The Life & Times of an Auteur.

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

Friday, August 7, 2015

This Isn't Good-bye

There are millions of thought pieces going up around the internet about "The Daily Show" and Jon Stewart, mine will just be one of those millions and I will be lucky if more than five people see this one. But I don't care how many see this. My thoughts are mine alone, and free to be shared with whomever is interested in them.

To say that I was gutted when Jon Stewart initially announced his retirement would be an understatement. I am not ashamed to admit that I was depressed about it for a week. "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" has meant a lot to me. It was a lifeboat in a sea of, well, bullshit. A sea that we as a species have been navigating since, well, since long before I was born, since our ancestors came down from the trees and decided not to write evolution off as a bad idea.

When Jon Stewart took over for Craig Kilborn, I don't think he had any idea what he was getting into. Nor do I think any of us have any idea what we were in for. I remember those early shows. Jon's suits didn't fit, he was still working with what was left of Kilborn's tenure as the show adjusted. Adjusted into the fifth estate as one of the few sources that when it couldn't speak the truth, at least cut through the bullshit so we could discover the truth for ourselves.

Jon Stewart also tried to make us all aware of our own bullshit. No one is immune. We are all wrong sometimes. Own your wrongness. Learn from it. Even Jon Stewart has, more than once, on the air. But some people just cannot, will not examine their own bullshit. Just about every hardcore right winger I know HATES Jon Stewart. I suspect it's because right wingers consider their ideology so sacred and it's purveyors so God-like that any degree of critique, lampooning, disrespect or seeing through it is simply unacceptable. They are completely incapable of handling any dismantling of their rigid "belief" system so rather than try to learn from it, they not only reject it but they come away even more convinced that they are right and he and his supporters are as wrong as one could possibly be. Stewart actually made right wingers cling to their ideology even harder than they would have otherwise. It's called "The Backfire Effect"... when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger. I figured the Backfire Effect was a side effect of turning politics into identity. When you criticize a Republican policy, Republicans think you're criticizing them personally. "I don't think the Iraq War was such a good idea..." "OH YEAH, WELL LET ME TELL YOU A FEW THINGS ABOUT YOUR MOTHER YOU ASSHOLE!" It's an immature reaction no matter who's doing it. But Republicans have re-framed the argument so that disagreement IS hostility. "I don't think the Iraq war was such a good idea..." "OH WHY ARE YOU SO FULL OF HATRED FOR TRUE AMERICAN HEROES?!?!!?!?"

I've been watching "The Daily Show" for sixteen years. I've never missed an episode, and if I did I made sure I got caught up on it later. I've been in the live studio audience for the show three times. I tried to get tickets for one more show, after he announced his retirement, but it wasn't meant to be. Did Jon Stewart influence my political thinking? Everything is an influence one way or another. Re-read my previous paragraph about "The Backfire Effect". So, I'm going to say yes. I like to think that, more than anything, while making me laugh he also helped tune my bullshit detector and sharpened my sword to cut through the bullshit.

Watching all of the former correspondents show up to bid Jon a fond farewell was like doing it myself. It was like a graduation and a reunion all at the same time. It was funny and touching, and I wish I could transcribe what I felt watching this without rehashing what I wrote about the finale of "The Colbert Report" last December.

I'll give my blog to Jon Stewart for a moment, transcribing his final monologue to us, the audience.

"Bullshit. Is everywhere. Bullshit is everywhere. There is very little you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit. Not all of it bad. Your general, day-today, organic free-range bullshit is often necessary. Or, at the very least, innocuous. 'Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure it'll grow into that.' That kind of bullshit, in many ways, provides important social-contract fertilizer. It keeps people from making each other cry all day. But then there's the more pernicious bullshit. Your premeditated, institutional bullshit, designed to obscure and distract. Designed by whom? The bullshitocracy.

"It comes in three basic flavors. One, making bad things sound like good things. Organic, all-natural. Because factory-made sugar oatmeal balls doesn't sell. Patriot Act. Because 'are you scared enough to let me look at all your phone records' Act doesn't sell. So whenever something's been titled Freedom Family Fairness Health America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it's been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.

"Number two. The second way. Hiding the bad things under a mountain of bullshit. Complexity. You know, I would love to download Drizzy's latest Meek Mill dis. Everyone promised me that made sense. But I'm not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy's iTunes agreement. So I'll just click 'Agree' even if it grants Apple prima nocte with my spouse. Here's another one, simply put. Simply put. Banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red. Bullshitly put, it's, hey, this Dodd Frank. Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right? Of course not. They can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into a 501(c)4, otherwise they'd have to 501(c)6 it, or funnel it openly through a non-campaign coordinated super PAC... I think they're asleep now, we can sneak out.

"And finally, finally, it's the bullshit of infinite possibility. These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry. 'We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything yet. We cannot take action on climate change, until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns. Until then I say to teach the controversy.'

"Now, the good news is this. Bullshitters have gotten lazy and their work is easily detected. And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time. Like an "I Spy" of bullshit. So, I say to you tonight, friends. The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something."

He wasn't going to be around forever. We need to pay attention ourselves. We need to hold the government and media's feet to the fire and not allow them to distract us with petty bullshit. Will there ever be another Jon Stewart? I think the best thing we can do is all try to be more like Jon Stewart, because Bullshit Mountain isn't going anywhere. But, if we're vigilant, we can prevent it from spreading.

You kept me sane in difficult times. Take care.


  1. Couldn't have said it better myself. Never missed an episode? Wow. It kind of makes me sad that I'll never get to see Jon live, but oh well, such is life.

  2. Are you going to give his replacement a shot?

    1. I'll give Trevor a shot. If not, there's always Conan.

    2. What do you think about Trevor now?

  3. "The best defense against bullshit us vigilance" I can not think of a better speech for Jon Stewart to end his iconic 17 yr. run.

  4. I must appreciate the way you have expressed your feelings through your blog!
    PPC Expert