June 7, 2009

The Colbert/Newsweek Iraq Cover (or, Someone We Admire Yelling It At Us)

The June 15 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands June 8), "Iraq," features the first ever guest editor, Stephen Colbert.  Top of the Week, Letters, Conventional Wisdom and more are written by Colbert.  Plus, the way we view Iraq now, why some soldiers seek out combat, inside the mind of West Point's class of 2009, children of military parents, our real prison problem, and what Pittsburgh can teach Obama.  (PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK)

To appreciate this cover image, you need to consider it alongside Colbert’s admonition in signing off his explanation for editing the current Newsweek issue:

“Now go read my magazine. Although to get the full effect, you should have someone you admire yell it at you.”

Best known for wearing a persona, Stephen Colbert (from the neck up) turns himself into a grunt — and a national billboard — not just to illuminate, but to shout at us (through the language of parody, of course) about the men and women who have been forsaken for carrying out a forsaken war.

If the tendency is to summarize Colbert’s message, in big capital letters, as “Don’t forget Iraq,” the image (emphasizing that amazing “are you getting this?” eye, and that “we’re so miserable and disappointed” frown) is as much about the boots — or, specifically, the heads (with those vulnerable skulls) — on the ground.

The NYT captures the gist in previewing Colbert’s Iraq Show in its Television section (and don’t miss the lead photo of the article, with that suit that also conveys miles of identification):

The troops didn’t seem to care much about the meta-ness of Mr. Colbert’s visit, nor were they uneasy about his political shtick as they laughed at the gags about clearing Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and last year’s shoe-throwing incident involving the man who was then their commander in chief as much as at Mr. Colbert’s self-deprecating jokes about his lack of fortitude.

“I know his persona is all pro-American,” Lieutenant Klepman said, trying to explain the math of Stephen Colbert and “Stephen Colbert” and which one of them had come for what reason. Finally he gave up.  

“I’m glad either one of them showed up,” he said.

(image credit: not available on-line)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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