Stephen Colbert For President When Satire Is Mistaken For Reality

On Friday, American political satirist Stephen Colbert entered the republican race along with his exploratory committee consisting of “someone good with explosives, a mountain climber and a brain in a jar”. The purpose of the stunt is to illustrate the twisted state of electoral funding in the states but the matter also highlights a number of other issues.

Colbert is famed for satirising the Uber-right wing political commentator Bill O’Reilly and the FOX news network in general, a network which research has repeatedly demonstrated somehow manages to leave its viewers less informed than those who watch no news at all. Amazingly, Colbert’s satire is so spectacularly deadpan that research has demonstrated that a  significant proportion of right wing Americans actually believe that Colbert is genuinely a right wing commentator!

Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, 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. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert’s political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion”.

LaMarre, H., Landreville, K., & Beam, M. (2009). The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 14 (2), 212-231 (PDF)

(NB: Admittedly this research has a tiny sample size, so more research on this would be tremendous.)

If you somehow missed the memo back in 2006, kick back and enjoy this awe-inspiring footage of Colbert slamming George W Bush from four feet away for over twenty minutes at the White House Correspondents Dinner which he was invited to host under the false belief that he was a pro-conservative politician.

For the full experience you’ll want to synch that video with the following footage of Bush’s reaction.

Colbert is known for satirising the popular U.S format of misreporting the news through the use of sensationalist arguments completely devoid of facts.

I’ll leave you to track down more Colbert videos yourself. As many of you will already know, the SOPA bill currently going through the U.S legislature would make it illegal to link to videos as I have done so above. Yesterday a UK court ruled that Richard O’Dwyer, developer of TV Shack is to be extradited to the U.S to be tried for doing just that, demonstrating that SOPA is something we all should be worried about.


LaMarre, H., Landreville, K., & Beam, M. (2009). The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report The International Journal of Press/Politics, 14 (2), 212-231 DOI: 10.1177/1940161208330904 (PDF)

RAMSAY, C. , KULL, S. , LEWIS, E. & SUBIA, S. (2010). Misinformation and the 2010 Election. Published online at WORLDPUBLICOPINION.ORG by University of Maryland

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