Granted that Jon Stewart now and again accidentally says something funny. But he and his supporters think that he's a high holy fool, speaking truth to power under comedic cover. In fact, he's not all that exalted or bright, and he really has no kind of perspective or thoughtful point of view on politics. He can be counted on to hold to standard issue reflexive knee jerk left wing positions. But he's an idiot as far as knowing anything or making any even vaguely serious argument.
This became even more apparent than ever on January 16, when he thought he was just going to sandbag Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, there to talk about his new book Liberal Fascism. You could tell that it had gone badly for Stewart by the disclaimer that he felt it necessary to run at the front of what he eventually broadcast. He explained that his interview with Goldberg ran 18 minutes, but they only have six to show it in. Sorry about the choppy editing.
First off, why couldn't he show 18 minutes? Famously, there's a writer's strike going on, and he's billing the whole show separately – A Daily Show, rather than The Daily Show. He could have lost that second section of the show entirely, just boring time filler crap. Hey, an actual substantive conversation! That's a decent substitute for scripted comedy.
Real obviously, Stewart tried to edit his way to victory with what he put on the air. He maximized airing his little petty mockeries while cutting Goldberg short, cutting him off mid-sentence, and such foolishness. Yet Brother Goldberg ended up without intentional derision making Stewart look the absolute most overtly stupidest I've ever seen. It's not Jonah's fault. He did not come out with malice.
But Jon Stewart apparently thought that he would make mincemeat of an actual thoughtful intellectual. It ended up sort of like watching the malevolent Wile E Coyote blowing himself up a hundred different ways. In Goldberg's world, you're expected to have some substantive facts or argument. Bluffing won't work.
Goldberg was ready to explain the apparently inflammatory descriptive "liberal fascism." He's just written a book with scads of specific factual and historical reference points to the fascistic intellectual heritage of modern "progressives" as Hillary likes to be described, rather than liberal. "Fascism" is not just another word for "evil" or "conservative." What are the underlying principles, and how would they apply to modern Western political arguments?
Now, one might argue against or mitigate some of Goldberg's arguments, or come up with some counterargument. But it's going to take more than a know-nothing late night comic to cross intellectual light sabers with this evil right wing Darth Goldberg. Besides being an intellectual featherweight, Stewart obviously had not actually read any of the book. With no argument whatsoever, he thought his powerful smirk alone would thoroughly rebuke the evil right-winger. No need to do any homework, he can just wing it on his superior charm.
Stewart simply proclaimed that "liberal fascism" is an oxymoron, because they are opposites. The end. Then he just spent the rest of the segment carefully not understanding even the simplest and clearest points. If you simply refuse to acknowledge a point, then it doesn't exist. Then throw in a little knowing mockery to let people know this "controversial author" is an idiot whose opinions are hardly worthy of deciphering.
Except that any way you try to cut it, Jonah's going to get some points across. For example, he noted the significance that historically, the stalwart progressive journal of political opinion for most of a century, The New Republic openly supported the classic fascist Mussolini. Perhaps a thoughtful interviewer might ask if there was something significant about the philosophy underlying this magazine historically that might shed useful understanding on contemporary issues. What kind of "new republic" do these progressives support that Mussolini would have looked like an answer to?
Jonah also managed to make his explanation about the smiley face with the Hitler moustache. These modern progressives are pushing a nice, caring fascism – fascism with a smile. Your classic literary images of fascism would be the giant screens in 1984 with the face of Big Brother pounding indoctrination into you. Cut to Hillary Clinton's infamous It Takes a Village. Note that Jonah does his homework; he actually read the damned book. In that book (which I certainly haven't read), she actually envisions tv screens in public places, waiting lines at DMVs and such, showing loops of helpful programming instruction on how to raise your children. I'm sure it would be really helpful.
Once Jonah snaps those two pieces together, sentient beings cannot avoid understanding the simple and symbolic link. It's not going to be a scary alpha male on the omnipresent video screens of the dystopian fascist future, but a nice caseworker there to help out. Stewart pretending not to see the significance of the point won't make it go away.
Inevitably, the full length interview will become publicly available. If the broadcast version is the best edit he could give himself, he's really going to look like a punk when the full exchange hits the net.
Meantime, one little bit of advice for Brother Stewart: Before trying to cut down an actual intellectual, you should probably really do your homework. Or at least pay someone to do your homework for you: at least get someone on your staff to read the book that you're going to make a big point of ridiculing.Powered by Sidelines