What the Media Finds Funny

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Stephen Colbert’s recent skewering of the president and the press at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner prompted a number of journalists to declare that Colbert “just wasn’t that funny.” (Lloyd Grove suggested that the lampoon had “bombed badly.”) But while mainstream outlets have all but ignored or belittled the event, web writers have rushed to Colbert’s defense. Yesterday Salon wrote a cover story on the media’s efforts to sweep Colbert under the rug—and got more traffic for this than for any story since breaking the Abu Ghraib torture photos—while the liberal blogosphere has been talking about him nonstop.

The disdain for Colbert’s remarks, most of which touched on issues that were all perfectly valid and matters of public record (NSA spying, the energy crisis, global warming, FEMA and Joseph Wilson), raises the question: what does the media find funny? Apparently, it’s when President Bush makes fun of those missing WMDs. According to Alternet:

It occurred on March 24, 2004. The setting: The 60th annual black-tie dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association (with many print journalists there as guests) at the Washington Hilton. On the menu: surf and turf. Attendance: 1,500. The main speaker: President George W. Bush, one year into the Iraq war, with 500 Americans already dead. That night, in the middle of his stand-up routine before the (perhaps tipsy) journos, Bush showed on a screen behind him some candid on-the-job photos of himself. One featured him gazing out a window, as Bush narrated, smiling: “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.”

Since Bush’s parody—which received none of the media backlash that Colbert’s did—1,900 more Americans have died in Iraq. Yet two years later Colbert points out indisputable failures of the administration and it’s widely considered “unfunny.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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