Seriously. Right now. This is a watershed event. If you didn't watch it on CSPAN (as I didn't), watch the clips online.
If you want to see the difference between real political satire and the cheap imitation stuff, watch (or read) Stephen Colbert's merciless skewering of the Cheney administration and its media lapdogs, then go fork over your $10 and see the movie American Dreamz, which purports to do the same thing....
Colbert's routine was designed to draw blood -- as good political satire should. It seemed obvious, at least to me, that he didn't just despise his audience, he hated it. While that hardly merits comment here in Left Blogostan, White House elites clearly aren't used to having such contempt thrown in their faces at one of their most cherished self-congratulatory events. So it's no surprise the scribes have tried hard to expunge it from the semi-official record -- as Peter Daou notes over at the Huffington Post.
Colbert used satire the way it's used in more openly authoritarian societies: as a political weapon, a device for raising issues that can't be addressed directly. He dragged out all the unmentionables -- the Iraq lies, the secret prisons, the illegal spying, the neutered stupidity of the lapdog press -- and made it pretty clear that he wasn't really laughing at them, much less with them. It may have been comedy, but it also sounded like a bill of indictment, and everybody understood the charges.
If things were going well, if Bush's approval ratings were north of 60%, gas was 80 cents a gallon and the war was being won, I suspect Colbert would have gotten a different reception. His audience could have pretended to be amused -- in that smug, patronizing way we all remember from the neocon glory days. But we're long past the point where the Cheneyites and their journalistic flunkies are willing to suffer such barbs with good humor. The regime's legal and political troubles are too serious, the wounds too open and too deep for the gang to smile while somebody like Colbert gleefully jabs a finger into them....
The light entertainment at these events is also supposed to reflect the same spirit of forced good cheer, to the point where even matters of deadly seriousness -- things that in other countries might cause governments to fall -- are treated like inside jokes, as with Shrub's looking-for-the-missing-WMDs-under-the-couch routine. Ha ha ha. We're all friends here!
The underlying message, never stated or even acknowledged, is that there are no disputes that can't be resolved within the cozy confines of our "democratic" (oligarchic) system. Friends don't send friends to jail -- or smash their presses or abolish their political parties or line them up against the wall and shoot them.
The problem is that the tissue of this particular lie has been eroding ever since the Clinton impeachment, if not before, and is now worn exceedingly thin. It's becoming harder and harder to conceal the ruthlessness of the struggle for power, or ignore the consequences of losing it.