The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Do I Love Jon Stewart?

The thing that continually impresses me about Jon Stewart is that profound respect for his guests. Even when he disagrees with them. Especially when he disagrees with them even. While the segments have an edge, when folks sit in the chair across from him, there is a respect paid to them, even if what they've said and done are in some cases neigh indefensible.

What folks don't seem to get is that it's the hackery and the punditry that IS the problem. The push for narrative and advance an agenda, as opposed to coming up with real solutions is what drives Stewart to comment with such verve. It's to expose the hypocrisy of the moment, and then move on to the next. That there are so damn many targets is part and parcel of the problem.

It's sad when a comedian has to be the one who takes up the reins to expose hacks and partisan cheerleaders who pretend that they're journalists. The adversarial model of shows like "Crossfire" are part of the problem, the idea that two sides are equal and opposite is rubbish. I can argue until I'm blue in the face that rape is an acceptable practice, and I'm never going to be in the right. Shows like it, and the pundits who appear on them could bring insight into the process, and insight into the debate, but instead, there is more often than not simply an expansion of talking points that are designed to obfuscate the real argument. They produce Sturm und Drang, but little substance. And that is really the point. If we had a real discussion about health care in this country, we could come to a consensus fairly quickly on what would service the population, and get doctor's paid. Instead, we have a vast machine that is dedicated to keeping middle men in the thick of things, and a butt load of cash changing hands on both sides of the aisle to hide that. If we had a real discussion about violence in this country, we would see that folks on both sides of the aisle are worried about the safety of their families, and the issue of crime is one about safety. Instead, we have a manufactured issue like "Gun Control" that draws off resources and attention, when at the heart of that debate is one about crime and safety. But that isn't the kind of discussion that leads to ratings. It might lead to solutions, and there is the real rub.

We don't want solutions. Or rather, our politicians don't want solutions, and neither does the media, because solutions mean an end to things. That means an end to funding for programs that politicians can point to that bring cash to their districts or states, or clients, and if we had a real solution, that funding would dry up, and they'd have to find a new issue, and actually work at solving that one as well, since they'd done so wonderfully with the previous. People might even begin to expect issues to be solved. Not managed. And managing problems is far more lucrative, it wields continuing power. The media is far more complicit with the managing of these issues, because that is continued sales for papers, it means you can assign a reporter to cover an issue, and call it a beat. It makes classifying and ordering up stories far easier.

We have now, a very much symbiotic relationship with the media and those in power. In the Bush years it became even more naked and out in the open with access only being granted to folks that could be relied upon to give stories that the Administration liked. And harsh criticism if folks actually used public words against them, which is a continuing theme for many folks who apparently don't understand that you can't copyright your speeches when you give them at rallies and in public. It is an attempt to manage the media even further, and the "Lamestream Media" narrative is nothing more than an outright attempt to circumvent the role of the Fourth Estate. Some feel that the role of the media is to essentially be a point for PR, and nothing more. Journalism is falling to the wayside for punditry and editorials that are written and managed by campaigns, as opposed to questioning folks on their positions, and investigating their actual motivations and actions.

Jon is someone who gets that we have entered dark country in journalism as well as politics, since the two have merged to the point that William Randolph Hearst only dreamed of. And as a comedian, he has greater latitude than many journalists today, since the producers and editors who actually run their shows and their presses are often actively working to keep narrative alive, over actual reporting and journalism.

We don't need more press releases disguised as "interviews" or "editorials." We need real journalism, and it is sad that a guy whose best movie role was in "Half Baked" is now considered one of the more trusted voices in the news, because he's under no obligation to deliver narrative, only to be funny, and his brand of funny is exposing exactly how absurd things are.

That he tends to skewer folks who are chock full of glowing hypocrisy doesn't reduce the absurdity of the whole mess, or that there are folks in the Fourth Estate who are actively complicit. Funny, but doesn't reduce how screwed up thing are. That he can be funny, and perform a service that other media outlets aren't, does he piss some folks off? Yup, but maybe if they weren't being so damn stupid, they wouldn't be made fun of.

Stop being dumbasses and you won't be made fun of. Simple as that.

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