DNA. It could happen to you.

Now, I enjoy Stephen Colbert as much as the next person, but I do find him very inappropriate at times. Yes, I understand that it’s satire – and I do love me some satire – but there are some issues around us today which are not to be laughed at.

This week, one of the shows on The Colbert Report was called: “DNA. It could happen to you.” That’s not an offensive title by any means, and he was humourous about the science of DNA etc., but I object to the segment he did with a former prisoner who had recently been released when contrary DNA evidence was presented in his case. Colbert’s interview with the man – who was by no means as articulate or quick as Colbert – was based on the assertion that Colbert, as a ‘law and order man’, believed this chap’s conviction should not be overturned with DNA evidence.

It was all said in jest of course, and we weren’t supposed to be taking Colbert seriously, but I find making fun of such a serious issue objectionable. Innocent people have been executed because there’s been a lack of DNA evidence to clear their names; and now that such evidence is obtainable, I think it’s irresponsible to mock its use.

I’ll always laugh at Colbert’s reports on trivial matters, but when he starts to get derisory about crime and justice issues in a prison- and death-penalty-friendly country like America, it becomes unacceptable.

7 responses to “DNA. It could happen to you.

  1. Very good point there, G. I think shows like the Colbert Report only work when they take on someone who gets the joke, or who is a pompous twit in dire needing of being mocked. I fail to see how someone being wrongly imprisoned is fair game for taking the piss out of.

  2. Pingback: University Update - Stephen Colbert - DNA. It could happen to you.·

  3. Stephen Colbert’s satire will occasionally hit an uncomfortable point with everyone – and it is different for each person. That’s where we have get to think deeply about what nerve was hit. That’s when satire works best as an instrument of enlightening us to issues.

    Stephen was not “taking the piss” out of an exonerated prisoner who didn’t know what was going on. He was taking the piss out of idiots opposing using genetic evidence by showing us the lunacy of the argument taken to it’s logical conclusion. Satire and Irony are supposed to mean the opposite of what is said directly. That’s the point of the humor.

    I personally felt that Jerry Miller understood what was going on. In fact, in this piece of improvisational theater, he was being interviewed by one of those same people who felt it was expedient to put him in jail and made it difficult to for him to use DNA evidence. Miller had the chance to reply to them, face to pseudo-face, and he did well.

    In fact, Miller played to the jokes better than 90% of the guest on the show – his thanking ‘Society’ for the card, but adding that cash would have been nice; when Stephen asked “are you really guilty and I’m in danger here” he replied “You’re in danger, but I’m innocent.” This is not some lame mumbling of an inarticulate man.

    I think Jerry Miller caught the meaning of this interview better than you.

  4. See my last sentence again:

    … but when he starts to get derisory about crime and justice issues in a prison- and death-penalty-friendly country like America, it becomes unacceptable.

    I understood what he was doing, the person I was watching it with understood what he was doing, but would everyone? I doubt it. I find this troublesome because America is a very punitive nation and some states in America are vehemently pro-death-penalty. Satire is only satire when it’s understood as that, and misunderstandings of these issues which arise from satire are prime fodder for the draconian elements in the US.

    That’s why I think his ‘mocking’ of a serious issue can have the exact opposite effect to that intended, and that he has a responsibility for that on his show.

  5. “Satire is only satire when it’s understood as that.” That is totally, absolutely untrue, not to mention paternalistic and reactionary. You don’t think there were some Irish-loathing Brits who didn’t understand that Swift didn’t really want England to begin feeding Irish babies to the poor? Should mocking the extreme hunger and poverty plaguing England’s lower classes – not to mention the persecuted Irish – have been out of bounds for satirists of the 1700s? Should the horrors of young boys being brutally slaughtered in WWII have been too close to the bone for satire? Should Joseph Heller have been more responsible than to have written Catch-22?

    Jerry Miller appeared to be wholly in on the joke. It’s hard to sit next to a guy like Colbert and keep up, and he definitely held his own, nor was he being attacked. For viewers who may not have yet caught on to the fact that Stephen Colbert hosts a satirical show, and couldn’t figure it out from, say, the DNA film he showed, what exactly is the danger? That they may become even more inflamed about issues they don’t understand than they already are? Let’s save the worries for what’s happening on real news shows and in real newspapers, because that’s far more frighetning for everyone. Anything, including sharp satire, that shows up people like Jack O’Reilly and Sean Hannity for the fear and hate mongering liars they are, is a win for the good guys.

  6. Entertainment, the media, the news, satire etc. etc. are subjective. People take what they want from them and are entitled to feel uncomfortable about them. That’s the bottom line. I felt uncomfortable about Colbert’s satire of this issue and I don’t have to justify that to anyone because it is my subjective perspective.

    For viewers who may not have yet caught on to the fact that Stephen Colbert hosts a satirical show, and couldn’t figure it out from, say, the DNA film he showed, what exactly is the danger? That they may become even more inflamed about issues they don’t understand than they already are?

    Yes, I think there is a danger. These are the people who elected Bush into the White House for a second term. These are the people who call for the death penalty for people like Jerry Miller. Yes, I think it is dangerous for these people to become more inflamed about these issues from the entertainment and news media alike. The media in all its forms has a responsibility to society because it is probably the single most influential factor in public opinion. Public opinion in turn influences our elections, our criminal justice system, our government policies etc. etc. Yes, I think it’s dangerous to make the ill-informed even more ill-informed.

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