Colbert, Citizens United, and Irony

Apparently I live under some kind of rock, because today was the first I heard of Steven Colbert's PAC. There's a short article over at Slate documenting Colbert's attack on the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision. A few random thoughts:

First, I thought of Gregory Ulmer's theory that in electrate culture, entertainment rises as a dominant apparatus to challenge the authority of religion, science, and the state. Couple Colbert's campaign with the recent success of Wikipedia's blackout and you get a picture of how "entertainment" is rapidly massing political clout. From a sophistic/Latourian perspective, this is a good thing, since it collects more actants into the multitude to contribute to the social drama that constitutes our reality.

Second, I thought it interesting how the author explores the effectiveness of Colbert's strategy--is it leading to authentic change or is it merely more evidence of our "irony fatigue," our cynicism. FTA:

At one level, this is all just comedy, and it’s hard to measure whether Colbert’s sustained attacks on the court’s campaign finance decisions are having any real impact, beyond making us laugh. On the other hand, when the New York Times declares that Colbert’s project is deadly serious, and it’s just the rest of politics that’s preposterous, something more than just theater is happening."

That last sentence reminds me of Baudrillard's riff on Disney World in Simulation and Simulacra, that Disney World isn't the fantasy, but rather the hard kernel of the Real, a representation of our fantastic desire, that makes the rest of the world (the illusion of that world) keep on running. Just a thought there.

I've been writing about Latour today, specifically his emphasis on concern in "Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?" and its relation to the desire for ontological purification in We Have Never Been Modern. I'm thinking of Latour's emphasis on a compositional public, transiently organized around matters of concern, through Richard Lanham's Strong Defense of rhetoric, which insists upon viewing truth as the fragile, fluid, and flexible products of an ever-ongoing social drama. To do so dismisses the notion of "just theater." Theater, performance, hypokrisis, lexis--its all we got.

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