Michael Kalin of The Boston Globe, and Harvard alumn, published what can only be described as the embodiment of liberal ignorance last week when he attacked Jon Stewart. The piece, entitled “Why Jon Stewart isn’t Funny” proposes and, without common sense, concludes that political parody hurts democracy. Mockery of our politicians — Stewart focuses on the Bush administration — supposedly prevents the recruitment of a new generation from heading to Washington. The article follows a fictional college student and Daily Show fan who, influenced by negative portrayals of politicians, refrains from becoming one himself out of a sense of superiority. The conclusion is that Stewart’s humor hurts America because it makes politicians look bad.
Stewart’s daily dose of political parody characterized by asinine alliteration leads to a ”holier than art thou” attitude toward our national leaders. People who possess the wit, intelligence, and self-awareness of viewers of ”The Daily Show” would never choose to enter the political fray full of ”buffoons and idiots.” Content to remain perched atop their Olympian ivory towers, these bright leaders head straight for the private sector.
Only an Ivy League grad would consider the removal of pretension from politics to be a “bad thing.” You don’t get respect just because you’re a politician; in fact, you better be busting your ass to earn it — every single second you are getting paid.
I realize that Democrats need someone to blame, but I think Kalin is going after the wrong guy. If anything, Stewart lobs softballs at liberals and crucifies Republicans. So what though? I’m not going to sit here and act like we don’t deserve it. Bush gets nailed every night because he makes himself an easy target. We have ourselves a President who likes to pretend he’s infallible; if that’s not an invitation for mockery then I’m not sure I know what is.
The idea that our politicians are somehow sacred or are off limits from criticism is what has gotten us into this mess. That Nixon thought he could define legality or that FDR could simply pack the Supreme Court is directly tied to public mistrust. Rightfully so, when you start to act untouchable, people start to resent it.
As biased as the media is–and I do think that–they give politicians a pass when it comes to shameful self-righteousness. Why? They share the same affliction. The motivation that led Dan Rather to use obviously false documents in his story is the same that led Bush to rush into Iraq. Our politicians, our media, and our CEO’s are so certain of their superiority that they alter reality to prove it. It’s a bad case of finding facts that support your opinion instead of finding an opinion that matches the facts. The connection between Rather, Bush, and Lay (Enron) is rather simple. So assured of their own abilities and so ingrained was their sense of entitlement that they had no qualms about bending the rules or letting ethics lapse.
This is exactly where the new media, specifically Stewart, comes in. They are the People’s equalizer. They knock our leaders down a notch, remind them who’s really in charge, and keep them on their toes. The premise that this hurts America is so absurd it hurts. Since when has holding office meant you got a free pass when it comes to bullshitting?
When Stewart mocks John Ashcroft for singing “Let the Eagles Soar,” he’s doing everyone a favor. Someone needs to get in their face and scream, “Who the fuck do you think you are?” “Is your ego so large that you thought you could pull this off?” “Are you so isolated that not a single staff person said you looked like a fool?” “What of your dignity?”
Claiming that Stewart shouldn’t make our politicians look like “buffoons and idiots” is like saying an umpire shouldn’t call a strike a strike. Delusion, unlike honesty, is not a virtue. Just because you don’t like seeing a train wreck doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Washington, like Hollywood, is out of touch with reality and it’s about time someone made that clear.
Although Stewart’s comedic shticks may thus earn him some laughs Sunday at the Oscars, his routine will certainly not match the impact of his greatest irony: Jon Stewart undermines any remaining earnestness that liberals in America might still possess.
Undermines the earnestness of liberals? That is the perfect example of the self-righteous crap that pervades the American left. The fact of the matter is that you can’t get mocked if you haven’t done anything stupid. You can throw stones at a brick wall but they’ll bounce off; a house of cards on the other hand… If the earnestness was there, we wouldn’t be having this talk. Jon Stewart wouldn’t have a show if his humor wasn’t striking a nerve. Great humor comes from great pain, and there is no pain deeper than in the heart of any thinking American. The realization that our leaders throw us crap and hope it will stick, that they look at their constituents as a burden, and that they think the truth is secondary is heartbreaking, but necessary. The Daily Show makes light of what can only be described as a crushing despair: our government is out of control.
The only thing worse is Kalin’s article. Here we have a journalist, a supposed member of the 4th estate — a final check against tyranny — and he’s telling us to lay off. Political satire is important to this country for the same reason the 2nd Amendment is important; if leaders do not fear the voters, they will do them wrong. They will continue to act like idiots, embarrass our nation, and makes fools of themselves if not made aware that we will be laughing at them. It forces them to be genuine and dignified, something it’s fairly clear they’d do less often if they weren’t held accountable.
To say that parody and humor discourages earnest politicians is just incorrect. It does exactly the opposite, weeding out the two-faces, the incompetent and the weak hearted. We ought not get in the business of deciding what political criticism helps or hurts this country because in the end it’s a relative. In terms of what is allowed and what is not, Stewart’s style is clearly legal and well intentioned. If a politician can’t withstand the observations of a late-night host, he’s not qualified to lead. If the “liberal earnestness” can’t survive a few jokes, then it’s not worth having.
So yes, in a sense Kalin is right, Jon Stewart isn’t funny — in that his importance is deadly serious. Anyone who holds our leaders accountable keeps their egos in check and gets the public interested in politics does this nation a great service. Ideology aside, the Daily Show stands as a deterrent from the self-righteousness and condescension that so regularly comes with power. To think that we should bite our tongues and hold back from poking fun at our politicians is to contradict every thing that is great about America.