Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Colbert Conspiracy

If the purpose of the Stephen Colbert stunt casting in the Sunday New York Times was intended to draw attention to the Times Select-free Maureen Dowd, it worked. The blogosphere was abuzz with the news. The general consensus was that stale Colbert was better than hot Dowd. Let’s take a look at some of the more creative headlines:

Caveat Bettor, per Diem: The best Maureen Dowd column ever
Baseball Crank: Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever Written
Wonkette: Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever Written by Stephen Colbert
SteveSilver.net: Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever

Spot a trend? Plenty of other places simply took the stunt at face value:

DailyKos: NYT: Stephen Colbert Replaces Maureen Dowd
NoFactZone.net (a Colbert fansite): Stephen Colbert, ‘New York Times’ columnist?
The Body Politik: Colbert Takes Over Maureen Dowd Column
Verum Serum: Stephen Colbert Writes for Maureen Dowd (and Frank Rich)
Dara Weinberg: Colbert writes Maureen Dowd’s column

The only place that was the most remotely skeptical was Editor and Publisher with their caveat:

But was this just another bit of fakery, and Dowd actually did an excellent job of mocking the mock views of Colbert? Was it faux keeps or not?
Here at MoDo Manor, we tend to be from Missouri when it comes to the guest voices inside Dowd’s head. What would her motive be to pretend to be a fake commentator when she already has a bully platform of her own? The most quoted line in the piece was the faux Frank Rich part:
Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn’t have to think about. It’s all George Bush’s fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I’ve written Frank Rich’s column too.
Frank Rich, the theater critic turned pundit, briefly bumped her off the premiere Sunday spot for a while until calmer heads prevailed. Could this be her way of exacting a pound of his ample flesh? It's obvious that Rich cribs off Dowd fairly frequently. By putting words in the mouth of a Straw Colbert, she gets to have her revenge and eat it cold.

You would think that Comedy Central would have been in on the act from the start if the real Colbert were involved, but their blogpost was possibly ambiguous:
Yesterday's New York Times readers were in for a surprise when Maureen Dowd 'dared' Stephen Colbert to write her op-ed column. In it, Stephen both squelches and fans rumors that he might run for public office
Note the ‘scare’ quotes around ‘dared’. Plus, that post didn’t appear until 1:34 p.m on Monday, a good 36 hours after the NYT page went live. And let’s face it, if Colbert and his TV overlords were caught flat-footed by Dowd, would they let on?

The sign of a good conspiracy theory is that facts never get in the way of thinking with your gut. I think Colbert would agree.

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