Stephen Colbert, who pretends to be a conservative pundit on his Comedy Central program The Colbert Report, has now been compared to minstrel show performers who wore “blackface,” by an actual conservative pundit.
The article by 30-year-old columnist, author and blogger Ben Shapiro is part of what has been generalized conservative outrage over the selection of Colbert to replace David Letterman on the CBS 11:30 pm talk show slot. The onslaught of anger from the U.S. media’s right wing was highlighted by radio host Rush Limbaugh calling the CBS Stephen Colbert pick the network’s declaration of “war on the American heartland.”
Stephen Colbert is a political satirist who uses the tools of his trade to lampoon such popular conservative on-air personalities as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and to an extent, Limbaugh. His “Stephen Colbert” character on The Colbert Report is a composite parody of many such conservative anchors and talk show hosts.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “satire,” as “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.” That definition would appear fitting for what Stephen Colbert does on his Comedy Central program.
But Ben Shapiro has a different view of Stephen Colbert. In his opinion, the satirical “Stephen Colbert” of The Colbert Report is “not mere mockery or satire or spoof. It’s something far nastier.”
Shapiro headlined the piece on his own TruthRevolt site, “Stephen Colbert’s Vile Political Blackface.” In the piece, Shapiro argues that, just as blackface “was used to portray demeaning and horrifying stereotypes of blacks,” Colbert’s sharp-edged satire of O’Reilly, Hannity and similar conservative personalities has but one purpose.
“His show is about pure hatred for conservatives in the same way that blackface was about pure hatred of blacks,” wrote Shapiro, who goes on to say that the comedic version of a conservative pundit portrayed by Stephen Colbert “is based on creation of a character who doesn’t exist, but the audience is supposed to believe does exist in type.”
And yet, the characters satirized by Colbert clearly do exist. “His audience laughs and scoffs at brutal religious ‘Colbert’ who wishes to persecute gays,” wrote Shapiro. But when NBA player Jason Collins became the first U.S. pro athlete in the four major sports to come out as gay, Shapiro himself wrote that the only reason to approve of Collins is if “you hate America.”
Shapiro also condemns Stephen Colbert for portraying an “evil sexist who thinks men are victims of sexism.”
The belief that men are indeed victims of sexism is a commonly held view in the contemporary conservative movement, with one prominent conservative member of The Wall Street Journal editorial page even going so far as to say that female rape victims are guilty of sexual assault against their own rapists. A conservative politician in New Hampshire once described rape as men’s “pursuit of sexual freedom.”
Indeed, it is also a common trope in conservative circles to characterize people who object to racism and sexism as practicing “political correctness.”
What’s your opinion? Does Stephen Colbert’s parody of conservative anchors such as those appearing on Fox News fit the definition of satire? Or do you, too, see it as “vile political blackface,” as Shapiro does?