Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Taxes are bad, Fireworks are Pretty"

As noted in The Press Effect, written by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman, many people gain their political knowledge through late night television shows. A perfect example of this is the American satirical late night television show The Colbert Report, starring Stephen Colbert. In one of last week's episodes Colbert begins his episode by mocking the Republican candidates who are "not" running in the next presidential election. 

The first candidate that Colbert talks about is Newton Gingrinch. He shows a clip of Gingrinch saying that he feels passionately about his country and that is why inappropriate things in his life have happened. Colbert responds to this clip by saying, "All he ever wanted to do was screw America and if we elect him as president he'll keep that promise" mocking him for justifying cheating on his wife with cancer because of the passion he feels for his country.

Colbert goes on to discuss another non candidate for the Republican party, Tim Pawlenty. For Pawlenty, Colbert shows a trailer for his "non campaign" book Courage to Stand. Essentially, this trailer has Pawlenty's beaming voice in the background along with dramatic music, showing insignificant and seemingly random images. Colbert mocks this by saying that it looks like a commercial for the next Transformers movie. Colbert mocks this even further by showing his own movie trailer. In Colbert's movie trailer mirrors Pawlenty's trailer as he has his own voice in the background saying complete nonsense, along with dramatic, inspirational music, all while showing unimportant images like cutting a sandwich with a large metal knife. Colbert says things like "Taxes are bad, fireworks are pretty" to emphasize the meaningless things politicians say, but say with such passion that people accept it. 

I think this is similar to what was shown in that episode of Community, where Colbert is pointing out some of the idiocies of politicians. However, this only further proves the idiocies of the people that support the seemingly stupid and unimportant statements that the politicians make and really just give into them because of the way they present themselves. 

Here's the link to the episode - enjoy!


  1. Colbert is genius. And his point is completely non-partisan - Democrats are as guilty of this as Republicans (if not more- one of the biggest criticisms of Obama early in his campaign was his fluffy, contentless speechifying.) I think the reason politicians are so prone to "fireworks are pretty" type speeches is that they WORK. People love feeling inspired, and don't necessarily like pondering the details and viability of a particular tax plan or war strategy.

  2. Just wait until we discuss political advertising - it's even more content-free than this!

  3. well ya I think that's what colbert was making fun of, the trailer, which is an advertisement for Pawlenty's book and his "non presidential campaign"

  4. As a general rule, people do not like having to think. Content-free ads further the non-thinking. If politicians did infuse substance into their ads, it would probably be detrimental because people would rather someone else thinking for them and telling them what to do. Therefore, in an effort to reach people and convince them, politicians revert to content-free ads.