No, What Colbert Does Isn't "Political Blackface"

It won't surprise anyone to learn that Ben Shapiro is behind the most ludicrous -- and ludicrously pseudo-intellectual -- of the freaked-out responses from the right to Stephen Colbert's ascendance to the stage of CBS's Late Show.
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It won't surprise anyone to learn that Ben Shapiro is behind the most ludicrous -- and ludicrously pseudo-intellectual -- of the freaked-out responses from the right to Stephen Colbert's ascendance to the stage of CBS's Late Show.
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Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro is what one would commonly call "a douche." There's really just no better way to put it. He's the guy who either didn't realize or didn't care that a source was joking when he said that Chuck Hagel might have financial ties to a group called "Friends of Hamas" and ran with the story anyway, an incident that should've shamed him into never showing his face in public again. He's the guy who claimed that Jeff Bezos's purchase of the Washington Post was part of a conspiracy to provide positive coverage to the White House. He's the sniveling little shit who wrote, immediately following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, that heroin use was an example of the "broken leftist culture that dominates Hollywood." Couple all of that with the fact that he looks like he's about 16 and Shapiro comes off as what would happen if you gave Joffrey Baratheon a laptop and internet connection.

With that in mind, it won't surprise anyone to learn that Ben Shapiro is behind the most ludicrous -- and ludicrously pseudo-intellectual -- of the freaked-out responses from the right to Stephen Colbert's ascendance to the stage of CBS's Late Show. In a preposterously silly piece today at Truth Revolt titled "Stephen Colbert's Vile Political Blackface," Shapiro claims, essentially, that Colbert's mockery of conservatives is comparable to the racist caricature of African-Americans that blackface has historically represented.

Here's your money quote:

This is precisely what Colbert does with regard to politics: he engages in Conservativeface. He needs no makeup or bulbous appendage to play a conservative – after all, conservatives come in every shape and size. Instead, he acts as though he is a conservative – an idiotic, racist, sexist, bigoted, brutal conservative. He out-Archie Bunkers Archie Bunker. His audience laughs and scoffs at brutal religious “Colbert” who wishes to persecute gays; they chortle at evil sexist “Colbert” who thinks men are victims of sexism. This is the purpose of Colbert’s routine. His show is about pure hatred for conservatives in the same way that blackface was about pure hatred of blacks. In order to justify their racism, racists had to create a false perception of blacks; in the same way, Colbert and his audience can justify their racism only by creating a false perception of conservatives.

This is why Colbert is such an effective weapon for the left.

To his credit, at least Shapiro acknowledges just how powerful Colbert's routine has been. Despite his attempt to ascribe dark and nefarious qualities to what Colbert does, in the end, yeah, Colbert is just doing satire -- and he's doing it well. You can tell he's doing it well precisely because Shapiro admits that it works, and by writing self-serious screeds against it he's actually falling into its trap. The thing about good satire is that it's almost impossible to defend against. Go along with it and you look like a dupe; argue back and you just look foolish (as Shapiro does here). It should make its target wholly uncomfortable. It should make the stupid never question its sincerity. It is, in many ways, the most subversive art form ever conceived, going beyond mockery into meta-mockery. And in the case of the conservative entertainment complex, there's so much self-parody there to begin with that it's almost too easy to lampoon.

That, by the way, is something Shapiro doesn't seem to realize or be willing to acknowledge: that Colbert's shtick isn't parodying every single conservative or even conservatives in general, it's parodying only the bloviating blowhards of conservative media, the professionally pissed-off reactionary white men who dominate Fox News and talk radio. Don't think Colbert's impression of them, while over-the-top, is kind of dead-on in spirit? Listen to them some time. Satire isn't created in a vacuum; it has to come from somewhere. And using it to target those in a position of power, especially those who seek to dismiss and even subjugate the weaker class, is precisely what it was created for.

It would be worth noting that Ben Shapiro's comparison of mocking someone for his or her political beliefs and mocking someone for his or her skin color is so ridiculous that it borders on offensive. It would be worth noting were it not for the fact that when it comes to making salient points, Shapiro has proven time and time again that he's not to be taken seriously. Of course he's going to lay down on the cross, align himself and his conservative buddies with a minority group that's faced a lifetime of persecution and violence -- often at the hands of conservatives -- and play the role of the victim here. That's what these assholes do. It's old hat by now.

Still, make no mistake that Shapiro just coined a term the right will latch onto. Look for "conservativeface" to become a thing. And look for Colbert to comment on it, perfectly parodying that which is already a perfect self-parody.