Joan Walsh: Colbert's 'Jaunty Spoof' Nailed O'Reilly's 'Faulty Logic and Paranoia'

After Stephen Colbert takes over from David Letterman on CBS's "Late Show," he'll host as himself, not as a parody of a conservative pundit. That may disappoint Salon's Joan Walsh, who in a Wednesday article called Colbert "an ally to progressive causes" and lauded him for "calmly and brilliantly inhabit[ing] a persona [on 'The Colbert Report'] that puts him in the psyche of delusional, entitled, wealthy conservative white men like [Bill] O’Reilly, bullies who want their country back, and are willing to do plenty of damage as they try (but ultimately fail) to retrieve it."
 
The main point of Walsh's piece was that Bill-O's Tuesday "meltdown" in response to Colbert's "relatively harmless spoof of [O'Reilly's] recent freak-outs over the politics of inequality" indicates that O'Reilly no longer is a good sport about Colbert's mockery of him. "Now O’Reilly has marked Colbert as an enemy," wrote Walsh, adding, "Colbert is under [O'Reilly's] skin, and I’m grateful for that."

From Walsh's article on the "dangerous and invaluable" Colbert:

...O’Reilly has emerged as the angry red face of white grievance, our greatest race hustler, telling his older, white male audience that they’re right to resent our black president and the changing America he leads. This meaner, angrier Bill O’Reilly is no longer tolerating Colbert’s satire but shrilly campaigning against him, with a meltdown on Tuesday night that called the comedian a 'deceiver' peddling 'shameful' lies that 'damage' the country.


What set him off? A relatively harmless spoof of the Fox host’s recent freak-outs over the politics of inequality. A classic O’Reilly exercise in bad faith, his segments have asserted that Democrats want to make everybody 'equal,' and since he’ll never play basketball like Shaquille O’Neal, or be as kind as Mother Teresa, equality is impossible and Obama and the Democrats are destroying a once-great nation by demanding it.

Colbert captured O’Reilly’s trademark faulty logic and paranoia...[in] a jaunty spoof of the way rich Republicans deliberately misrepresent the goals of people who are concerned that we’ve returned to Gilded Age levels of income inequality.

And O’Reilly lost it. He attacked Colbert as 'one of the biggest mouthpieces for the progressive movement' and 'the darling of the far-left Internet'...He accused him of believing in the version of equality practiced by communist China and the former Soviet Union...

...Now O’Reilly has marked Colbert as an enemy, too, and not merely a competitor. Colbert is under his skin, and I’m grateful for that.

For four nights a week, over the last nine years, Colbert has calmly and brilliantly inhabited a persona that puts him in the psyche of delusional, entitled, wealthy conservative white men like O’Reilly, bullies who want their country back, and are willing to do plenty of damage as they try (but ultimately fail) to retrieve it.  Hey, it’s only humor, but it’s made it clear to those bullies that time, and demography, are their enemies, and it’s made it harder for them to recruit young people, particularly young white people, to their right-wing backward-looking pity party. That’s important.

Those bullies see Colbert clearly as an ally to progressive causes and a threat to their privilege, and that should be just as clear to progressives. Sadly we’re having a moment when it’s OK to suggest we don’t want certain people on “our side,” even if they want to be on “our side,” and that bewilders me. I just know I’m on Colbert’s side.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters