posted on May 4, 2006 3:17 PM
The Stephen Colbert kerfuffle, intrinsically uninteresting though it is, leads Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen to an excellent insight:
Why are you wasting my time with Colbert, I hear you ask. Because he is representative of what too often passes for political courage, not to mention wit, in this country. His defenders—and they are all over the blogosphere—will tell you he spoke truth to power. This is a tired phrase, as we all know, but when it was fresh and meaningful it suggested repercussions, consequences—maybe even death in some countries. When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct chance that power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or—if you’re at work—take away your office.
But in this country, anyone can insult the president of the United States. Colbert just did it, and he will not suffer any consequence at all. He knew that going in.
This, it seems to us, explains several conceits of the Angry Left:
The notion that criticism—whether of the Dixie Chicks or of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer—amounts to censorship.
Claims by Democratic politicians that Republicans are “questioning” their “patriotism.”
Fears of incipient fascism.
What these have in common, aside from being totally fantastical, is that they all reinforce the image of the Angry Leftist as courageous dissenter. In truth, this country is so tolerant, indeed downright indulgent, of this sort of “dissent” that it affords no opportunity to be courageous.
Speak “truth to power” in America, and power will pat you on the head and say, “What an adorable little girl.” Some on the Angry Left could actually have the courage to stand up if they were faced with real consequences—but they are unlikely ever to get that chance. America’s almost boundless tolerance thus reduces them to the level of petulant children. No wonder they’re so angry.