Friday, May 1, 2009

The Colbert Report and the Irony of Satire

Abstract: This Ohio University study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert's political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert's political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.

1 comment:

James Gaitis said...

In her recent review of my new literary satire--The Nation's Highest Honor--Barbara Ardinger, a book reviewer for ForeWord Magazine offered similar observations regarding the public's ability or effort to comprehend the satire of Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart:

From ForeWord Magazine:

“With Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death galloping around the planet (and Pollution keeping up in his Hummer), public discourse today seems to have no place for humor except in movies about the pranks of adolescents of all ages. Satire? Hardly anyone recognizes it. How many people get it that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are doing satire every night? What would happen if Jonathan Swift were reincarnated and set his Modest Proposal in, say, Darfur or Pakistan?

Although James Gaitis, who holds a B.A. in English and a J.D., is no Swift, he manufactures a brave new world that runs with Marxian competence (and makes one wonder if he is a Libertarian). An unnamed nation that is presumably a reconstituted United States is going to present its highest honor, the Nolebody Medal, to Dadaist poet and maker of found art, Leonard Bentwood. The medal is named for Philip Nolebody (is the reader supposed to remember Odysseus' reply to the Cyclops, ‘I am Nobody’?), a monster robber baron who acquired just about everything and thirty years ago invented a vaccine ‘which brought an instant and permanent end not only to war … but to virtually every other manifestation of mass violence, whether in the form of organized rebellion or protest, or in the guise of spontaneous eruptions in the form of riots or panic- or greed-driven stampede’ (p. 59).

Plot demands complications. First, Bentwood thinks the government functionary who brings him news of his honor is just trying to sell him something. Bentwood, who lives in the desert (which lets Gaitis compose Mahleresque descriptions of the flora, fauna, and monsoons), is, like Chance the Gardener, pretty much non compos mentis. So is the President. Second, world governments, having purchased the Nolebody Vaccine, have all apparently disbanded their military and police and remaindered the materiel. Governments are now, in fact, manifesting the Peter Principle. (This is new??) Third, the military having been abolished, there are apparently no more guns. But wait….

Suddenly the government learns that the Nolebody Vaccine has a half-life of thirty years and its effects will expire on the day of the Nolebody ceremony. Aggression and competition will inevitably resurface. Now what? The government turns (more) paranoid and decides that Leonard Bentwood is their last best hope, the plotting continues with flim-flammery on the part of both the government and private citizens, and the verboten Nobody Movement comes back to life. Run for the hills!” (May) Barbara Ardinger

James Gaitis
Author of:
The Nation’s Highest Honor—A Literary Satire (Kunati Books 2009)
A Stout Cord and a Good Drop¬—A Novel of the Founding of Montana (Globe Pequot 2006)
The View From Stansberry Lookout—A Literary Satire (Now seeking publication)