Move over, Stephen Colbert.
While you’ve been out there entertaining US troops, the sneaky Jack Kimble is poaching on your turf. That would be the “faux” congressional candidate running for reelection in California’s 54th District – the Golden State actually has only 53 congressional districts. He is fast usurping the crown as the best candidate-for-fun in the 2010 election landscape (comedian Stephen Colbert ran for president in 2008). The unidentified prankster is having his fun beneath the big-screen radar, tweeting, blogging, and campaigning from a surprisingly well-appointed site.
The mock Republican has even fooled some mainstream political journalists. Just this week, a Washington Post blogger pounded out a fact-filled reply to a Kimble tweet that had asserted that former President Bush had fought two wars with no cost to the American public. He posted his red-faced correction on Tuesday with some humor noting he was fooled. This is, after all, a “candidate” who, among other things, is promoting corn dogs over funnel cakes as part of his political platform. In another, apparently straight-faced moment, a reporter for The Huffington Post cited "Rep. Jack Kimble (R-Calif.)" in an article about the 14th Amendment, noting the congressman’s opposition to it.
Much like Comedy Central’s Mr. Colbert, who rarely if ever breaks his persona as a blowhard conservative talk show host, “candidate” Kimble is all campaign business with no hint of the real face behind the charade. Some online sleuthing turns up precious little insight other than a possibly legitimate post from Nate Peele’s sister – the guy behind the blogsite, thatsrightnate.com – asserting that Nate Peele and Jack Kimble are one and the same. Maybe yes, maybe no.
Digging out the real identity of the funster probably doesn’t matter as much as the fact that some pretty serious folks were fooled by the satire, says Anne Landman, managing editor of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a watchdog group devoted to sniffing out spin in all its various forms in the national media. The ruse-ster ranked a spot on the CMD’s Weekly Spin newsletter that went out Friday.
“The fact that a very respectable newspaper reporter was taken in by the joke is a good message to all of us that we need to stop and think about what we are consuming and ask questions about what’s behind it,” she says, adding that particularly when it comes to political advertising very little is what it seems to be on the surface. The next step after wondering who’s behind the comedy of Jack Kimble might be to question whose money is behind a political ad knocking one candidate or another, she suggests. “Satire is a good way to train people to look at their politicians a little more critically,” she adds.
Satire helps us frame the discourse, says Elizabeth Ossoff, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester. “Satire helps point out that the emperor has no clothes,” she says. In a fast-paced news cycle, the ability to see the bigger picture is invaluable not just for journalists, but for everyone, she adds.
“It’s so easy to rush to judgment these days,” she says, but the experience of the Washington Post blogger shows how just a moment of questioning before judging a situation can be very important. “We aren’t taking the time to ask ourselves, ‘what is real and what is not?' ” she says. “Maybe the fun of something like Jack Kimble will nudge us into doing that a bit more.”