Maybe the ethics component in the title is gilding the lily in this case. Fox’s Kurtz, in attacking what he perceives as the unfairness of Stephen Colbert’s barbs, certainly misunderstands the ethics of Colbert’s craft, but what he primarily proves is that he’s a dunce…what kind of dunce, it’s difficult to tell. Is he the kind of dunce who can’t take a joke? Or is he the kind of dunce who doesn’t realize he should leave the gags to professionals?
The former media ethics watchdog for the Washington Post, CNN and the Daily Beast, now playing that role for Fox News (all oxymoron jokes gratefully accepted), says that he has finally had his fill of being mocked by Colbert, the Comedy Central satirist whose gimmick is playing a conservative fool in order to ridicule real ones.
“It’s about time someone took on Stephen Colbert,” Kurtz wrote in what is either serious piece on Fox News Insider, or a criminally inept attempt at ironic humor. “This guy—a fake anchor if ever there was one—has been maligning hard-working journalists for too long. Journalists like me. In an effort to get a few cheap laughs, this Comedy Central clown took my work out of context and, worse, engaged in selective editing. It was nothing less than a deliberate attempt to mislead viewers.”
1. Colbert is a fake anchor. That’s the point. That’s the joke. You don’t attack his credibility by pointing that out. You attack your own credibility for believing that it is germane to your complaint. He knows he’s a fake anchor. He works as hard at playing one as you do at being a real journalist. He also succeeds at his objective more often than you do
2. Colbert’s job is to make fun of people, which you call maligning. It doesn’t matter how unfair what he says is, if it’s funny. What does how hard you work or how hard any target of satire works have to do with their value as the butt of jokes? Who made the “only jokes about lazy slugs are allowed” rule that you seem to think is in force? Bill Clinton works hard. Sarah Palin works hard. Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump work hard. Justin Bieber works hard; Kanye West works hard. So what? If someone can be made into a joke, how hard they work is completely beside the point.
3. “In an effort to get a few cheap laughs…” Howard, in the comedy business, all laughs are gold. There aren’t any cheap ones. If you think that, try stand-up for a living. Wait…wait… don’t.
4. “This Comedy Central clown”—is that supposed to be an insult? It’s a description! Stephen Colbert is a Comedy Central clown.
5. You cannot seriously be complaining that a comedian took your words “out of context” and used “selective editing” for humorous effect. These are tools of satire and ridicule—using words out of context and selective editing. (Have you ever heard of Mad Libs?) David Letterman had a regular segment during the Bush years in which he would pull a strange laugh, a garbled phrase or a confusing exclamation from a Bush speech or answer to a reporter out of context and use it to make the President of the United States look like an idiot. And he would have really looked like an idiot if he made the same petulant complaint you are making. I fault Letterman for not having the guts to do the same routine with this President ( you can do it with anyone), but certainly not for using the device to make Bush look silly.
4. What does it say about a journalist when he feels has has to “take on” a comedian who mocks him? Did Walter Cronkite feel he had to defend himself against Johnny Carson’s various skits revealing that Walter wasn’t wearing pants under his desk, or was hiding hideous mutant chicken legs? Did Barbara Walters feel she had to point out that Gilda Radner’s “Baba Wawa” impression misrepresented her mild difficulty saying “r’s” as a full-fledged Elmer Fudd problem? This says that Kurtz…
- ….doesn’t have a sense of humor
- ….doesn’t understand satire
- ….doesn’t know his place
- ….isn’t very bright, and
- …is asking to get everything he has received already in satirical assaults, worse.
Here is what Kurtz says was the last straw, causing his current ire and compelling him to defend himself—and I still harbor hopes that Howard himself is joking, because otherwise this is really, really sad:
“…we’ll be talking about the issue that prompted the contretemps—whether it’s fair for the media to raise questions about Hillary Clinton’s age. I raised this on “Special Report,” noting that her age (she’ll turn 69 just before the election) was hardly a secret. Colbert twisted this into “Fox News has just uncovered the bombshell of a lifetime.” I pointed out that veteran Washington handicapper Charlie Cook had written a column asking whether Hillary was too old to run for president. That got left on Colbert’s cutting-room floor. Didn’t fit the narrative.”
This is called “sarcasm,” you idiot. Colbert’s character is a pompous, clueless, indignant right-wing blow-hard like Bill O’Reilly after a head trauma….do you really not see that? Your complaint sounds like one of Colbert’s routines! Wait a minute…is it? If so, Kurtz is breaching ethical duties that Colbert does not: competence and integrity. He is also breaching a core duty of a journalist: he’s supposed to be a truth-teller, unlike a comedian. He should not and cannot misrepresent the facts and his own opinions, not if he wants any viewer to trust him again. If this is Kurtz’s lame attempt to get publicity and viewers by trying to take on Colbert by imitating his act, that’s arguably worse than not getting the joke.
I suppose I have to watch Kurtz further humiliate himself today….whether he tries to seriously rebut a comedy bit, or crash and burn as he attempts one himself. Or maybe I won’t; the kind and ethical thing would be to ignore his self-inflicted humiliation, regardless of what he does.
I will definitely watch Colbert dissect his foolishness afterwards, though—wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Source: Fox Insider