If you thought that, ten years after the debut of Stephen Colbert's satirical conservative character "Stephen Colbert" on his satirical television show The Colbert Report, conservatives would both understand the joke and be over it, you would be wrong. Today, ex-Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro accuses Colbert of "political blackface."
Shapiro, who now works for something called "Truth Revolt," writes:
This routine, in which Colbert plays at conservatism in order to portray it as unendingly ugly, should be labeled for what it is: vile political blackface. When Colbert plays "Colbert," it's not mere mockery or satire or spoof. It's something far nastier.
Conservatives, it goes without saying, are not an oppressed, powerless group of people being culturally and monetarily exploited, completely without the freedom or ability to set the terms of their own representation. Indeed, they are free to portray themselves how they see fit in the many media outlets that they own: on television and the radio, in newspapers and magazines, and all over the internet. Those places—where conservatives proudly stand up and say the things they believe—are the direct sources of Stephen Colbert's character, who hosts a show that airs twice nightly for 30 minutes on a cable network.
This is basic knowledge, as is the understanding that the point of Colbert Report is to push the absurdity of modern conservatism to its logical conclusions. But it has only just recently just dawned on Shapiro:
It is nearly impossible to watch an episode of The Colbert Report without coming away with a viscerally negative response to conservatives.
Yes... Yes. It is nearly impossible, yes.
Of course, what Shapiro is unable to connect is that the Colbert character works because it is a reasonable amalgamation of visible conservative commentators and the positions they hold.
Unlike Stewart, whose mockery is no different in kind from Greg Gutfeld's on the other side, Colbert's shtick is of a different sort: it's based on creation of a character who doesn't exist, but the audience is supposed to believe does exist in type.
The audience is supposed to believe that the Colbert character "exist[s] in type," because the character is based explicitly on right-wing media superstars like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
"When they do encounter conservatism," Shapiro writes of Colbert's audience, "they're firmly convinced they're looking at 'Colbert-ism' in disguise." Or maybe they can see that there's not much difference. This is the rotten truth of the contemporary conservative movement. Its adherents—people like Ben Shapiro—are completely unable to see themselves as the rest of the country does: as jokes. If this seems like a major issue that could infect the Republican party all the way up to the national level, it is: just ask Mitt Romney.
[image via Getty]