Jon Stewart as Bush Apologist, Ick ... (from the Personality Over Character School of Media Get-along)
Okay, I made myself sit through the interminable Maddow/Stewart interview tonight. Still trying to wrap my mind around what Stewart was going for with his “Rally for Sanity.” He has a lot of well-earned loyalists, including me.
Stewart asserts to Maddow that after 12 years he felt he deserved the right to let Americans know who he really is. I say, thank you, Jon, for waiting 12 years to do it. Your show was and still is the most moral show on the air. A cathartic outlet for national rage over the amorality and incompetence in our leadership, both Dem and Repub.
Now Stewart is making me emotionally seasick (de ja Obama) with his crusade to bring conversational civility to the media and to the citizenry. On the face this seems like a modest and sane proposal. But then Stewart does that “conflationary” thing, calling out left supposed extremists and right extremists as both being crazily unfounded.
My being, I suppose, a left extremist (though I feel more a morally righteous and awake citizen) I take issue when he calls us out for calling Bush a war criminal. He concedes to Rachel that maybe Bush is “technically” a war criminal. But that it is incendiary to assert those words in the national conversation. Wow. If the criminality fits? What is wrong with Jon? And he also chides those of us who contend that Halliburton can be blamed in part for the Iraq War. Are we really going too far with that one?
Jon, what have you done with Jon?
When Stewart threw a tantrum on Crossfire long ago (NOT using his inside voice, btw), he was calling out the hostile, partisan, cliche-ridden gamesmenship rhetoric of the talking heads. I was impressed and understood.
But now, using his enormous power as national Pied Piper, he asserts that Bush, for example, has been unfairly vilified by extremists on the left. Bush deserves prosecution, Jon. Stewart declares that no one has the right to presume to understand Bush’s real intention for war, to label him as “evil” for example. Stewart even minimizes the horror and evil of waterboarding. For you to become an apologist for Bush on this, Jon, you have really, surreally jumped the shark.
I must add, too, much as I have enjoyed The Daily Show, there have been times I couldn’t stomach the guest segments. The most recent time was when Jon was making nice with Condi Rice. Celebrity personality trumps moral character in our style over substance culture. Like when Oprah showed America what a fine drinking buddy Bush would make. There was personable Ms. Rice chatting it up with Jon. Another war criminal gets a pass. Maybe a few hard softball questions every now and then from Jon. But, what the hey, such media chemistry boosts the ratings for Jon and it is great p.r. a/k/a propaganda for the “personable” treasonous sociopath in the guest seat. One more serious contribution to the national moral coma. Civility enabling sociopathy. Cronyism and media egoism.
At one point in the Maddow interview Stewart accuses MSNBC and CNN of being so desperate for material and breaking news stories that they beef up stories histrionically. I agree with Stewart that they do beef up unworthy stories. But to say there is not enough breaking news in reality, as Stewart contends, is bullshit. What about the breaking (and heart-breaking) news of REALITY and MORALITY that our corporate media consistently omits from the magic box? That the vast herd of talking heads minimize or ignore.
I still don’t know what is up with Jon. Maybe Stewart is a closet war hawk after all. Maybe he isn’t the person behind the comedy and it derives from the brilliant Daily Show committee that creates it. Remember Dennis Miller on SNL and his coming out as a conservative? Hell, look at Obama’s flip!
Re Stewart, I feel like he is dragging his following around like it is what Walter Lippman once labeled “the bewildered herd.” I mean, he got a great turnout. Maybe much of the citizenry agrees with him about the angry tone of cross-party discourse as causing national gridlock? But to minimize the amorality on the right AND the left and to scold the left for calling it ALL out. That is so limited.
Stewart seems passionate about this. Surreal for someone like him, of all people, who has been a catalyst for stoking righteous anger for 12 years, to scold America to tamp down the rhetoric to save America when the left never did find its collective, justifiably angry voice, especially after Obama’s victory even with Mr. Stewart's help.
What’s Stewart crabbing about? The VERY small number of us on the left who haven’t gotten in line? I'm waiting for the lemming parade to War with Iran. Thanks for the indirect help on that, Jon. Defuse the citizenry that should be angry and paranoid about its untrustworthy leadership.
Our soft-spoken, inside-voiced Prez and the Congress are about to surrender $700 billion by not taxing the rich. This is incredible. They aren’t even putting up a battle for the sake of the citizens. All in the name of functional (really dysfunctional) compromise. Millionaires like to stick together, don't they? Jon, I honestly think during an economic rape the inside-voice rule needs to be suspended for the victims.
Jon should take a lesson from Tina Fey who this week won the Mark Twain Award. In a snippet of her acceptance speech on Olbermann, Fey gives thanks to Sarah Palin for her contribution to Fey’s success. Fey also adds that success for women like Palin brings success to all women, then adds slyly, “... except maybe those women who have to pay for their own rape kits.” That is the kind of aside I waited for Stewart to offer at least once during the Maddow interview. It never came. Mr. Stewart is taking himself far too seriously on this.
In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, Jon, “Nothing to excess, including moderation.”