Daily Archives: August 10, 2010

Video of the Day: Stephen Colbert Pwns Laura Ingraham [Updated with Frye Quote]


Laura Ingraham in the seconds before being hoist with her own petard

Colbert’s interview of Laura Ingraham is a week old but is so artful that it’s worth taking another look.  Colbert, without calling Ingraham a racist who cannot write, demonstrates that she’s a racist who cannot write by using his persona as a pompous know-nothing to play out the pretense that her book The Obama Diaries is actually written by Obama.  The look on her face as the trap closes says it all.  Ingraham thinks she’s produced satire, but Colbert easily outmaneuvers her to show that she hasn’t.  Satire requires more than just a sarcastic attitude and is considerably more subtle than providing an excuse to say nasty things about people that have no demonstrable relation to them. With Ingraham, Colbert demonstrates, the only recognizable issue is race and is expressed in terms of ugly racist cliches.  Ingraham, evidently mortified to be shown up so, provides no rationale; she merely tries to bluff her way through the remainder of the interview.  That’s why this video is being widely linked.  (Ingraham: “I think we had a moment here.”  Colbert: “No, I think you had a moment there.)

See the relevant portion of the interview here.

[Update] Frye in “The Nature of Satire”:

For satire needs both pleasure in conflict and determination to win; both the heat of battle and the coolness of calculation.  To have too much hatred and too little gaiety will upset the balance of tone.  Man is a precocious monkey, and he wins his battles by the sort of cunning that is never far from a sense of mockery.  All over the world people have delighted in stories of how some strong but stupid monster was irritated by a tiny human hero into a blind, stampeding fury, and how the hero, by biding his time and keeping cool, polished off his Blunderbore or Polyphemus at leisure.  (CW 21, 41)

Maclean’s: “Academic ‘crisis’ at the U of T”


Maclean’s has a story today about the University of Toronto Faculty Association filing a grievance over the closure of the Centre for Comparative Literature.  A primary issue for UTFA is that money is being siphoned from Arts and Science to professional faculties.

Money quote:

“All I can say is that structural changes of the kind that have been recommended are always going to be complicated,” Gertler said. “There will be winners and losers, and we have been very careful to assess what we think are the benefits and the costs associated with these proposals.”

Messenger doesn’t buy that argument, and points to a January UTFA report that suggests undergraduate programs are subsidizing professional programs. According to the review, in 2006-2007 approximately $50 million was transferred from arts and science, engineering, and the U of T’s Mississauga and Scarborough campuses to faculties like medicine, management and law. In 2009-2010, the subsidy was $47 million.

“Some of the University’s professional faculties [receive] transfer funds from Arts and Science. Are those faculties therefore unsustainable”?, Messenger asked.

Gertler says cross-subsidization is simply a reality of operating a large institution like the U of T. “We have long abandoned the idea that every unit, department and faculty in the university has to pay its own way,” he said.

Wikipedia Trolls in the Department of Defence, Alberta


Full story here.

This story is perhaps not getting as much attention as it should: at least one individual and perhaps more in the Defence Department at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, has been trying to alter the Wikipedia entry on the Harper government’s decision to spend billions on a new stealth jet fighter.  (Again, we can’t afford increases to education and health care, but…)   The effort involves at least three computers registered to the Defence Research and Development Canada’s Ottawa offices.  The IP address, however, has been determined to be from CFB Cold Lake.  Wikipedia has labelled the alterations vandalism.

Bad enough.  But Defence Department computers in Alberta have also been used to insert insulting comments about Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff onto the same Wikipedia page.

Meanwhile, efforts to remove from Wikipedia criticism of the Harper government’s decision to invest in stealth jet fighters continue to be traced to computers located in downtown Calgary.

Alberta, Alberta, and again Alberta.

This is why Harper will never win a majority.  Canadians do not like this sort of thing and will not put up with it.

Quote of the Day: Wilde on “Modern Journalism”


Self-professed “rodeo clown” Glenn Beck doing what he does

“There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism.  By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.  By carefully chronicling the current events of contemporary life, it shows us what very little importance such events really have.”  Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist



At sunset, Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, begins.

Frye on the rhetoric of “charm” in the Quran in “Charms and Riddles”:

If we pick up the Koran, for instance, and try to read it as we would any other book, we may well find its repetitiveness intolerable: surely, we feel, the God who inspired this book was not only monotheistic but monomaniacal.  And even this response comes only from a translation: the original is so dependent upon the interlocking sound-patterns of Arabic that in practice the Arabic language has had to go everywhere the Islamic religion has gone.  Yet, for anyone brought up in the religion of Islam, hearing the Koran from infancy, and memorizing great parts of it consciously and unconsciously, the Koran does precisely what it is set up to do.  The conception of the human will assumed is that of a puppy on a leash: it plunges about in every direction except the right one, and has to be brought back and back and back to the same controlling power.  (Spirtus Mundi, 135)