Stephen Colbert and the Agents of No Influence

The New York Times has finally deigned to recognize the extraordinary popularity of Stephen Colbert's blistering roast of George W. Bush at the annual Backscratcher's Ball -- sorry, the White House Correspondents Dinner -- earlier this month. But the paper -- which entirely ignored Colbert's performance in its original story on the chummy chow-down -- manages to spin out hundreds of words in this follow-up without mentioning why Colbert's routine has caught fire around the nation: because it poured witty but unmitigated scorn on the lying fool who leads the country and the cringing corporate sycophants who have carried his water in the national press.

Way down at the bottom of the story, after you've sludged through swamps of the usual gray goo, you will find -- if you're still reading at that point -- a brief mention that some commentators felt the mainstream media had been scant of its coverage of the talk because "it was so mocking of the president and of the Washington media." But why anyone would think such a thing will forever remain a mystery to readers of the Times, who are not given a single taste of the uncomfortable truths Colbert delivered.

However, we are informed, right up front, that Colbert's routine "landed with a thud among his influential audience of journalists and politicians," who much preferred some hackneyed jollility involving the Dear Leader himself. Yet we are also told that Colbert's performance is now the Number One album at Apple's iTunes store, outranking new releases by Paul Simon, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Looks like those "influential" movers and shakers aren't so influential after all, if the whole country is ignoring their sniffy reaction to Colbert's routine and is now buying it up in droves -- almost entirely through word of mouth, and word of blog. But then, that's typical of our ludicrous public life these days: the high media mandarins entwine themselves with the bloodstained thugs of power, spooning and cocooning in well-wadded isolation, oblivious to the scorn, the anger -- and the thirst for justice -- that keeps rising in the rest of us out here in reality.