[lit-ideas] Re: Taliban! The Musical

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 22 Oct 2006 12:36:57 -0700

Andreas wrote:

Here's a great example: Stephen Colbert was invited by a flunky to
speak at the White House Press Corps dinner earlier this year.


One of the best lines: "Now, I know there are some polls out there
saying this man has a 32 percent approval rating. But guys like us,
we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a
collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in
'reality'. And reality has a well-known liberal bias."

The reaction? Zero. The three network news covered the dinner, but
did not mention Colbert once. The print press ignored it. "It wasn't

Until the video popped up on the web. Colbert's audience shot up 40%
in one week. The video became the #1 download on iTunes. It was
viewed some 3 million times in two days. Millions of people passed it
around via email. C-SPAN forced YouTube to remove the video, but that
hardly stopped it being passed around.

The press simply couldn't see what was in front of them because they
only see the Washington version of reality.

We all knew what was going to happen in Iraq. We know what is
happening there. And we know what will happen. But the White House,
the NYT, the Washington Post, and all the people who admire them have
been ideologically blinded.

This is one of the most curious remarks I've ever read. It implies that after the press initially gave the Bushies a pass on the run-up to the invasion it has been 'ideologically blinded' ever since, to the extent that the NY Times, the LA Times, and the Washington Post are even now supporting Bush and the 'war.' I don't think you regularly read any of these papers. (I know Irene doesn't, but she has some way of intuiting what they say and don't say.)

That Colbert's remarks were ignored by the 'mainstream media' isn't evidence
that that the papers in question are ideologically blind. It's evidence that
they were just caught flat footed. Small journalistic blunder. The Colbert
story is not the world.

Old story from the Times:

May 22, 2006

That After-Dinner Speech Remains a Favorite Dish

The after-dinner speech that refuses to go away has scored another
top of the charts.

An audio version of the roast of President Bush by Stephen Colbert of Comedy
Central rose to the rank of No. 1 album at Apple's iTunes store on Saturday,
three weeks to the night of the White House Correspondents Dinner. Also in the
Top 10 were new releases by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Paul

The audio version of Mr. Colbert's speech was delivered to iTunes through
Audible.com, a company that provides audio content for downloading, including
books, radio shows and shorter performances, and costs $1.95 to download.
Neither C-Span nor Audible was able to say how many downloads there had been.
Mr. Colbert was traveling and could not be reached.

By many accounts, Mr. Colbert's performance landed with a thud among his
influential audience of journalists and politicians, who were more overtly
enthusiastic about a comedy routine involving Mr. Bush and a professional
George W. Bush impersonator. But the broadcast of the speech is enjoying a
lucrative afterlife online, an unusual development for its owner, the
cable network C-Span.

Earlier this month, C-Span ordered more than 40 versions of the speech removed
from the popular video sharing sites youtube.com and ifilm. C-Span said it
ordered the clips removed to assert its copyright on recordings of the
performance, and shortly thereafter allowed Google Video to stream it free. In
the two weeks since, it has been at or near the top of Google's most popular
videos. Over the weekend, it was still No. 4 there.

C-Span says it owns anything it films with its own cameras -- that is,
everything that appears on its three channels except for what is said on the
floor of the House and Senate, where government cameras are used.

The network was invited to cover the correspondents dinner, said Rob Kennedy,
executive vice president of C-Span, with the understanding that there would be
no restrictions on what it could film.

Now that another iteration of the performance, the Audible recording at
$1.95 a
download, is spreading among the public, C-Span, which was founded in 1979 and
gets 95 percent of its financing from the cable industry, says it is
uncomfortable with the impression it is a commercially minded content

Under its agreement with Audible, Mr. Kennedy said, C-Span receives a nominal
monthly fee and Audible can choose what material to make available at its site
and via iTunes.

The network says copies of a DVD of the event, priced at $24.95, have
sold only
in the ''very low thousands.'' Providing DVD's ''is something we have been
doing all along,'' Mr. Kennedy said. ''It is just a small piece for us, and I
would not characterize it as a financial windfall.''

The attention has had a value, Mr. Kennedy conceded. ''We're a network that
tries to provide a public service, and we enjoy it when people find our

Audible says much of its other material has reached the top of the iTunes
charts, including an audio version of the short story that was the basis of
''Brokeback Mountain.'' Likewise, free C-Span downloads, including testimony
before the 9/11 Commission, have been immensely popular; but the Colbert
routine is the first material from C-Span to reach the pay-to-download charts.

Donald R. Katz, the chief executive of Audible, said it was not such a
because Mr. Colbert's speech was in essence ''a comedy routine,'' and in this
case, ''you had to not be there to get it -- the people in the room were not
willing to join in the merriment.''

Mr. Colbert's speech has also become a cause célèbre among many commentators,
writing online and off, who charged that the mainstream press ignored his
performance because it was so mocking of the president and of the Washington

Last week, the public editor of The New York Times, Byron Calame,
writing on his
Web journal about the paper's lack of initial reporting on Mr.
Colbert's speech,
printed a statement from Richard Stevenson, a deputy bureau chief for
The Times
in Washington.

Mr. Calame said he agreed with Mr. Stevenson that there should have been ''a
separate story that anticipated the reaction the routine generated and
explained its political significance, rather than waiting to capture it after
the fact.''
Robert Paul
Reed College

------------------------------------------------------------------ To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off, digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: