Stephen Colbert, the liberals’ favorite conservative, is at it again. He has used his legitimate Super PAC to put out an ad defending the owners in the NBA lockout. At first glance, this seems very bizarre, but upon reflection, it is yet another subtly ingenious move on the part of Colbert.

A lot of people don’t get what Colbert is doing, and many others beyond that get it but can’t stand it. Yet he is in the direct line of the tradition of our greatest satirists, whose lineage includes Will Rogers, Mark Twain, the Court Jester in King Lear, and even the classic Greek playwright Aristophanes. Satire has always been a powerful weapon to skewer outrageous and hypocritical actions and statements by public figures, all the while making the people laugh.

Colbert’s specific artifice is to adopt a conservative persona that is far and away to the extreme right of even Bill O’Reilly, and espouse the most extreme viewpoints from that character, so that when O’Reilly and that crowd finally get around to expressing those opinions for real, they have been defanged (for anyone paying attention). (SPOILER ALERT: Colbert is really a “libtard,” as Anne Coulter would call him).

Colbert has taken his satire to the next step of performance art, by creating a Super PAC, or political action committee. He was enabled to do this by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case that money is free speech, and that people and corporations have the right to spend unlimited amounts to back political causes.

Colbert has modeled his parody PAC on Karl Rove’s Super PAC American Crossroads.  He has even taken the further step of creating a Super Duper PAC, called a 501 (c) (4), based on Rove’s Crossroads GPS, which doesn’t have to disclose donations. This parody has triggered an angry letter from Rove’s PAC, which Colbert read on his show (even though the letter said explicitly not to do so). Apparently, Colbert’s schtick is starting to draw some blood.

All this is the background to why I was befuddled and confused by the most recent output of the Colbert Super PAC. Colbert has put out a slick campaign-style ad backing the owners in the NBA lockout. My first reaction was “why?” Pro Basketball has rarely been a subject of Colbert’s barbs; he is overwhelmingly political.  After that, I wondered, “Why is he backing the owners?” Again, while his persona is ultra-conservative, he himself leans to the left. It’s understandable that he would joke on his show in such a fashion, but to actually put out an ad that could actually sway events in favor of the owners seemed like an extreme move of the type he is so fond of lampooning.

Then, like waking up the next morning after a night of carousing and remembering what really happened, the veil fell from my eyes, and I perceived the subtle hand of the master. Yes, Colbert is actually supporting the owners in the NBA lockout. But not because he wants the owners to win; he wants to demonstrate the power of his Super PAC, and by extension the power of all Super PACs, and by further extension the dangerous political waters in which we’re currently sailing.

Colbert doesn’t give a flying rip about basketball. But as any good experimenter does, he wanted to isolate the variable in his hypothesis to clearly demonstrate the effect of the change agent.  If he can influence the outcome of the NBA debate through his ad, he will have clearly proven the power and effectiveness of PAC-backed ads. This, again, is a subtle warning to all those who are truly tuned in and listening, but will fly right over the heads of O’Reilly, Limbaugh and the gang who continue to smash their bullheaded rants around in the china shop of public opinion.

I get down on my knees with my arms outstretched and bow many times toward Colbert, repeating “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!” In this sound-bite driven, high-volume culture we now find ourselves in, Colbert has grabbed the biggest bullhorn of all: a Super PAC and its associated 501 (c) (4). But he’s not screaming and ranting like the rest of the crowd.  Well, actually he is, but the object of his screams and rants is far different and far subtler than the ham-fisted goals of Rove and his ilk (to emphasize Rove’s ham-like qualities, Colbert even talks to Ham-Rove on his show, which is a ham loaf wearing glasses, which surprisingly looks very similar to Rove).

Colbert is a clown, but a clown with a purpose.  Many people dismiss him as just a clown, but to those of us who can hear his whisper over his shouts, he is telling us, “You have been warned.”
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Alex Howerton

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3 comments so far,Add yours

  1. You missed the part where Cuban promised him donation. Cuban might be in with the joke where a powerful someone can influence a process by donating big money.

  2. Could it possibly have any relation to the first supposed billionaire contributor to his 501(c)(4) and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban?

  3. Cuban is part of the joke, and part of the experiment. Cuban is Colbert's "Koch brother." Unlike Rove, however, he's freely fessing up to the relationship, even putting Cuban's face in the ad, all the while claiming "I don't have to tell you Jack Squat" about my contributors.

    Colbert's Super PAC is, all at once, performance art, a grand social experiment, and high satire against the prevailing conservative winds.