Saturday, December 15, 2012

Stephen Colbert Strikes Again, This Time at Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt can be such a bully with his shoot-from-the-hip assertions that there seem to be very few willing to call him out to his face over the speciousness of many (if not most) of his claims. Thus far the leading counterexample seems to have been Peter Thiel, who, as an investor, has a power-of-purse that may actually trump Schmidt's power-of-position at Google. Even Ken Auletta, whose command of facts tends to be stronger than that of the people he interviews, has had to maintain the reporter's skill of treating Schimdt with kid gloves.

Stephen Colbert, on the other hand, never heard of kid gloves. Furthermore, he parades a fictitious persona that would have nothing to do with kid gloves, even if he knew what they were. It was thus amusing to read Chris Matyszczyk's Technically Incorrect blog post for CNET News about Colbert being invited as a guest at Google, where he was interviewed on stage by Schmidt. Colbert himself is a master interviewer. As his encounter with Geoff Nunberg demonstrated, he is even good at dealing with those who try to best him at his own game.

Therefore, it should not have surprised anyone that Colbert could be as deft an interviewee as he was an interviewer for his own audiences. Matyszczyk chose to dwell on Colbert professing total ignorance of Google Play while flogging his new book. What it amusing is that Matyszczyk never came down on decided whether or not Colbert was yanking Schimdt's chain, perhaps because even Matyszczyk feels he has to be careful about what he says about Schmidt. In my own mind, however, there is no question at all about Colbert's tactics. Colbert knows enough about audiences to recognize that, more often than not, speaking truth to power is merely tedious, while making power look like a fool has all the impact in the world. (Colbert must have loved The Tin Drum when he was in his formative youth.) More power to him.

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