Three Reasons Not To Get Worked Up Over Citizens United

Nick Gillespie makes a similar point about weakening party control as I made here in his third point in the above video. My own take on Stephen Colbert’s lampooning Citizens United is here.

I also like the point that Nick makes about negative ads. Why should we be positive about our potential elected officials?

I’d also point out that like any other form of advertisement, many people just tune these out, change the channel or fast-forward the TiVo.

Video via The Dish.

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Chuck Todd takes on Stephen Colbert for ‘making a mockery of the system’

Comedian Stephen Colbert makes Chuck Todd uncomfortable.

I’m not really sure what Chuck Todd was thinking when he said this:

“Is it fair to the process? Yes, the process is a mess, but he’s doing it in a way that it feels as if he’s trying to influence it with his own agenda, that may be anti-Republican. And we in the media are covering it as a schtick and a satire, but it’s like, ‘Well wait a minute here…’ he’s also trying to do his best to marginalize the candidates, and we’re participating in that marginalization.”

Apparently marginalizing the GOP is a problem for Todd, as are Colbert’s and Jon Stewart’s attacks on the media:

Todd said that the “mainstream media” (his quotes) has a responsibility to exercise some caution and question what Colbert’s agenda is. “Is it to educate the public about the dangers of money in politics and what’s going on?” He asked, “or is it simply to marginalize the Republican party? I think if I were a Republican candidate, I’d be concerned about that.”

While expressing admiration for how Colbert has exposed a lot of the idiocy involved with the marriage of politics and money, and saying he enjoys his show, Todd went after both Colbert and Jon Stewart for mocking members of the media, then backing off and saying “we’re just comedians” when the members of the media call them out on it. “Actually, no you’re not [comedians] anymore,” Todd said. “You are mocking what we’re doing, and you want a place in this, then you are also going to be held accountable for how you cover and how you do your job.”

How dare they mock the mainstream media. The media never does anything ridiculous, obviously, as the total lack of material for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report prove.

Honestly, this is sort of like picking a fight with the South Park team. It’s not going to work. You have to be wittier and more clever or you’re just going to look like a jerk. Chuck Todd’s indignation over his industry being made fun of makes him look thin-skinned and way, way too serious.

I say the more mockery the better. The press has been far too easy on the political system and nobody has ever really taken on the press before. Until the rise of the internet, new media, and comedy shows like The Daily Show, the media was able to basically snooze at the wheel. Well we’ve all paid the price for that. If Todd doesn’t want the news to be made a mockery of, he should encourage his colleagues and the networks to do more serious news and less fluff. He’s focusing his ire on the wrong target entirely.

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Stephen Colbert On Morning Joe

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy Stephen Colbert?

He may be wrong about Citizens United but he’s right about so many other thing and, more importantly, he does it so damn well. If I could be half this funny I think I could be actually content in life.

Just a reminder, in case you somehow missed it amidst all my shameless self-promotion, my piece in The Atlantic deals with Colbert’s candidacy and the power of big media.

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Colbert’s Brilliant Super PAC Ad ‘Mitt The Ripper’ (Starring John Lithgow)

How can you not love an ad voiced by John Lithgow which accuses Romney of being a serial killer since he “killed” corporations who are “people, my friend”?

The thing is, this ad is essentially just an extension of Colbert’s show. The ad itself is hilarious, but it’s as much a spoof of negative ads as it is an attack on Romney. More importantly, it shows just how little these ads actually represent an existential threat our democracy. As I argue in my Atlantic piece, the real threat is two-fold: the stranglehold the mainstream media has over the political process – and the gads of money that the big corporations who own the mainstream money can spend on that process – and the money that greases the wheels of power. Citizens United allows people to spend more money on “electioneering” which is just not nearly as big a deal as many apoplectic souls make it out to be.

I enjoyed this ad in the same way that I enjoy Colbert’s television show. And I’m even watching it on an embed from Comedy Central, owned by Viacom, a media company historically exempted from campaign finance laws.

(Actually, some negative ad campaigns can backfire for candidates. Maybe more people should think about using cutting humor instead of boring, predictable vitriol, to make their point. Just a thought.)

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Forget Citizens United – It’s Big Media We Should Worry About

That’s the basic premise of my latest piece in The Atlantic:

In a 5-4 decision in January of 2010, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional campaign finance regulations which restricted corporations and unions from using funds from their general treasuries in elections, striking down previous court decisions on the matter. This was met with a huge public outcry, especially on the left. Despite the Court’s decision having been made on First Amendment grounds, many liberals, upset by disproportionate corporate influence over the political process, worried that the decision would further entrench the power of corporations in American democracy.

Colbert’s satirical super PAC, however, far from effectively satirizing Citizens United, illustrates why this concern is misguided.

Prior to the 2010 decision, one industry already had the ability to dip into its bottomless war chest to influence electioneering. The big media companies, and their parent corporations like GE, have been historically excluded from campaign finance laws like McCain-Feingold. This exclusion was understandable: restricting the freedom of the press is obviously unconstitutional on free speech grounds.

But the media has enormous power over the political process. Colbert’s nightly fake news show, for instance, has done a great deal more to influence American politics than anything his super PAC has achieved.

Read the whole thing.

(P.S. a big thanks once again to the editors over at The Atlantic for publishing me. It’s a huge honor.)


Fake Scandals And Fake News: How The Conservative Entertainment Industry Is Wrecking The Right

Stephen Colbert again, this time illustrating just how ludicrous the talk-radio right can be, and how the rest of the right follows in its silly wake:

Personally I think an Alice in Wonderland themed party in the White House is a pretty great idea.

Republicans drive me crazy. The Fox News/talk radio obsession with finding anything and everything they can to smear Obama is just ludicrous. I have serious problems with the president, but whenever I actually set him next to his conservative critics or his conservative rivals I realize just how good he is by comparison.

If only he would take the drug war and civil liberties more seriously. The ramping up of the drug war, deportations of undocumented workers and their families, and so forth are far more troubling to me than whatever contrived scandals the right drums up. The fact that they care more about costume parties than these other issues reveals just how bankrupt the conservative movement has become. Or perhaps it was always thus.

All I know is that we’re knee-deep in another election cycle, and the circus is as mad as ever – egged on by the usual suspects in the conservative entertainment industry. The true winner, of course, will not be the American people. It will be the Limbaughs and Becks of the world who profit enormously on keeping everything at fever pitch.

I could be wrong. Perhaps the only reason conservatism retains such a foothold in American politics is due to the very figures I’m criticizing here. But I can’t imagine it’s a sustainable political model.

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Stephen Colbert vs. The National Defense Authorization Act

The NDAA passed both houses of Congress with flying colors and in spite of a veto threat from the president was signed into law just in time for 2012. Enshrined in this annual authorization of military funding are new rules which allow the indefinite detention of anyone suspected of terrorists – and yes, even US citizens if the government ever chooses.

When I write about this stuff I tend to get really angry and verbose. Fortunately, I have Stephen Colbert to make it all funny:

Well played, Colbert. Well played.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry.

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