Out of Touch with Middle-Class America

I find it disturbing that there has been so much commotion about comedian Stephen Colbert’s testimony to Congress on the plight of migrant farm workers and the topic of illegal immigration.

The latest line of criticism from the mainstream media – and no, it’s not from FOX News – is Jonah Goldberg’s column entitled “Stephen Colbert makes a mockery of immigration debate.”

Goldberg begins, in his super-serious way, by saying, “The comedian’s appearance before Congress was an excruciatingly inappropriate spectacle.”

And continues: “The real upshot of Colbert’s shtick is that he’s mocking people who disagree with him — or with the left-wing base of the Democratic Party — on the complicated issue of immigration.”

Let me first begin by critiquing Goldberg and every other major news “journalist” for giving so much attention to this testimony.  You have just unwittingly disproved your own point by giving this testimony more attention through criticizing Colbert than you would have if Colbert was never invited in the first place.

Mr. Goldberg attempts to sound intelligent in this article by trying to prove that comedy through irony has been “metastasizing” throughout our culture in recent decades (metastasizing means spreading like a cancer).  Yes, in Goldberg’s overly dramatic and quite pretentious opinion, the manner in which Colbert acted is bothersome and is on the same level as a serious disease spreading throughout this country.

By making comparisons to Seinfeld (“a hilarious show that was famously ‘about nothing’”), David Letterman (“a talk show that made fun of talk shows”) and the Daily Show (“revered on the left as somehow newsier than news”), Goldberg attempts to make the case that these shows have influenced our political system in a detrimental way.  By blaming others (television stars) for the failure of our government, it appears that Goldberg has fallen into the same ‘diseased’ thinking that has been ‘afflicting’ our system of governance for too long – pointing fingers at those without political power for our country’s current problems (similar to those who scapegoat teachers or unions for our problems, even though unjust economic policies are more to blame).

Americans should not support or feel the least amount of sympathy for journalists who jump to the defense of Congressmen and other pundits who find it offensive that Colbert used satire and his star power to bring attention to this issue.  If it weren’t for the Colbert Report, I would have never heard of the “Take Our Jobs ” campaign, which dispels the myth that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from willing American workers (to the critical researcher, the policies which allow companies to move jobs overseas and to Mexico, and to employ/exploit undocumented workers is what is detrimental to workers, not the competition between immigrant labor and U.S. labor).

Obviously and unequivocally, Congress has failed us.  Our government has failed us.  Nearly every socioeconomic indicator points to this sad fact.  Our political system is election-oriented and is now more about fund-raising than actual government work.  In following the money trail and the shameful Supreme Court ruling that legalized unlimited amounts of campaign contributions (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), our system is now more about attracting and appeasing lobbyists and obstructing genuine reform than at any other time in our history.

How can any concerned citizen not feel compelled to mock this system?  More importantly, why would any supposedly self-respecting journalist defend the power structure that has failed middle and lower-class America (i.e. the majority of Americans)?  Could it be that Goldberg, like the wealthy politicians and rich CEOs/bankers, is simply out of touch with the plight of everyday Americans?  If you read more of his columns you will quickly discover that he has nothing fresh to offer.  His main concern seems to be defending the wealthy and conservative elites who will do and say anything to maintain the unjust and harmful status quo – a status quo that has led this country down a destructive path of two costly wars, the worst recession in our generation and the alienation of the second-largest religious community in the world.

This is what makes someone like Colbert refreshing to everyday Americans.  He, like Jon Stewart, never proclaims to be someone we should take seriously.  By shirking himself of this responsibility, he is free to critique anyone who appears to be engaging in hypocrisy – such as rich politicians who cater to special interests and politicize any issue in order to obstruct true reform or to please well-funded lobbyists.

Colbert was invited by Congresswoman Lofgren but was also asked to leave by a Democrat and disparaged afterwards by Republicans, most notably Iowa Senator Steve King (compliments of FOX News).  Following his ten hour experience working in the fields of New York, Colbert’s written statement included the following: “I learned that American farmers have moved at least 84,155 acres of production and 22,285 jobs to Mexico, and that between 2007 and 2008, 1.56 million acres of US farmland were shut down. 1.56 million acres is about twice the size of Delaware.”

These two simple sentences are more revealing, informative and vital to the public’s interest than anything Goldberg had to say in his 694 words of misguided and inaccurate analysis of Colbert’s appearance before Congress.

During a time when politicians rarely think through the consequences of policies such as waging deadly trillion-dollar wars and cutting taxes on the rich, I am thankful that there are people who use humor and satire to illustrate larger points about society and disingenuous government.

It is not scary that people like Colbert and Stewart mock power by refusing to take themselves too seriously and not demanding others to take them seriously.  The scary part is that so many people who have power (politicians) and too many people who are supposed to check that power (journalists) take themselves way too seriously –  and are somehow able to keep a straight face as they continue to contribute to the pillaging of middle-class America.

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