by Jerilyn Bowen
For three years now Stephen Colbert’s Late Show has been my much needed nightly dose of sanity in the midst of the Trump madness. Ever since The Colbert Report gave wickedly skewering voice to the resistance during the Bush regime, I’ve seen him as a trusted and valued public commentator. Of late, though, I’ve been taken aback and then shocked by his underhanded and unclever attacks on Bernie Sanders. This came to a head following the Feb. 25th South Carolina debate when Stephen contrived to undercut Bernie’s significant landslide victory in Nevada and well earned front-runner status in the presidential nomination race by running a clip from the debate in which Bernie pointed out that the policies he advocates are already operative in many countries around the world, following which Stephen ended his monologue with a flourish by sardonically commenting that yes, this is true in places like Cuba and Venezuela. As if he didn’t know perfectly well that Bernie was referring to Canada and the socialist democracies of Europe. As if he didn’t know that Bernie has spent his entire adult life opposing authoritarian regimes of all kinds while fighting for humane and just policies in the U.S. If anyone can be said to be a fierce enemy of the totalitarian forces that presently endanger our democracy, it is Bernie.
Before this, Stephen had also used his comedic gifts to parody Bernie in a demeaning way that seemed designed to reduce Bernie to a clumsy and crazed old man who shouldn’t be taken seriously. At one point Stephen also repeated the ridiculous, politically-motivated claim that Bernie doesn’t believe a woman could win the presidency and made other trumped up, patently unfair construals about Bernie while ignoring his long record of high integrity, courageous dedication to the common good, and inspiring leadership in galvanizing a grassroots movement to save America from the Republican cartel that Trump fronts for.
What makes Stephen’s betrayal of his former Colbert Report dedication to more than truthiness even more reprehensible is the fact that, in attempting to discredit Bernie at this critical juncture, he’s joining forces with an array of neoliberal establishment power brokers that include the corporate media giants MSNBC and CNN, Democratic Party centrists, and the ever vicious rightwing attack dogs. These all too likely bedfellows have coalesced around a McCarthyite red-baiting strategy for preventing Bernie from getting the Democratic nomination for president by attempting to smear him as a Stalin in disguise. Or even as a Hitler in disguise, despite the fact that he’s the son of Jewish immigrants who lost family members in the holocaust, a first generation American who’s never wavered in his heartfelt commitment to empowering the common people and protecting them against tyranny from on high.
What stands out here is Stephen’s use of his platform in service to the powers-that-be at a time when the country is in dire jeopardy and cannot afford to perpetuate the rigged system that has brought us to this pass. Along with that, the glaring lack of honest journalism at MSNBC, CNN, and other corporate media enterprises (+ even at times at PBS and NPR)–that journalistic default allied with the vested interests of the neoliberal centrists who run the Democratic Party together threaten to sabotage the best chance we have to hand Trump a resounding defeat at the hands of a burgeoning grassroots movement led by Bernie.
The big questions are these: why are these supposed journalists, these all-wise pundits, and these anointed Democratic leaders not in the least curious about why and how Bernie has attracted a passionate following that cuts across generations, ethnicities, classes, and genders? Why are they not celebrating this–or at least honestly acknowledging it–as vs. circling the wagons to suppress this movement and its leader? Why in short do they put their own entrenched power and privilege above the good of our country? Does this sound familiar? I point you to what all the Republican senators but Romney chose to do in the impeachment trial.
Perhaps our movers and shakers just don’t grok that the times, they are a’changin.
Whatever the case, a wee voice in my ear sings something’s happening and you don’t know what it is, do ya Mr. Colbert? As for myself, I know only that I can no longer trust this once admired comedian to deliver the truth with his rapier wit wielded in the cause of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. So far as I can see, he’s become part of the problem, not part of the solution.