For those who have been living under a mountain, Jon Stewart has resigned as host of the Daily Show. Actually, I guess if you’ve been living under a mountain, you might not even know what the Daily Show is. In fact, I find it highly unusual that you can even get the internet in your subterranean domain. Unless you are somehow rich and powerful and no doubt eccentric and can afford the miles and miles of super-secret fiber-optic cables? Can you even read English, you half-crazed Goblin King?
For the sake of the other reader of this blog (you know who you are – no, it’s not time for jello and Jeopardy yet) I’ll imagine you can read English and you have a rough idea of what has transpired in American media over the last 15 years. Because, really, it would just be too much to try to recap. You know… I just want to keep things moving, otherwise reader #2 gets distracted.
Jon Stewart’s departure from the Daily Show has been met with much rending of clothes and loud and tearful lamentations among the liberal elite and more-or-less confused masses, yearning to be set free from the burden of original thought. That may sound overly critical, but that’s only because it is.
Now, before you finish scowling at me and skitter back to the dark and buried secrets of your no doubt well-appointed cave, I confess that I am a fan of both Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Actually, probably just the two together. I didn’t think much of either before they were joined. They were two mediocre tastes that somehow tasted not just great, but TEH GR8!!!!!1111onethousandonehundredeleven together. I will miss him and am forever grateful for his gift of satire and much-needed criticism during one of the darkest eras of frightened conformity that has ever gripped our nation.
But discussing his leaving and what his presence/absence means and has meant to our country is not the conversation we should be having. Judging by the reports coming from radio, TV and web, we are paralyzed by fear and grief over losing a national icon! Whatever shall we do?
The answer? Change the conversation. The debate should not be, nor should it ever have been (and I believe Jon Stewart would agree with this) “What Does Jon Stewart Mean?” The debate should be, and should always have been, why the hell are we taking a satirist’s view of the news more seriously than mainstream journalism? What has happened in this country that we mistrust our newspapers and nightly news segments so much? Why have those once serious-minded institutions warped themselves into mouthpieces of demagogues and echo chambers for sound-bytes? Why did it take a fake news show to show us that all the real news shows were also fake?
More importantly, was it always like this? Did we always value entertainment over factual reporting? Hate speech over nuanced debate? The ten word slogan over the long interview? The truth is yes. Most definitely, yes. We’ve always been like this – and by “we” I include all of western civilization – but with the opening of the borders of media, where more people of every type of broadcasting acumen and background have a microphone, we’re beginning to see just how silly we all are.
Can we talk about that instead? Can we discuss how The Daily Show started to make us realize how necessary it is to laugh at each other and ourselves, instead of letting media outlets encourage us to be fearful and hateful? Can we ruminate on the possibility that with such a (possible) detente in the politicization of media we move forward and come to a new era of understanding and reason because we can look at each other more as humans and less as straw men and effigies? Can we laugh at our differences and solemnly agree about our similarities and (horror of horrors) find that compromise and reasoned discussion are the ways to build a better society?
Probably not. Instead, let’s make another demagogue out of Jon Stewart. See where that gets us.