Tonight (December 18) the world will officially lose the fake Stephen Colbert, as the real Stephen Colbert ditches "The Colbert Report" for "The Late Show." And while some of Colbert's dissenters might dismiss the man as nothing but a high-profile satirist, it's undeniable that Fake Colbert left a huge mark on our culture -- basically, Fake Colbert did some very capital-r Real Stuff.
For example, Fake Colbert ran for president -- twice. Fake Colbert presented the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner speech in 2006, and stunned the entire country by repeatedly insulting George W. Bush (and the entire Republican party) to his face. He also got an eagle, a turtle, and a new species of spider named after him, shot his DNA into space, and had his portrait hanged at the Smithsonian museum in Washington. That's about as Real as it gets, folks.
However, the most important moment in "Colbert Report" history came during its very first night: the moment when Colbert introduced the word "Truthiness" into the public vernacular, during a time when much of the world was becoming very frustrated with the half-lies and blatant untruths that Fox News talking heads were sprouting on a nightly basis.
"The 'truthiness' is, anyone can read the news to you," Colbert said on October 17, 2005. "I promise to feel the news... at you."
Truthiness sums up what's wrong with the way we process the news -- and the way it's given to us -- in so many ways, and leave it to someone as fiercely intelligent as Colbert to present it to us in a way that's hilarious, but also makes us think. Why do we believe whoever is shouting at us the loudest? Why do news articles with "decorative" photos cause readers to perceive that whatever they're consuming is 100 percent true? Why does fear and emotion trump logic when it comes to issues like the Michael Brown shooting, or even threats of terrorism?
These are some tough issues to tackle, and recent events have proven that the triumph of emotion over facts in the media will not go away anytime soon. However, props must be given to Fake Colbert for introducing this term to America (and props have been given, being that truthiness was Merriam-Webster's word of the year in 2006), and making us think -- some for the first time -- about how we process information.
Goodbye, Fake Stephen Colbert. We (and Papa Bear) already miss you dearly.