Can Satire Aspire to Leadership? The Case of Stephen Colbert

Can the comedian's critique of campaign finance make a difference or is it too easily dismissed as comedy? Today, Colbert urged South Carolina to vote for Herman Cain, who is no longer running.

What's the Latest Development?

Today in Charleston, South Carolina, comedian Stephen Colbert urged the state's citizens to vote for Herman Cain in Saturday's primary election. Cain dropped out of the presidential race long ago but will still appear on the ballot, thanks to South Carolina's election laws. That proved a hilarious convenience to Colbert, who has been making fun of the nation's campaign finance laws since starting his own Super PAC, an extension of free speech rights made possible by the Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

What's the Big Idea?

The same strict laws that will keep Cain on the primary ballot have kept Colbert off. So to satirize what the comedian thinks is an electoral system run amok, Colbert is stumping for Cain, urging that a vote for Cain represent a vote for Colbert. The comedian's Super PAC has at least tens of thousands of dollars which it has used to run comedic political attack ads in South Carolina. But Colbert's rally today was attended mostly by college students holding ironic signs of support. Is Colbert's brand of engaged satire enough to stir change?

Photo credit: wikimedia commons

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Lama Rod Owens – the price of the ticket to freedom

An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
  • "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
Keep reading Show less

For most of history, humans got smarter. That's now reversing.

We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?

The Flynn effect appears to be in retrograde. (Credit: Shutterstock/Big Think)

There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.

Keep reading Show less

Lateral thinking: The reason you’ve heard of Nintendo and Marvel

Here's why generalists triumph over specialists in the new era of innovation.

  • Since the explosion of the knowledge economy in the 1990s, generalist inventors have been making larger and more important contributions than specialists.
  • One theory is that the rise of rapid communication technologies allowed the information created by specialists to be rapidly disseminated, meaning generalists can combine information across disciplines to invent something new.
  • Here, David Epstein explains how Nintendo's Game Boy was a case of "lateral thinking with withered technology." He also relays the findings of a fascinating study that found the common factor of success among comic book authors.
Keep reading Show less