Saturday, October 13, 2012


Years ago I remember watching Jim Wallis as a guest on The Daily Show. He said something that stuck in my mind...that comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are modern prophets. That struck me as very true.

Who can forget Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner? I defy anyone to name a critique of President Bush that was so thorough and devastatingly accurate.

I also think regularly about Colbert's coining of the word "truthiness." I'm not sure anyone has better captured our culture's failure to deal with this information age any better than he did.

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The Word - Truthiness
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I suggest that truthiness is a reaction to the information age because as human beings - we have to find a way to sort through the implosion of information we are bombarded with every day. One of the ways we've done that is to blur the lines between our feelings and thinking.

This is - of course - why Romney/Ryan can lie and flip-flop to their heart's content and some people will continue to support them. Their "gut" is telling them that President Obama is a threat (see polls that demonstrate most of Romney voters are actually more interested in defeating Obama than they are in electing Romney) and they don't want to examine that. To do so might take them on a journey into confronting their own biases. That is a dangerous proposition. And so, in this age of information, they simply cherry-pick what they let in to confirm what their "gut" is telling them.

Too often those of us on the left assume this is a matter of people trusting feelings over believing facts. And so we emphasize our facts. But that seriously misses what's happening here.

Truthiness is actually an attempt to ignore our feelings and pretend like they are thoughts. That's what makes Colbert's treatment so prophetic. If we could face our feelings (usually anger driven by fear and hurt), we could acknowledge our biases and think about them...thus diluting how they drive us. But as long as we deny them, they have control over what we let in and what we keep out.

Years ago I taught a parenting class that was focused on the stages of child development. Part of the curriculum included the idea that one of the lessons we are meant to learn as toddlers is that we can think about our feelings. I'm afraid that in this culture of "I got so angry I couldn't help myself," we've lost that art. In doing so, we are likely to fall prey to truthiness.

1 comment:

  1. I think the prophetic aspect of comics has long been the case. During the Middle Ages, the court jester was the one person who could challenge the king.


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