Amused to death
The Internet was abuzz with talk of Stephen Colbert's withering performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. From what I heard and read, it sounded like funny stuff. The president, however, was not amused, and some who attended wondered if Colbert didn't violate some kind of unwritten rule of decorum.
To me, there's something very insidious at the heart of these dinners, which is the idea that it's all a game, all for show, and that at the end of the day everyone is just playing a part and they are all in on the same joke. That was all well and good during the 1990s, when the country was at peace and the economy was great and the biggest scandal was that the president couldn't keep his pants on. (Even then, of course, someone was capable of going too far. See Imus, Don.) But now that thousands of people are dying in an unnecessary war, the government is saddling our grandchildren with debt, and our civil liberties and the rule of law are eroding faster than the North Carolina coast, I'm finding it harder and harder to laugh.
Apparently, no one told Stephen Colbert what the rules are. No one wants to be reminded that there are real issues at stake. That the people in the audience aren't supposed to be cozy with the people on stage. That it's not a game. That it's no joke.
No, that's not what they want to hear. They just want some good-natured ribbing, Jay Leno-style, so that they can get back to their cocktails and to schmoozing with George Clooney and Ben Roethlisberger. After all, tomorrow's another day, and the show must go on.