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Benjamin R. Barber Headshot

Doing Colbert (and Being Done by Him!)

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A principal argument of my new book CONSUMED is that adults are being dumbed down and infantilized by the same consumer capitalism that is targeting children as primary spenders. Yet ironically, two television programs aimed at young people and animated by a kind of jejune foolery -- Jon Stewart's Daily Show, and Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report -- sell a great many books, more perhaps than more traditional "adult venues," and far more than newspaper reviews.

I know because though CONSUMED has been widely reviewed, and I have done a great many interviews on radio and television, it was my nutty appearance on the Colbert Report -- I didn't so much "do" Colbert as Colbert "did" me! -that bumped up sales big-time the very first week of the book's publication, and it is about the Colbert Report that both teens and grandmothers have been enthusing to me ever since. "Saw you on Colbert!" has become a friendly and familiar greeting of young and old alike.

Which suggests that the real resistance to youth marketing and the massive selling of faux goods to kids who don't "need" what's being pushed on them may actually come from the young themselves. And that those who play jester to the young like Colbert and Stewart may have found a way through playful ridicule to further the agenda of the grown ups.

In my book, taking them at face value, I was perhaps too quick to treat such shows as evidence of dumbing down the younger generation. When it turns out, using the method of clowns and jesters, they may actually be smartening people up. One thing's for sure, they sure help sell grown-up books.