The Colbert/Rorschach Test

Felix Salmon at Reuters relays word of a recent study entitled "The Irony of Satire" from Ohio State University which "investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert." They found that Colbert's brand of comedy effectively functions as an ideological Rorschach test:
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.
Such political Rorschach phenomena are not uncommon, of course. Recording and logging them constitutes 'reporting' in much of the mainstream media. Ed Henry from CNN supplied us with an example following Obama's March 24th press conference (see Abracadabra), in which it becomes readily apparent that when "each side reads its spin into the scene . . . the truth disappears from the political press." The Colbert Report report, however, is slightly different. Here each side sees its own ideological position mirrored in the phenomenon (perhaps this can account for Colbert's popularity). From the liberal perspective, the satire, the comedy, is in Colbert's persona, which exaggerates the image, prejudices and predispositions of conservative radio and television commentators, and in this guise provides the viewer with a liberal message. From the conservative standpoint, on the other hand, it is in the comedic exaggeration that the truth appears, while the liberal message is perhaps seen as an everyday form of media bias.

No comments: