Open Letter To Colbert
Michael Oren's Truthiness
Emily L. Hauser on how Israeli Amb. Michael Oren has mastered one of Stephen Colbert's favored means of discourse.
Dear Mr. Colbert,As proud member of the Colbert Nation, I salute you, and I offer my kudos and a hearty huzzah for Tuesday night’s interview with the Ambassador of America’s BFF, Israel. Seeing you with Israel's Ambassador Michael Oren was not unlike seeing into the bed chamber of the most loving couple on God’s green earth—which was, I admit, a tad embarrassing, but Mr. Colbert, you know my love for you is pure.
Setting aside that rather arresting image however, if I had to narrow my sheer delight down to one thing, it would be this: Oren, for all his status and (one imagines) fancy dinner parties, has clearly chosen to take on the teachings of America’s most humble pundit and thoroughly embody the Colbert Creed of Truthiness: truth that’s from the gut, not books! Truth that (if I may quote the American Dialect Society of January 2006) reflects "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true"!
Thus, for instance, Oren was able to look you (the very Prophet of Truthiness!) straight in the eye and say “Israel doesn’t get involved in internal politics in the United States”—even though you had already gone to the metaphorical tape and reminded him of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s open support for President Obama’s competitor in the last elections (what was that guy’s name again?). “But Netanyahu wanted the other guy, that’s clear,” you said, and when Oren demurred, you doubled down: “It’s absolutely clear to anybody who’s got eyes in their skull, he wanted the other guy.” (It might be suggested that in this case, the student became the master and Oren pwned you in the truthiness stakes. But it will not be suggested by me, for I am loyal.)
And then—oh glory!—Oren’s performance as a Truthiness Acolyte shone out even above the tests you set for him! (They were just tests, right? You don’t really want people to use the eyes in their skulls?) “The Iranian leaders are every week threatening to wipe us off the map,” Oren said, “if they get these nuclear weapons.”
As a dual American-Israeli citizen, I can assure you: this is what the Israeli government feels to be true—it’s the concept Israel prefers to talk about rather than the facts that are known to be true! The facts, those silly, annoying things, tell us that Iran’s leaders don’t actually talk about building or using nuclear weapons. They talk about nuclear power, because if they talked about building weapons, U.S. bombers would likely take off for Tehran tomorrow.
Now, it’s true that nearly 12 years ago, then-Iranian President Rafsanjani suggested that in the case of a nuclear war with Israel, Iran would survive and Israel wouldn’t, but it’s also true in the meantime Rafsanjani has often denied that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, citing Ayatollah Khamenei’s fatwa against such weapons, none of which really lends itself to a serious assertion that “the Iranian leaders are every week threatening to…” etc, etc, etc. I would agree that common sense suggests that we take these words with a hefty grain of salt and continue to prepare for all eventualities—but that’s just the common sense talking. Don’t mind me.
Clearly Oren’s gut tells him that all this is much too nuanced for the American people, just as Americans can’t be trusted with the fact that Israel itself has nuclear weapons that everyone knows about but to which it refuses to cop. But as you said, we here at Colbert Nation will have Israel’s back with every single nuke to which it does admit! Duty shall not be shirked!
And yet, if I may, Mr. Colbert, Oren’s greatest moment actually came early in the conversation and went entirely unremarked by you—thus becoming truthiness in its purest form, because it went unchallenged.
Oren tossed off the notion that one of his government’s highest priorities is to “get the Palestinians back to the negotiating table”—and oh, the marvel of that statement!
Like the finest jazz, the beauty was in the notes that Oren didn’t play: The Israeli leaders under whom Oren has served these last several years have done virtually everything they can—from massive settlement construction, to incursions into what is ostensibly Palestinian-controlled territory, to all-out war, to vague threats of bringing down the Palestinian government—to ensure that such negotiations will be impossible to resume. Good will, schmood will! If we keep those Palestinians just angry and insecure enough (my Israeli government seems to think), they’ll never want to talk to us again! VICTORY!
Oh my, the whole interview was a marvel and a wonder, not unlike a brief foray into Paradise. I thank you, Mr. Colbert, and again: I salute you. Truthiness is as truthiness does, and clearly: Acolyte Oren does truthiness very, very well.