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Apr 14, 2010

Wikileaks on Colbert

Stephen Colbert grills Wikileaks editor Julian Assange over the release classified US military footage last week.


Stephen Colbert grills Wikileaks editor Julian Assange over the release of videos showing US military killing civilians in Iraq. This is the full, unedited interview and includes swearing.


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26 thoughts on “Wikileaks on Colbert

  1. Elan

    I’ve had to skim this because of time constraints at the moment (let’s see if I alter my opinion when I see it in full….), but one thing is clear; Assange handled himself very well, staying calm during this whole attempt at ridicule.

    How I wish I was like that!!!

    That asshole would be missing his jugular within the first five minutes if he had interviewed me like that!

  2. paddy

    ELAN, the day when people demand that Stephen Colbert doesn’t take the piss out of his interviewees will be a very sad one indeed.
    If you haven’t seen it already, do a search for his 2006 press club dinner speech to GWB.
    One of the bravest pieces of comedy since the fool took on King Lear.

    Assange knew exactly who he was talking too and handled it beautifully.

  3. Bob the builder

    Colbert made me feel nauseous.
    Typical “liberal” – will have a go at the President and declare war on the conservatariat, but as soon as something that poses a real challenge to the system comes along he’s quiet as a mouse.
    Asking him which service he’d fought with! Disgusting. Carrying on about distortion when this was about as undistorted as it gets, with full access to the unedited footage. How many news organisations do that?
    Makes me sick. What a gutless f*ckwit.
    And yeah, Assange handled it very well – calm, clear answers. Makes it easier when you have integrity and no need to constantly disassemble though, I suppose.

  4. mike bazan

    I think Colbert exposed him for manipulating the evidence to give the impression of deliberate killing of civilians. Got off lightly in my opinion.

  5. Bob the builder

    @ Mike
    Maybe you should look at the original material.
    If they weren’t deliberately targeted, it was gross, wanton, uncaring negligence. They were offering no aggression, no resistance, were posing no threat, were walking about quite openly and unguardedly. Not what you might expect from people engaged in a war, not what you’d expect from anyone who they had any reason to be a target and definitely not people in the fog of war.
    The journalists may have had bodyguards to protect themselves from the general lawlessness of US-controlled Iraq. As do most western journalists (the few that bother to leave their fortified hotels) and all western workers. Should they be shot too?
    And this from the country that constantly bangs on about the right of the citizenry to bear arms!
    And as for manipulating the evidence, that is risible! If that had been any standard news report (perhaps using Simon Fuller Sh*t as cameraman) we’d have got 15 seconds of highly out-of-context material and NO link to the uncut version.

  6. Chade

    You all know he’s a comedian, right? Right? And he’s not taking the piss out of Assange, he’s taking the piss out of himself, and the media. No-one, NO-ONE, would go on The Colbert Report expecting Colbert to be serious. Through the questions (which initially seem silly, but they aren’t), he’s giving Assange a platform to justify, rationalise and explain Wikileaks actions, and provide a base to rebut all the most ridiculous accusations.

    I thought it was a decent interview, actually. You can easily ignore all of Colbert’s statements as white noise and jokes. Assange came across brilliantly imo. Stated his positions, and could have a laugh.

  7. Bob the builder

    I agree re: Assange, but not re: Colbert. I think he threw a few slightly self-deprecating remarks in to make himself not look so p*ssweak, but basically was disturbed that this material was released and that US troops were labelled murderers.

  8. talia.r.katz

    Political and defence commentators have had a field day with this one, picking apart its content, its context and Wikileaks cutting techniques, while talk back and television audiences have been ferocious in their attacks on the US and Australian military for training their soldiers to dehumanise their targets before engaging (read: killing them). Veterans and individuals currently serving are forced to defend their actions in combat against civilians who have never held a gun before, and suddenly the morality of modern warfare is all anyone can think about – that is, 65 years after the firebombing of Dresden.
    It’s a fogging mess. While there is no doubt this footage is on par with the photos from Abu Ghraib as a paradigm shifting tool, and a gamechanger for war reporting, the facts remain. There is no comfort in knowing, and no bliss in ignorance.


  9. Sean

    Bob the Builder and Elan, Robert Colbert is a left-leaning comedian whose shtick is to pretend to be a right wing interviewer in the vein of Bill O’Reilly or the whole Fox News circus or similar, and parody the conservative right of American politics and the media — by cleverly adopting the same types of illogical arguments and attacks ahd shock-jockery, and wearing the suits and ties and paraphernalia of the born to rule ‘successful Republican’ image.

    The Americans get it, and the Republicans are under no illusion he is one of them. The audience is full of lefties as you should be able to tell from the laughter at the deliberate jokes and satire of the right. You will note he swings from a faux attack from a right wing perspective to dropping in appropriately cynical observations about the media — Colbert is pretty much the smartest ad-libbing comedian on American TV today for pulling off his act at being right while coming from the left and keeping up the pretence while adlibbing jokes.

    Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and Colbert of the Colbert Report were actually listed as the most watched and trusted ‘news’ services in the states in a recent survey, although they are parodies of news services, as they’re the only ones prepared to tell the truth about anything or satirise what needs to be satirised – regrettably they provide some necessary analysis that the ‘real’ shows obsessed with glitter and image and technique deliberately omit so as not to upset vested interests.

  10. Bob the builder

    @ Sean
    I’m well aware of what Colbert does and where he fits in the US cultural landscape. Perhaps I got it wrong, but he did seem genuinely uncomfortable with the subject matter.
    As Ruth Brown said ( http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/14/the-secret-life-of-secret-holders-wikileaks/ ), it’s an “uncharacteristically humourless grilling”. I’d prefer that I got it wrong, but to me he really does look uncomfortable with what Wikileaks did in this instance.

  11. Altakoi

    Irony. I-R-O-N-Y. Not the state of being like, or having the qualities of, an iron.

  12. klewso

    To me, Colbert makes a living off “out-Becking” a cojoined Beck and O’Reilly (joined at the hip) –
    the maddest at that Murdoch/Republican “Tea Party”, almost like he’s auditioning to join the “FUX” team – taking to extremes their line, to show how vacuuous and politically opportune and driven they are : “What has happened to the media, especially since it’s been “Mirdoct”!”

  13. klewso

    Parody, satire, not to be taken seriously, so outlandish in it’s projection – “how could it”?

  14. Chade

    @Bob: no. He wasn’t being serious. See Sean’s post. Please.

  15. Bob the builder

    I have read Sean’s post. Unfortunately my reply has been awaiting moderation for an hour or so.

  16. sauron256

    @Bob, I’m not quite sure what you were expecting. Even as a comedian, Colbert projected some integrity by not simply patting Assange on the back and saying “good job exposing them evil US troops!”, but actually asks a few tough questions and brings up some of the arguments being used by people to justify the action in the video. This gave Assange the opportunity to respond to those accusations, in a forum that is most likely far widely circulated than any internet blog.

    I’d suggest you become more familiar with Colbert, as this plays a big part in his TV show, pretending to represent one side of an argument in order to expose flaws within those arguments. For the record, Assange would have been well prepared for the questions he received, as Colbert discusses the interviews together with his guests before they happen.

    Oh, and @Sean… it’s “Stephen” Colbert. 🙂

  17. Sean

    yeah, Stephen, what was I thinking…

    I don’t particularly agree with Ruth Brown that it was a ‘uncharacteristically humourless grilling’ either, you try interviewing someone on a comedy show like edna everage or ali g. or similar characters and see how easy it is to keep the laffs coming when you’re adlibbing, especially with difficult subject matter where you are making political mileage throughout.

    he certainly made it clear even with his tricky double act that he didn’t fully agree with the presentation of the wikileaks material, and I think he interviewed ‘Assange’ in a similar style to other people he’s had on. even tho bob the builder may not have the unquestionable benefit of a cable tv subscription to watch the show regularly, he can watch a few other eps on the net to compare. the whole point about colbert is you have to think twice about whether he’s being serious or not with every sentence…

    I wonder ‘Assange’ is his real name or not — you can guarantee ASIO et al know his real identity exactly…

  18. William Byron

    Stephen Colbert was not trying to show that he didn’t fully agree. He was trying to get a serious answer from Assange to a very important question: HOW DO YOU CONCEIVE THE ROLE OF WIKILEAKS? Is the role of Wikileak to objectively report the truth OR is your role to take a stance? If objective then how do you justify the title of the video? Assange just smiled politely and then halfarsedly pointed out that what happened in the Iraq was WRONG!!!!! This implies that Wikileaks is a website that will take a political/moral stance on issues.

    He declared that he is not simply presenting the facts but wants to editorialise. Colbert was also asking him
    another good question: If you are passing judgement, then who are you to use Wiki as a platform to pass judgment? Come out into the open and don’t hide.

    I think that Assange is a wonderful example of our education system. The correct sentiments without any critical acumen whatsoever. He has the right sentiments but could not care less about how to justify them.

    I love those interviews where Colbert outstrips the interviewee and then has to backtrack and make arguments for them.
    He is brilliant and kind. He very kindly replaced Assange’s jugular with a quick couple of self-deprecating jokes.

    Colbert accidentally one an intellectual argument in the process of trying to crack some intellectual jokes.

    P.S. That video is an abomination. It indites every one of us as a human beings. It wasn’t a video of an atrocity it was a video game.

  19. Bootz

    I think some of you are writing-off Bob’s comments too quickly in your defence of Colbert as a comedian & his conservative shtick. While Sean & Chade are totally correct about Colbert’s act, Bob picked up on something I was feeling while watching that clip – usually I am cringing for the interviewee, but this time round I was cringing for Colbert…I really do think that for whatever personal reason, Colbert did seem a little uneasy & it definately was uncharacteristic. I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing, I watch the show all the time & he really seemed to be acting differently – that just shows Colbert has his own sense of morality, thinks for himself, & uses his comedy show to encourage viewers to think, not blindly follow one path – i.e. Left or Right.

  20. Bob the builder

    Thanks Bootz.
    It’s now on iView, so now watching grainy youtube videos.
    I watched it a few times, but it’s so god-awful and unfunny that I couldn’t take much of it, even though I do appreciate its role in taking on Faux News and all those other lobotomites.
    I still stand by my observations though.

  21. William Byron


    I think the reason why you cringed (as I did) is because he put really good questions to Assange and Assange was unable to respond. The awkwardness stems from Colbert having to smooth over the fact that Assange could not defend himself against a comedian.

    Regardless of were you think Colbert’s politcalv allegiances lie, the questions he asked were worthy of some sort of response.

  22. Elan


    It seems that I must watch this right through…(I kept flicking on,-the clock was ticking for me).

    Reserving my judgment…I’ll take a look in the morning. However, I’m somewhat relieved that what I found so odious was apparently a parody.

    Let’s see.

  23. Bob the builder

    @ Byron

    It seems we’re all watching different clips. Assange handled all those moronic questions (parody or not) brilliantly I thought – didn’t get flustered, was clear and direct even when exposing opening himself to ridicule or misinterpretation and stuck to the arguments without getting into emotional rhetoric.

  24. Broggly

    I have to agree with Bob the Builder. Assange clearly said that while he’s willing to editorialise, Wikileaks is committed to ensuring the underlying facts and sources are easily available for anyone to check. He explained that they feel responsible for creating as much media impact as possible for their sources.
    He said that only 10% of viewers went on to watch the unedited video. What proportion of consumers of other media sources go on to check articles’ sources?

  25. klewso

    Catch the show, tonight (US apr; 14) – case in point:- “if the media was actually looking at what was being said (over the last decade), was challenging politicians – instead of giving them carte blanche to use the media to keep repeating what they were saying – “repetition to fact” (Cheney for one, since) – if certain parts of the media wasn’t so compliant – ala “politifacts(?)”, now – but we wouldn’t have had the war in Iraq?”
    His audience gets him.

  26. William Byron

    I agree “Assange is not a practised performer” and added to the odd tone of the interview.

    But Broggly: If he editorialises in order to guarantee as much media impact then he is basically saying he is equivalent to a shock jock, or some other ratings seeking media outlet.


    THE intent of WIKI associated pages is to present information as an encyclopedia or obejctive information source. The use of “wiki” in wikileak is a ruse to get people to think the information is not editorialised…..

    This is an interesting point.


https://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/14/wikileaks/ == https://www.crikey.com.au/free-trial/==https://www.crikey.com.au/subscribe/

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