Saturday, January 20, 2007

D'Souza, GOP pod farm graduate cum laude, meets Colbert

I have long been intrigued by the system by which the radical right in America, and its front operation, the Republican party, locate and groom the next generation of leaders and operatives--the GOP Pod Farm, I like to call it.

No reflection on this farm system would be complete without mention of one of its prize cash crops, Dinesh D'Souza. (In fact, I can only think of one person who's better parlayed his position as a statistically-rare person of color in conservative circles, combined with an uncanny willingness to toe the ideological party line and vigorously attack any celebration or defense of diversity, into a life of fame and material comfort beyond his wildest dreams or intellectual merit--but we can come back to him another time.)

Prodding our "farm" metaphor just a little farther, D'Souza is like one of those name-brand genetically modified industrial hothouse tomatoes: flavorless, unrelated to anything you'd find in nature, arriving in stores without any natural connection to the season, but favored by distributors because it's been selectively bred to be square-shaped so it's easier to package and ship.

D'Souza is currently touring to promote his latest book, in which he blames the terrorist attacks on New York and DC in 2001 on--ready?--the cultural left in America. (I'm not linking to his book; if you're honestly curious, you can find it.) Such being the way the winds of the zeitgeist are blowing, he soon found himself on "The Colbert Report."

An amusing pattern that's emerged over the life of Colbert's show is that conservatives have been very slow to "get" him, and to realize that they are far more at risk on his show than a liberal would be--or than they would often be on the "Report's" counterpart, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Colbert's standard satirical approach with conservative guests is to advance positions, in character, that are even more extreme than what the guest is already promoting, egging them into agreeing with him, then watching happily as his ratings go up.

For example, most people remember that Colbert--the comedian--nailed Bush good at last year's White House Correspondents Association dinner (a story about which I'll be saying more soon). But not everyone remembers now, or appreciated then, that the damage was done by the other Colbert--the TV persona of the clueless, self-absorbed right-wing pundit--who had come to praise Bush, not to bury him.

But back to D'Souza. From Think Progress:
D’Souza repeated the right-wing attack that President Bill Clinton “did absolutely nothing” to fight global terrorists. Stephen Colbert jokingly asked, “Doesn’t some of it lie at FDR’s doorstep? Doesn’t things like Social Security and Medicare and LBJ’s Great Society, doesn’t some of that send the wrong message to our enemies?”

D’Souza answered, “Indirectly, yes,” explaining that “FDR gave away Eastern Europe through Yalta, and then the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Muslims had to fight back and that’s where bin Laden got his start.”

Blaming Clinton, of course, was why D'Souza was there. But what on earth led him to foolishly follow Colbert down the garden path to blaming the New Deal and the Great Society for global terrorism?

There are several possible factors to blame it on: Conservatives generally find humor--especially irony and above all self-deprecating irony--to be a difficult business to negotiate successfully. And (resurrecting my metaphor one last time), the pod farm monoculture that would produce a D'Souza in the first place would also likely leave him without any natural resistance to an invasive and opportunistic species like Colbert.

And, finally, some would say it isn't that tricky to make D'Souza look bad in the first place, since you've got him helping you at every turn.

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