Where Have All the Pundits Gone?

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Liberal journalist Gene Lyons has a provocative bit of punditry-cum-wishful thinking at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. After a tiresome rehashing of Stephen Colbert's tiresome routine from ten days ago Lyons argues that blogs are making celebrity political commentators obsolete.

The brief reign of the celebrity pundit began with cable TV appears to be ending with the Internet. Washington socialites are quickly being replaced in public esteem by politically oriented bloggers like Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, the inimitable Digby, Glenn Greenwald, Billmon, Atrios and many others… Sure, there's a danger of groupthink. That's true of all mass media. But there's also a fierce independence and an intellectual honesty among the best online commentators that are making Washington courtiers awfully nervous.

Lyons has a point insofar as the bloggers can drive conventional pundits completely, batshit insane. Witness Richard Cohen's pillow-clutching wail about mean liberals emailing him, or Bill O'Reilly's … ah, just witness Bill O'Reilly.

(Hat tip: Atrios.)

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  1. “Washington socialites are quickly being replaced in public esteem by politically oriented bloggers like This guy on the left, that guy on the center left, the other guy on the left, the other other guy on the left, that really partisan guy on the left, and that really, really partisan guy on the left and many others… Sure, there’s a danger of groupthink.”

    Are you *SURE* there’s a danger of groupthink?

  2. Stephen Colbert’s tiresome routine

    I’m sorry, but with the exception of his interview video Colbert was pure gold.

  3. “But there’s also a fierce independence…”

    Glad to see that Lyons can recycle an promo slogan from MSNBC and make it his own.

  4. “Stephen Colbert’s tiresome routine.”

    What’s the antonym of tiresome? Just asking because it seems oddly fresh and crisp every single time I re-view it and re-imagine it in my head. It must be something about the whole satirical sneak attack against a group of dull-witted power brokers and their toadies that seems somehow necessary, or at least a bit entertaining.

    I would suggest that all of the curmudgeons who weren’t able to see the humor in Colbert’s performance not just to watch it again, but memorize some of the lines. I think you will find it to be chicken soup for even the crabbiest libertarian soul.

  5. budgie –

    “invigorating”

  6. Calling the Colbert thing a “tiresome routine” is a way to keep the few remaining Bush worshippers from calling you a “moonbat” or “communist” or whatever. This is important for Objectivity or something …

    Anyway, the best abuse of that embarrassing old Washington Post columnist came from the Wonkette boys the other day.

    The columnist has his feeling hurt because a lot of people send him e-mails about his dismissal of the Colbert thing. To him, this is a “digital lynch mob” … worse yet, he got SEVEN MORE e-mails while he was writing his latest column.

    Jesus Christ — not seven more emails since you started! That’s almost an email per minute, if you don’t mind us estimating how much time you spent writing this!

    Readers: Will you please send Richard Cohen a very polite and friendly email that says something along the lines of:

    TOO MUCH EMAIL DOES NOT EQUAL DIGITAL FUCKING “LYNCH MOB” YOU INSENSITIVE, UNFUNNY JACKASS.

  7. Come on now, Cohen has a point. In his original column, he explained why Colbert had been rude to the guest of honor and the audience (and he was correct, IMHO). He is then made the target of an orchestrated email campaign, and I’m sure that all those emails weren’t of the civil “Dear Sir, I respectfully disagree” sort. He didn’t deserve to have his emailbox filled with vituperation and name-calling, and complaining about it doesn’t make him a wimp.

  8. Thanks Lumpy,
    It was only a rhetorical question, but invigorating seems to fit the bill nicely.

  9. For those that haven’t seen this yet,

    Thank You Stephen Colbert

  10. “He didn’t deserve to have his emailbox filled with vituperation and name-calling, and complaining about it doesn’t make him a wimp.”

    No one deserves anything of this, really. Not journalistic hacks, not sitting presidents, not celebrities, not anyone.

    Nor should any of the people mentioned above expect to have their rings kissed every time they leave the house to mingle and grandstand.

    And they especially shouldn’t be surprised when, despite massive efforts to stage manage their world, someone sneaks in and pokes a hole in the skin of their little make-believe bubbles.

    Jeezus what a pathetic little bitchfest Colbert has ignited! Bravo Stephen!

  11. “Colbert will be seeing the inside of Gitmo soon.”

    Now that’s the spirit, Rush. See, that wasn’t so hard.

  12. Well, I liked the Colbert routine, and I especially like the fact that he did it at the insufferable White House Correspondents Dinner. But what prompts me to comment is the praise for the “inimitable” Digby. I understand the kudos for Marshall, Drum, and Greenwald: They’re frequently interesting commentators, and Marshall does some actual reporting as well. Billmon and Atrios aren’t my cup of tea, but I think I understand their appeal. But Digby is just bland to me. Is this one of those things like the Lileks cult, something I’m fated never to comprehend?

  13. The fact that all of these comments are strictly about Colbert and not the main subject of the original post is a testament to how invigorating (un-tiresome) Colbert’s routine was.

    Seriously….”tiresome”? I’ve watched it at least twenty times and it hasn’t gotten old yet. I guess the very unfunny Bush look-alike bit (that the ass-kissing audience loved) is more your style?

  14. Meanwhile, CSPAN is playing favorites and keeping Colbert’s speech off YouTube but putting it on Google Video (so much for the little guy). Apparently because they agreed to post the WHOLE DINNNER. Yeah, I’m sure everyone’s just dying to watch the whole dinner. A little choice never hurt anyone… and since CSPAN isn’t public (as everyone seems to think) maybe they could use the exposure. No, they don’t have ads, but they do have mugs to sell…

  15. “tiresome routine.” Colbert might not have been hilarious all the way through but at least he had the balls to kick sand in the face of the man who’s been one of the worst U.S. presidents in history. Not only has Bush started the U.S. down a path of endless war, he’s managed to get himself confused as a libertarian, making it that much harder for any libertarian minded candidates to ever get elected. So, in reaction, in the next several elections,the public is likely to elect candidates who are even more statist than Bush. Maybe there’s a time to be respectful, but respect for the dangerously destructive is no virtue.

    Do we really think that the best or most appropriate way to poke fun of this terribly destructive president is to say, “I really like a president who seems like he’s always looking into the sun”?

  16. “No one deserves anything of this, really. Not journalistic hacks, not sitting presidents, not celebrities, not anyone.”

    Not even Kevin Federline (a.k.a. Mr. Britney Spears)?

  17. Gee, let’s take the high road as political punditry has now been reduced to “Colbert wasn’t funny” or “Colbert was funny.”

    Push aside the “degrees of Kevin Bacon,” as we now have the “Colbert was funny” litmus test.

    Does Hillary think “Colbert was funny” ? Do McCain, Ried, Kennedy, Frist, Kerry (or Kerrey) think that “Colbert was funny” ?

    So now the fate of the world is wrapped around the funny/unfunniness of a guy who would be be cast for the part of “Waldo,” less the red and white cap.

    To borrow a line from Robin William’s movie “RV” .. “I knew you were in trouble when you started accepting help from morons.

  18. Did not see the bit and could care less one way or the other.

    What is interesting is the tremendous amount of bandwidth and angst burnt up over a simple comedy routine. Seriously, 2000 + emails over a skit, what,s up with that???

  19. Griping about floods of mean emails does make you a wimp, for one reason: There’s always the delete button. You read a few and start to see a pattern, then feel free to stick the rest where the boner pill offers & pleas for help from african dictators go.

    As for Colbert’s routine, what made it so big IMO wasn’t the routine itself, but that the organizers of that yearly ass-kissing contest were so far out of the loop that they thought he’d pass up the opportunity to get in such a dig. C’mon, the basis of his character is a commentary on the absurdity of modern pop-conservatism, anyone who would expect him to hold his tongue while in the same room with Dubya himself is an idiot & deserves to be laughed at.

  20. I love Colbert. I wish there was a flipside version of him doing the same for modern pop-liberalism.

  21. That’s actually a great idea, Bill…

    I could even imagine the ultimate in political satire: A Colbert-of-the-Left debating Steve himself.

  22. I love Colbert. I wish there was a flipside version of him doing the same for modern pop-liberalism.

    That could probably be P.J. O’Rourke, except he does it in writing instead of out loud.

  23. “That could probably be P.J. O’Rourke, except he does it in writing instead of out loud.”

    Huh? When did PJ O’Rourke ever have a satirical character that was a progressive?

  24. wierd…i don’t think there has been anyone who has seriously said that corbert was rude or uncalled for…yet almost every comment claims that there is this massive movement to stamp out what he said as unamerican…all I read was that someone thought it was unfunny then cried when he got a bunch of e-mails.

    anyway the dinner was OK but not really hilarious…it was gutsy. But i miss the daily shows god report so i am not a big fan of the corbert report.

  25. Papaya writes: ” In his original column, he explained why Colbert had been rude to the guest of honor and the audience (and he was correct, IMHO).”

    The ‘guest of honor’ was a man who has people tortured, and who has no respect for the Constitution.

    Now, given that, why shouldn’t people be rude to him? He’s not the queen. He’s a thug.

  26. Jon H.: Here is the core of the issue as I see it. In politics, one can have manners and civility or one can ignore those social rules for whatever reason. If you think the circumstances were such that manners and civility weren’t important, then you’ll see nothing wrong with Colbert’s routine.

    Similarly, if disagreeing with a columnist is reason enough to give rise to a vitriolic email campaign against him, you’ll see nothing wrong with the action and insist the target can simply delete the emails, and that he’s a wimp if he complains.

    I shouldn’t have to explain this to libertarians, who I thought were all in favor of informal and unwritten rules, Hayekian respect for social wisdom, etc.

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