of unemployed could not and would not step in to fill these positions. The farms would not magically be able to afford to pay a competitive wage - it's a fantasy.

I completely agree that the agricultural industry is using this as an excuse to exploit workers. If expanding the visa program for migrant workers solves this symptom, then I think it's a good idea - even if it doesn't solve the underlying disparity. We have to do what we can.
posted by muddgirl at 12:11 PM on September 24, 2010


I think Visas are supposed to address the point of what to do with these workers.

My point is that someone has to hand them out for a reason. Visas are no longer about dealing with abstract immigration policy, but have become another tool in the toolbox, a way for corporations to indirectly manage labor costs by having local, corporatist banana republics control the labor supply.

Handing out visas doesn't deal with the problem of why migrant workers are allowed into the United States in the first place, namely a long-term campaign to disassemble less profitable, organized labor as a check on corporate power.

Give undocumented workers visas, maybe, but also perhaps codify the legal right to peaceably assemble and organize without the threat of economic or physical violence from public and private authorities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 PM on September 24, 2010


Give undocumented workers visas, maybe, but also perhaps codify the legal right to peaceably assemble and organize without the threat of economic or physical violence from public and private authorities.

I.e., the right to form and join unions.

We will see this when pigs fly, of course. Most of the path to citizenship talk really is about placating corporate employers who recruit and squeeze every drop from cheap illegal laborers who have no legal recourse whatever.
posted by bearwife at 12:30 PM on September 24, 2010


Out here in the Bay Area, the anti-Iraq war protests were all co-opted by the "social justice" crowd

Is there some West Coast connotation to "social justice" that we're missing here? I mean, who's the "social justice" crowd?

"legitimate protest" has been solidly co-opted by whiners, and there hasn't really been one since sometime around the end of the Vietnam war

posted by jtron at 12:31 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Give undocumented workers visas, maybe, but also perhaps codify the legal right to peaceably assemble and organize without the threat of economic or physical violence from public and private authorities.

Colbert was testifying on behalf of a labor union, for a subcommittee specifically designated not for labor issues, but for immigration issues.
posted by muddgirl at 12:32 PM on September 24, 2010


Kadin2048 -- those are all excellent points.

I'd be all for increasing wages for farm labour, to reflect the true difficulty of the work. Heck, I'd like to see it hit minimum wage (it's often paid as piece work - and children may be employed as well, at least here in Canada).

But there will be fall-out from that -- right now, you could say that most people in the first world are richer than we ever have been in history. Or you could just turn the relative relationship between wages and expenditures around and point out that we aren't rich -- food is just cheaper (for us) than it ever has been in history. Some of this is due to improved strains of crops, some due to mechanisation. But it's also because we don't pay those humans who work in the lower end of our food production a living wage, especially in fruit and vegetable picking. We never have, that's why it's traditionally something which has been done by travellers, Roma and other lower status groups. If we increase the wages for farm workers (as we should), we will have to deal with the fall out right down the food chain (unfortunate pun not intended).

In the meantime - and more immediately - we can at least get those people who are currently working as farm labour legal status, minimum wage and minimum condition guarentees. With legal status, they may be able to unionise and collectively bargain for better conditions - as people who work in mines and other dangerous professions have done.

Of course, that also means doing something about the horrific barriers to unionisation in some states.

(these problems just seem to go on to raise up another one...)
posted by jb at 12:33 PM on September 24, 2010


cottoncandybeard wrote: "Also of interest is this footage of Jon Stewart on The O'Reilly Factor discussing, among other things, the upcoming rally (apologies that the website is a pain to load.)"

I think that may have been the least offensive footage of Bill O'Reilly I have ever seen.
posted by wierdo at 12:38 PM on September 24, 2010


I think that may have been the least offensive footage of Bill O'Reilly I have ever seen.

Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity (and the brain-trust at Fox & Friends) have raised the bar so very high for insanity at Fox News that Bill O'Reilly has recently become the measured voice of reason at the network. It's really quite a phenomenon.
posted by wabbittwax at 12:52 PM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm not a Colbert watcher. (We don't have cable).

So I'm just wondering...why would there be a need for him to go in front of Congress in character no less? Aren't there more educated people on the particular topic?

I guess I just don't get it.
posted by morganannie at 12:54 PM on September 24, 2010


Publicity. That's how the game is played. There are hearings every day on all sorts of topics, and different interest groups (not a dirty thing...everyone has an interest group) get celebs to testify and get on the news.

There were educated people there to do the "heavy lifting".
posted by JoanArkham at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2010


He quoted Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Now that's good Bible quotation.
posted by JHarris at 1:11 PM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think getting Ollie North to say 'On advice of council I'm refusing to answer that question pursuant to my rights under the Fifth Amendment' over and over again was a demonstration of something worthwhile

Depends on what you mean by worthwhile. He became a hero to conservatives, has a show on Fox News, and is a New York Times best-selling author.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:17 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kadin2048 said: "The idea that 'Americans won't do these jobs' is bullshit. Lots of people do all sorts of unpleasant, physically strenuous, and frankly dangerous jobs all the time. Legal American workers work in coal mines. At dumps. In steel mills. On oil rigs. Etc. But they do so because those jobs pay a premium. Farm work is pretty damn unpleasant; it too should be well-compensated."

Well, the problem is that agriculture in the U.S. is already heavily subsidized (or price controlled) since it can't compete with the world markets in terms of prices. Well-compensating the farmers would mean the cost structure would significantly increase. That would result in a greater disparity with the rest of the world, which can only be controlled through bigger subsidies and more import controls (assuming you want to keep the farmers in business and not get all your food from foreign sources). So, government deficit would increase (because of subsidies), consumers would be worse off (as price controls would mean more expensive produce), and U.S. trade policy would suffer (since the U.S. is already under a lot of pressure due to its agricultural policy).
posted by tuxster at 1:19 PM on September 24, 2010


just gonna drop in this transcript from the "Late Night Senate Subcommittee" sketch from Mr. Show featuring... Jon Stewart!

------
David: That is a clip from "Hell in a Handbasket," uh, opening on, uh, [looks at notes] December 15th all across this great country. Is uh, is that correct, Mr. Stewart?

Jon: Uh yes. Uh, I felt it was time again for a Vietnam message. And, uh, I always wanted to work with Todd Sperles ever since I saw him in "Tap Daddy," uh on Broadway.

[Talk show band type music begins, during the "promo" the camera shots are fast zooms, crooked, etc.]

Voice-Over: Tonight, on Night Talk with the Senate Subcommittee...it's actor / writer, Jon Stewart! [Shot of Jon, looks ill at ease] A surprise visit from hot, college comic...Blueberry Head!

[Music stops for a clip]

Bob: Now, uh, Mr. Blueberry Head, uh, I'm lead to believe that you have a uh, prop, that you wanna show us?

David2: [maniacal] Heh ha ha ha ha ha! [holds up a toilet seat that has a passenger side car mirror attached.] This is for when y'all wanna pass gas!! Ha ha ha ha!

Bob: Uh-huh. Thank you.

[Music/wild camera shots start up again.]

Voice-Over: ...And Senator Howel Tankerbell gives it to the band.

Bob: Michael. Michael, are you havin' a good day?

Jay: Oh boy, here it comes. Uh, yes sir, Senator.

Bob: Well, Michael, it occurs to me that uh, your jacket leads me to believe that uh, somewhere in this great country of ours there's an El Camino with it's seat cover missing.

[Laugh track.]

Voice-Over: And another visit from the Senate Sub-Babies.

[Cut to all the senators dress with a baby bonnet and bib, holding giant baby bottles, and going "wa!"]

Voice-Over: Catch the hijinks on Night Talk!
posted by symbioid at 1:28 PM on September 24, 2010


I'm not a Colbert watcher. (We don't have cable).

Full episodes are available on Colbert Nation typically one day after the show airs.
posted by odinsdream at 1:56 PM on September 24, 2010


Rep. Steve King on Stephen Colbert, appearing on Fox News: "An insult to the American people."
posted by ericb at 2:04 PM on September 24, 2010


If we magically erased all the migrant labor in the US, the millions of unemployed could not and would not step in to fill these positions. The farms would not magically be able to afford to pay a competitive wage - it's a fantasy.

I don't know if these things are possible or not, but I'm tired of the word "magically" being used as a substitute for an actual argument that something's impossible.
posted by John Cohen at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


*Rep. Steve King, appearing on Fox News, talks about Stephen Colbert:*
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on September 24, 2010


There were educated people there to do the "heavy lifting".

Exactly. Colbert's testimony was a little over 5 minutes of a 2 hour and 10 minute hearing.

Video of the entire hearing.
posted by ericb at 2:19 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The role of a good satirist, from the time of Jonathan Swift until now, is to make people see uncomfortable truths as he makes them squirm. On that score, Colbert succeeded.

... Colbert, by the way, pulled a fast one. The written testimony [PDF] he submitted to the committee was a severely boiled down version of what he actually read. It lacked the edge and all of the jokes of what he delivered when it was his turn to speak to the committee.

In the persona of his right-wing talk show host, he skewered the powerful on both sides of the partisan aisle, weaving in tough truths amid the jokes.

He also comforted the afflicted, the hard-working if undocumented agricultural workers, some of whom he spent time with when he took part in a United Farm Workers program that allows Americans to be a farm worker for a day."*
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Rep. Steve King on Stephen Colbert, appearing on Fox News : "An insult to the American people."

His continued unexplained occupation of an office in the Longworth House Office Building is an insult to the American people.
posted by blucevalo at 2:32 PM on September 24, 2010


muddgirl said "I wasn't there, but from what I learned in history class there were a lot of what you call whiners at those protests, too."

Yeah, I'm pretty sure you're right. And my thinking that those protests had value could very well be me putting a rosy view on "the good old days", but it's also colored by my Dad, who paid for his college with ROTC in that era and re-upped despite the probability of ending up in Vietnam (he didn't, amazingly) saying that if he had it to do again he'd be marching in the streets, not the army.

On the whole issue of who will and won't do farm work jobs, I'm about to get in the car (yes, I know, I really should bike it) and drive out to the farm to get my weekly box of meat & veggies. They pay a reasonable wage. I know, 'cause I can talk to the folks working the farm and go pet the future bacons. How much more are y'all willing to pay for your food? And do you know your farmer and farm labor? We may not be able to change the whole U.S. food economy overnight, but we can start one diet at a time.
posted by straw at 2:57 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I realize that as a non-american I have a view on this that isn't quite, well, understood by most americans, I can only point to this quote from upstream:

So, no, Stewart and Colbert don't diminish the power of legitimate protest, they reflect the fact that protest, and political testimony, has become a mockery of anything that once made those parts of the process worthy of respect. The sooner we stop giving those any additional power, the sooner we can start to replace them with something that may be worth respecting.

Earlier today I read about congress not doing anything on the tax cuts to the top x percent untill after the elections, knowing full well how the majority of the voters thinks about that issue, and I was in a a full "what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-that-government" mode until I saw Colbert do this.

Now I know.

Thanks, Stephen.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:03 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know who else testified before congress in character?
Mr. Rogers.
posted by klarck at 3:32 PM on September 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


You know who else testified before congress in character?
Mr. Rogers.


Well, not quite, but seriously awesome.
posted by mazola at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


gompa: "Do stunts like this help engage people in issues or does it enable a 'it's all just laughs' mentality? And does it matter...

He also spoke during that session, out of character, as to why he cared about this issue:

" I like talking about people who don't have any power. And it seems like one [sic] of the least powerful people in the U.S. are migrant workers who come and do our work but don't have any rights as a result, and yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that's an interesting contradiction to me. "Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers" ... and these seem like the least of our brothers right now. A lot of people are "least brothers" right now because the economy's so hard, and I don't want to take anyone's hardship away from them or diminish or anything like that, but migrant workers suffer and have no rights."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptZO9Kk1cW
posted by ShawnStruck at 4:03 PM on September 24, 2010


He quoted Matthew 25:40: "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Now that's good Bible quotation.
posted by JHarris at 3:11 PM on September 24


Also Leviticus 19:34: The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

People like Rep. Steve King like Leviticus so much, let them choke on it.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:31 PM on September 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Colbert and Stewart are geniuses. What better way is there illustrate and shed light on the farcical nature of USian politics than to have the smartest effing class clown ever to shove their own farce in their faces? I saw a lot of anger and "how dare you make a mockery of this!?" looks in those chambers today, in the vids.

Guess what House Members, YOU made the mockery, Colbert is just rubbing your nose in it.
posted by snsranch at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


I bet this is because Comedy Central and Congress both have the same parent company -- both of their stars had to compete with all of the rest of the new shows/opponents coming out in the Fall, and both have appearances to promote, too... so they needed to boost their ratings a bit.
posted by not_on_display at 5:12 PM on September 24, 2010


Most MSM totally missed the point about Colbert. Here's the video portion you need to watch: Stephen Colbert: Migrant Workers Suffer and Have No Rights.

My transcript:
I ... I like talking about people who don't have any power ... and this seems to be one of the least powerful people in the United States ... are migrant workers who come and do our work ... but don't have any rights ... as a result ... and yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave ... and that's an interesting contradiction ... to me ... umm ... you know... what's whatever you do for the least of my brothers and they seem to be the least of our brothers right now.

Right now a lot of people are least brothers riight now because the economy is so hard and I don't want to take anyone's hardship away from them or diminish anything like that but ... migrant workers ... suffer... and have no rights.
And my take on the whole thing.
posted by liza at 5:34 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"An insult to the American people."

Representative Steve King and the rest of Congress are an insult not just to the American people, but to human decency and dignity.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:55 PM on September 24, 2010


Somebody on YouTube wrote that 12 minutes of testimony cost $125,000 of taxpayer monies? Jesus, sure. Anyone know where that figure's coming from? And does it compare to having billions spent to develop a border security telecomm system that's had all manner of problems in getting off the ground, and probably won't ever work?
posted by raysmj at 6:01 PM on September 24, 2010




I have two disjointed points:

I think there's a strong possibility that a great many young people today might similarly become more engaged in politics through the satirical lens of Stewart and Colbert.

This is me (but I'm not that young. I'm 27). I didn't care about politics when I was in high school -- I knew vaguely that the president was being impeached for some embarrassing sexual event, but that was it. Then I started watching this funny show on TV that also brought up current event newsy stuff. And I listened. It was interesting, it was informative, and it made me agitated about the way the world was going.

So when the next election came up, I thought I'd pay attention -- real attention. I figured, given how important this was, I'd give up on the fake, silly comedy news show and turn to the real news for real information and real commentary. So, for the 2000 Democratic National Convention, I sat and turned on the actual news.

...I lasted about twenty minutes before I started to feel my brain ooze out of my ears. It was horrifying and sad, and I've never really been able to go back. Now, I still get my news from Stewart and Colbert, although I turn to blogs and Google for (considerably) more information.

I think it's ridiculous that this is the state of the news, by the way. I think it's completely insane that Comedy Central is host to such important political commentary. I mean, last night, Stewart had the king of Jordan on his show, and he's recently had Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and with each of these people, he's had real, reasoned conversations. On a show whose stated goal is to make penis jokes! It's a scary world we live in, and the relevance of The Daily Show is a symptom of it... But I think Stewart and Colbert would both be the first to admit this.

My second point:

I was a little confused by Colbert being in character throughout this, too -- it seems serious enough an issue to avoid the silly facade. But then I saw the clip where he's being earnest about why he went to Congress, and I noticed something: he was smiling throughout it. It was sincere, and it was an important point he was making, but his delivery wasn't that great. He's a comedian first, and that's where his talent lies. It makes me wonder if the facade is so comfortable for Colbert now, and he's so used to using it to make political commentary, that it was easier for him to say what he wanted to say through it than for him to be earnest.
posted by meese at 6:19 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


This isn't about people who suffer, who have no rights. This is about whether or not a Comedian should speak with the Senate.
posted by nervousfritz at 6:43 PM on September 24, 2010


To be fair, Carter almost made a joke about masturbation (in the context of saying he could be aligned with tea party people on some things--to wit, that he'd run as an outsider, had never been into witchcraft, but OTOH as a boy had been into ... ) before Stewart caught him. Seriously.
posted by raysmj at 6:45 PM on September 24, 2010


This is about whether or not a Comedian should speak with the Senate.

Why not? He is a citizen. Citizens may testify at a committee hearing - it's actually pretty common. (Non-citizens, too, for that matter.)

If he, a comedian citizen, has something to say, and is invited to say it, what is the problem with that?

Or did you just not bother to click the links or read any of the comments in the thread?
posted by rtha at 6:47 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Comedians who happen to be citizens are citizens too, last I checked. Or something like that. My head is swimming now.
posted by raysmj at 6:48 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somebody on YouTube wrote that 12 minutes of testimony cost $125,000 of taxpayer monies?

Well, based on the FoxNews clip linked immediately under your comment, it appears that the $125,000 was for the entire 2-hour hearing.

Now, that's based on taking the entire amount of money BUDGETED for hearings during this session of Congress and dividing it by the number of hearings held.

Whether or not they actually SPEND all the money budgeted for hearings every session is something that I'm not sure about. And exactly what the cost of this particular hearing was, remains to actually be determined or announced. And regardless of what the cost of the total hearing may have been, Colbert was in front of the mike for 12 minutes out of 120.

So even if the $125,000 figure is correct for this particular hearing, that would be $12500 dollars for Colbert's testimony. What would that pay for? Congressional salaries, handout production, electricity... Colbert himself already pointed out on his show that he was paying his own food and lodging costs to be there, so where else could that amount of money go?

Something tells me it doesn't cost $125,000 to have a 2-hour hearing for Congress, but I could be wrong.
posted by hippybear at 7:04 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Regarding "making a joke of legitimate protest", hasn't this been done before? Colbert reminds me somewhat of Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies, and I wonder if he isn't their spiritual successor. Granted, I was born well after Hoffman and the Chicago Seven and all of that, but that style of mocking the conservative establishment seems to mirror Colbert's.
posted by formless at 7:13 PM on September 24, 2010


This is about whether or not a Comedian should speak with the Senate.

Why not? He is a citizen. Citizens may testify at a committee hearing - it's actually pretty common.


Nancy Pelosi:
"Of course I think it's appropriate," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol about the appearance, in video posted by ABC News. "He's an American, right? He comes before the committee, has a point of view, he can bring attention to an important issue like immigration."

"I think it's great," she added.
posted by ericb at 7:27 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that may have been the least offensive footage of Bill O'Reilly I have ever seen.

"Mornin' Sam." "Mornin' Ralph."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:45 PM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Somebody on YouTube wrote that 12 minutes of testimony cost $125,000 of taxpayer monies?

As per above:
"Stephen Colbert responds to the 'waste our taxpayer dollars' accusation about his testimony.

Basically, he's paying for his own meals and lodging to be there, but congress is going to have to pay for his water, and the 5 minutes of electricity required to power his microphone during his testimony."
It all seems very much in keeping with the tradition of Boston's Faneuil Hall (aka "the Cradle of Liberty") where since 1742 any citizen has been afforded the opportunity to hold a meeting, gathering, debate or any other event. And today one can do so, as long as you reimburse the National Park Service for energy costs.
posted by ericb at 7:47 PM on September 24, 2010


How many staff attorney hours on the Hill were spent preparing for his testimony? I realize Hill attorneys are paid very poorly. But still.
posted by The World Famous at 7:57 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]




How many staff attorney hours on the Hill were spent preparing for his testimony?

My guess. Zero. He's a fucking comedian!
posted by ericb at 7:59 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]






My guess. Zero. He's a fucking comedian!

I have been part of a team of staff attorneys on the Hill preparing for far more ridiculous witnesses than Stephen Colbert. Congressional staffs prepare for hearings. It doesn't matter that he's a comedian.
posted by The World Famous at 8:01 PM on September 24, 2010


Good for you.

Who the fuck cares how much time/money staff attorneys prepare for a hearing?* Colbert's testimony was a tiny fraction of the overall hearing.

* -- P.S. What impact does their preparation mean in the grand scheme of things?
posted by ericb at 8:09 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good for you.

Thanks! Why the hostility?

Who the fuck cares how much time/money staff attorneys prepare for a hearing?

It was a response to your assertion that it cost basically nothing to have him testify. I'd rather have taxpayer-supported attorneys and staff members working on legislation than preparing questions and talking points for members of Congress to ask Stephen Colbert. That's just me, though.

Colbert's testimony was a tiny fraction of the overall hearing.

It's the part that got on TV. You can be sure the members knew that going in and expended resources preparing for their possible time on camera.

What impact does their preparation mean in the grand scheme of things?

They're the ones who tell the members what to ask the witnesses. In the days before TV coverage of hearings, the lawyers were the ones asking the questions - not the members. In the grand scheme of things, congressional staff is what makes Congress work (or not work).
posted by The World Famous at 8:16 PM on September 24, 2010


Maybe you can be sure that they knew, but you must have special powers that the rest of us don't.
posted by raysmj at 8:30 PM on September 24, 2010


I'm a taxpayer and I support them spending an imaginary $125,000 on Colbert.

Anyone claiming they care about $125,000 or the more accurate possible $12,500 is crying crocodile tears. The Afghan costs us around one million dollars per soldier per year.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:31 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe you can be sure that they knew, but you must have special powers that the rest of us don't.

Really? You don't think the members of the committee knew that the part of the hearing with Stephen Colbert would be more highly publicized than the rest of the hearing?

Anyone claiming they care about $125,000 or the more accurate possible $12,500 is crying crocodile tears.

It's really the time more than the money (but yeah, I care about wasted government money, whether it's wasted on killing people or wasted on getting screen time for preening politicians). I prefer a government that governs rather than a government that pulls publicity stunts when they ought to be governing.
posted by The World Famous at 8:37 PM on September 24, 2010


Really? You don't think the members of the committee knew that the part of the hearing with Stephen Colbert would be more highly publicized than the rest of the hearing?

No comment. I'll just let you keep pulling the rope around your neck.
posted by raysmj at 8:47 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


No comment. I'll just let you keep pulling the rope around your neck.

What does that even mean?
posted by The World Famous at 8:51 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who the fuck cares how much time/money staff attorneys prepare for a hearing?

Some of the people who are paying for it.
posted by John Cohen at 8:52 PM on September 24, 2010


I don't get all the hostility in this thread for any expression that this might not have been the greatest political thing ever.

Colbert's an entertainer first-and-foremost and mainstream media is covering that angle. Lots of analysis of how funny he was.

On the other hand, it opens up a front for a lot of outrage that this is a farce and waste of time/money blah, blah, blah.

The ironic thing is I found his out-of-character sincere statements the most powerful. If he had just come in and shown support without the act, I'm quite sure the cameras would have still been on him and they couldn't cherry-pick the sound bites that undermine the message.

And yes, I think Colbert's a great satirist and his intentions were good in doing this. I still question if, overall, this approach is smart. It mocks the political circus and perpetuates it.
posted by mazola at 8:57 PM on September 24, 2010


Let's go with the $125,000 figure. As a tax payer in the U.S. my (after some really shady maths) .0002$ of tax money paid to have Stephen Colbert, an expert in his field, testify...

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that Colbert is definitely a "value added" kind of guy. What he provided was worth much more that whatever it cost that is spent every day on politicos who are do nothing but wasting time and money anyway. Go ahead, tax me for some more Colbert appearances. His appearances will do more than my voter appointed assholes will.
posted by snsranch at 9:07 PM on September 24, 2010


I don't have a problem with levity in workplace, they've been hard at work fucking the country up and could use a break.
posted by sfts2 at 9:25 PM on September 24, 2010


Let me google that for you.
posted by raysmj at 10:10 PM on September 24, 2010


No, I understand the expression. What do you mean?
posted by The World Famous at 10:12 PM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've said all I'm going to say. Please move on.
posted by raysmj at 10:14 PM on September 24, 2010


Really? You don't think the members of the committee knew that the part of the hearing with Stephen Colbert would be more highly publicized than the rest of the hearing?
--World Famous
No comment. I'll just let you keep pulling the rope around your neck.
--raysmj

World Famous has it right raysmi. Lofgren (the mastermind behind it) even made the point at the hearing that these hearings usually get no publicity at all, even though they really need it, but that this one was getting more than the Clinton hearings. She sounded very pleased about it.

If it gets Americans to pay attention to the process, then how can that be a bad thing? I say good job to the people behind this enjoyable and helpful publicity stunt.
posted by eye of newt at 10:17 PM on September 24, 2010


Blah blah blah. You really think members of Congress or their staff spent all day thinking up questions for the Big Star and preparing for it, go right ahead. It sure did show. They really did their research. This thread's over for me.
posted by raysmj at 10:20 PM on September 24, 2010


I think the person who called Colbert knew what was going on, was pleased. It was more than obvious that people like Steve King were clueless. I shouldn't have to make this point, but sheesh ...
posted by raysmj at 10:22 PM on September 24, 2010


I've never been to a House committee meeting, but I'd be surprised if there wasn't an agenda distributed to all committee members before the actual hearing. Also, anyone who is actually IN politics and isn't somehow aware of Stephen Colbert and his schtick, or who gets a committee agenda and doesn't do minimal research on those testifying (or at least have an aide provide Cliff's Notes on those people) is probably not actually doing their job properly.

I can understand how some may not "get" Colbert's persona. Certainly, there have even been studies which show that conservatives think that Colbert is silly but are clueless about the joke. But I seriously doubt that anyone on that committee 1) didn't know that Colbert was appearing and 2) is unaware of what he does. More likely, they're still pissed at him for his appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner lambasting the Bush administration right to its face.
posted by hippybear at 12:03 PM on September 25, 2010


I have been part of a team of staff attorneys on the Hill preparing for far more ridiculous witnesses than Stephen Colbert.

It seems odd for you, then, to call out this specific example as a waste of taxpayer money, rather than calling out those other examples. At least this one points out the ridiculous positions held by many of those in power.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:26 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems odd for you, then, to call out this specific example as a waste of taxpayer money, rather than calling out those other examples.

What makes you think I haven't called out those other examples? As I said above, nearly every single congressional hearing is a waste of time and money. I prefer a government that governs. Hearings are ostensibly fact-gathering operations to assist in the legislative process. But they are never used that way. Instead, politicians get their "fact gathering" from lobbyists and use hearings as publicity stunts. I've called out every hearing, including the ones I have been involved with.
posted by The World Famous at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2010


All I can say is, if the court jester is the only person who speaks the truth, then you're worse shape than you think you are. I haven't been following US politics lately, but from my limited (Mefi-Daily-Dish-NYT-Twitter) vantage point, Colbert seems to be the first celebrity to make a case for migrant workers than against.
posted by the cydonian at 8:54 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


All I can say is, if the court jester is the only person who speaks the truth, then you're worse shape than you think you are.

That, in a nutshell, describes the current state of our democracy.
Frightening.
posted by caddis at 5:13 AM on September 26, 2010


and very Shakespearean.
posted by Think_Long at 11:03 AM on September 26, 2010


and very Shakespearean.

Yup; was indeed thinking of As You Like It: "The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - Touchstone
posted by the cydonian at 3:19 AM on September 27, 2010


I am pro-Colbert in Congress, but I can't help thinking about Phil Dick's "news clowns."

Anything that keeps people watching TV instead of doing almost anything else is a victory for the status quo.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:44 AM on September 27, 2010




I remember some NRA folks saying Jesus wants you to have a gun. And I just laughed. Because, hey, they’ve got to be kidding right? Apparently not.

Luke 22:36

And he said unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:47 PM on October 13, 2010


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