Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Comedians" Gatekeep and Control Low Attention/Information Political Discourse

slate |  But things really went off the rails in this exchange, when Stone tried very hard not to answer a yes or no question with “yes” or “no.”
Colbert: Do you like Vladimir Putin? After spending twenty hours with the guy, do you trust him?
Stone: I think you should see the film for yourself.
Colbert: I’m just asking you a question. Do you trust him after spending twenty hours with him? I’d like to see the film, I haven’t had a chance to see it yet.
Stone: He’s a head of state, he has Russian—he has his own interests in Russia. I respect him for that, I understand why he’s doing it. He’s a strong nationalist…
By the time Stone got to his monologue about how Putin refused to badmouth anyone despite being “insulted and abused,” the audience was audibly scoffing, and Colbert wasn’t above feeding off the mood of the crowd. “Anything about him negative you found?” he asked as a follow-up, to laughter and applause. “Anything? Anything? Or does he have your dog in a cage somewhere?” The final straw came when Stone suggested that Russia was a convenient scapegoat for people who didn’t like Trump. Colbert interrupted him, dropped the “some people say” pose, and spoke for himself:
Colbert: I don’t understand why our president will never say anything negative about Vladimir Putin, given that Putin is an oppressive leader of his country who suppresses the free press and arrests his enemies—that is not something that I as an American or a member of the press can respect. And I’m surprised that you do respect that.
Stone: Well, you know I’ve always been for free speech.
Colbert: Yes, and it doesn’t seem like he would be a hero of that.
Stone: Listen, no question he’s a social conservative in that way, he believes that [Audience laughter] I don’t know why you’re laughing, but it’s—he believes strongly that—
Colbert: Because it seems like a mild description of his behavior. That’s why they’re laughing.
It’s brutal. Stone does make one good point, which is that it’s ridiculous to talk about a four-hour film based on a few clips, or even two hours. “What I said is in this four-hour documentary,” he told Colbert. “I think that if you watch it patiently, you’ll see that it’s developed, it’s a film, it has a flow from 2000 all the way to 2017—we went back after the election to talk to him seriously about the election.” He also specifically mentions the pressing Putin harder in the fourth episode. It’s possible that Stone established a base of trust with Putin before hitting him with harder questions—in fact, that’s exactly what Colbert did with his ramble about how great it was to talk philosophy with “an Oliver Stone” before asking him if he’d conducted “a fawning interview with a brutal dictator.”