On Aug. 6, that pseudo-conservative satirist Stephen Colbert utterly failed to pretend to play a right-winger on TV. Colbert invited on "legendary" radical-left folk singer Pete Seeger and treated him with deep reverence.
"It's an honor to have you on. You are a living legend. You are a giant. It's like having Paul Bunyan or Johnny Appleseed on," he oozed. This is the same sultan of snark that exudes zero reverence for his allegedly Catholic beliefs, calling himself the "Pope of basic cable" as he has rudely joked that Cardinal Timothy Dolan uses Viagra and mocked Pope Benedict for having "the face of an angel ... that got caught in a food dehydrator."
After a six-minute interview, Colbert grew even more reverent as he closed out the show by announcing with a solemn face that the 93-year-old "legend" Seeger would now sing a folk song. There was no irony as this leftist sang that "I know that you who hear my singing / Could make those freedom bells go ringing." That's the pinnacle of the "anti-war" agenda, "freedom"?
Behind Seeger was a blown-up image of his banjo head, which carries the words, "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender."
That sounds like a bad joke when you consider this is Comedy Central, where hate and insults of everything Americans hold dear is what makes their machine rumble. So it's downright strange when they grow deeply reverent of anyone, as they did with Seeger.
After the gooey you're-a-giant introduction, the only real emergence of Colbert's pseudo-conservative idiot character came when Seeger openly proclaimed, "I was a member of the Communist Party for a few years." Colbert insisted: "I'm getting to that. In 1955, you refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Would you like to name names now? I'll start. Pete Seeger, I gave one, now you give one."
In reality, Seeger unspooled his old tales about his radical father without so much as blinking, following the advice Colbert apparently gives every guest: "My character's an idiot. Your job is to set him straight."
At The Huffington Post, a Seeger-adorer named Peter Dreier advocated a campaign to nominate Seeger for the Nobel Peace Prize, which faltered previously. What does it really need to succeed? Colbert, "now that Pete has graced his show with his presence ... By heading a campaign to get Pete Seeger the Nobel Peace Prize, Colbert would actually demonstrate that the forces of social conscience can triumph, against the odds."
Seeger is most often revered on the left for appearing on the "Smothers Brothers" comedy show on CBS in 1968 to sing his song "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy." It contained a very obvious rhetorical knifing of President Lyndon Johnson for being a moron to keep American forces in Vietnam: "Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a tall man'll be over his head, we're waist deep in the Big Muddy! And the big fool says to push on!"
"Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" contains the same arrogance about the military-industrial complex wasting our stupid soldiers: "Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards every one / When will they ever learn?" Colbert could only see this work as a hook for a joke that the song could be used as a jingle by Miracle-Gro.
Seeger fanatics will declare, as one Occupy Wall Street protester named Larry Manzino declared last October to The New York Times, "He's a guy who never caved, a guy who had integrity, a guy who stood up and said no when he had to." Seeger's clearly a man who always hated America at war. In 1940, he was singing, "I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won't be safe till everybody's dead." And: "Wendell Wilkie and Franklin D. / Both agree on killing me." Even FDR was a "big fool" in the "big muddy" when Hitler was on the march.
Guess who wasn't a "big fool" to Seeger? The writer Ronald Radosh was delighted to discover in 2007 that Seeger had written a song opposing Joseph Stalin. "I should have asked to see the gulags when I was in (the) USSR," he wrote to Radosh, but he had never written against that inhumanity when it mattered. Instead, he wrote a tribute song to Vietnamese communist dictator Ho Chi Minh.
Colbert should have read Mark Steyn before booking (and slobbering over) Seeger. In the Washington Post, he wrote, "with its usual sly elan, hailed him as 'America's best-loved Commie' -- which I think translates as 'Okay, so the genial old coot spent a lifetime shilling for totalitarian murderers, but only uptight Republican squares would be boorish enough to dwell on it.'"
Stephen Colbert is supposed to be that boorish Republican. But he's ignoring the historical reality alongside every other Seeger-adoring, left-wing whitewasher. They are big fools, indeed.