Saturday, September 12, 2015

Justice isn't Funny and Funny isn't Just

Steven Colbert's Late Show is only two shaky episodes old, but the Social Justice™ scribes are, unwisely, not waiting for it to take off before trying to clip its wings. After regurgitating an old complaint about him employing an "all white" writing staff of seventeen men and two women (actually up from one, which is of course a hundred-percent increase! someone alert Nate Silver!), this Atlantic writer is already worried for the condition of the program's soul:
But then. A writing staff is, in many ways, the soul of a show. The 19 people Colbert selected for The Late Show will decide much about how his influential platform will do its influencing. And Colbert himself, furthermore, is someone who—based on interviews he’s given as himself rather than the characters he has played on The Colbert Report and, now, The Late Show—seems to think deeply about the structures and systems that make the world what it is. He seems to understand, in a way many comedians don’t, that even the most innocuous kinds of “entertainment” play a role in defining culture.
And Colbert himself, furthermore, is someone who—based on interviews he’s given as himself rather than the characters he has played seems to think deeply [read: correctly] about the structures and systems that make the world what it is. He seems to understand, in a way many comedians don’t, that even the most innocuous kinds of “entertainment” play a role in defining culture.
What progressives don't seem to understand is that these white, overwhelmingly male (and Jewish, but who's counting?) writers are doing advocacy on behalf of "women and minorities" that they, and their humorless advocates in "serious" journalism are incapable of doing for themselves. If these shows were to yield completely, and make their comedy staffs resemble Bennetton ads, they wouldn't survive to then to take their (dubious) role "defining culture" for the rest of us rubes. Unless of course they adopt the corporate model many of us who work for a living know: have the white guys do the heavy lifting and place the diversity hires in harmless, window-dressing positions. This is hard to do when your job is to sit in a room and compete to see who has the best ideas. Indeed, putting a token-hire discrimination-lawsuit-in-waiting in that humbling environment has the potential to be much more than the standard cost of doing business it is for corporate America. Colbert knows, even if he won't allow himself to learn from it, that his writing staff, like Tom Wolfe's protagonist in Bonfire of the Vanities says of the similarly non-diverse bond room at the fictional Pierce & Pierce, is "no place for empty gestures."

This is leaving aside the ethical and artistic sin for which Colbert is so often praised: using art and entertainment (inexplicably placed in quotes above--what is she saying with that?) as a means of promoting political and social goals, rather than as a means of understanding politics and society. Art as factional propaganda rather than critical revelation. If Colbert is guilty of anything, it is this.

But being a successful promoter of the Narrative, fittingly enough, comes with the privilege of pointing out the silliness of the Narrative, as Colbert demonstrated when accepting an Emmy for his Comedy Central show (with, I imagine, mostly the same staff he's taken to late night), by thanking a writing staff composed of "those guys, and one woman" and saying "I'm sorry for that, for some reason."

 

Still, when these favored few show rare glimpses of awareness, it never seems to make it into their work in any meaningful way. A comedy show is too valuable for the symbolic gesture of token-hiring, but it's also, in this case, too valuable to point out the absurdity of token hiring.

But what strikes me about this latest teapot tempest is its premature nature. The SJW modus operandi (whether Justice's zealous auxiliaries recognize it or not) is to wait until a thing succeeds, then to sweep in and demand it be more "representative" (and to make the absurd argument that it needs to do this to succeed). This holds true across the professional and cultural spectrum, for various manufactured crises, from success in STEM fields to the military to comedy. The less representative a field is, the more potential it holds for plunder by diversity. These are tremendous growth opportunities, vast, untilled fields, for a political movement that has become a parasitic industry.

Perhaps they see the same pattern the rest of us are seeing, the other side of the counterfeit "inclusion" coin: it's not that white guys are hogging up all the jobs and influence, it's that non-whites and women are not contributing their fair share--and the white guys are either too busy doing to notice or too polite to mention it.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great insight. The only function that inherently can't be appropriated is the agitprop production that enables the appropriation. They can demand every seat on the plane except the pilot's.

Dennis Dale said...

I like that. It's an airplane flight where we all have to pretend everyone's as capable as the pilot, but not let them in his chair without careful supervision. Like children visiting the cockpit, we let them hold the yoke while the co-pilot carefully maintains control, then we send them back to their seats thinking they just flew the plane, and it was easy.