Wednesday, February 23

Jon Stewart Should Take A Lesson From Mitch Daniels. Seriously.

HELL, let's just start with it: yesterday Mitch Daniels practically scoffed at the idea he'd send the Indiana State Police to round up skedaddling House Democrats, and said this:
“The activities of today are perfectly legitimate part of the process,” he said. “Even the smallest minority, and that’s what we’ve heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did.”

Now, okay, this is the same guy who called skedaddling 2005 Democrats "car bombers". And there's no doubt that he thought those little backhand swipes were a subtle masterpiece of rhetorical art, like anything that cracks 'em up at the Cato Institute is Certified Dr. Swift. Plus it's the same Non-Presidential Candidate who wishes the rabid curs he helped elect last November would shut up and not give him headaches right before the Prom. He didn't want the Right to Work bill the Democrats blocked. He'd made that clear.

What the Bantam Menace might've done had this been a cherished part of his campaign makeover is moot. For those of us who've watched him grow up (man, I tickle myself sometimes) it's a remarkable accomplishment; it was like the day the terrier next door stopped yapping for five minutes.

So, sure, a politically-motivated talk that cost him nothing, but, still: he defended a principle he might need some day, though with any luck that won't be a political need. In the Land of the Blind, the guy who can actually see into next Tuesday is a philosopher.

I'm sure I've yelled Fuck you at The Daily Show once or twice, depending on how much Dennis Miller I watched before I skipped ahead to Colbert. I don't recall ever adding Jon Stewart! before.

I've complimented Mitch Daniels before, too, though the last time was probably the second week of his administration.

I know I've never done both in one 24-hour period.

You might recall that at Chez Riley we watch TDS/TCR the next evening, beginning when we've both had a bellyful of the locals, or, roughly, ten minutes in. And due to weekend overload, last Friday's show fell forward to the Monday dinner hour.

Yeah, it's a comedy (even if it's one which increasingly of late seems to rely on the time-honored pillar of the genre that any mention of "oomph loompa" or donning of a fake porn 'stash is Pure Gold). So, too, was Dennis Miller's "Ooooh, the global temperatures going up two whole degrees! I'll buy sunscreen!" routine comedy. That's an excuse when one of those remotes crosses the line between funny and boorish. It might be an absolute excuse, but for the line that was crossed by that rally last fall. It's not Jon Stewart's fault that he's the Most Trusted Name in News. That's not a fault at all, it's a default. But that needs to be taken into consideration, especially when he dedicated a segment of his program last fall to replying to--and denying--charges of a false equivalence.

Look: FOX News is a crusade; MSNBC is a counter-programming gambit from the network which shitcanned Phil Fucking Donohue for being too liberal. FOX is eight hours of Super Bowl pregame; MSNBC is a men's figure skating exhibition. When FOX calls the Teabagger Revolution it bought astroturf for "Freedom Fighters" that's Grade-Z propaganda. When it turns around and calls Wisconsin protesters un-American thugs and goons, that's Grade-Z propaganda and first-class hypocrisy. When some guy on MSNBC says that Teabaggers are Looney Toons, it's commentary. I know, I know: it sounds like I'm making a joke. But I'm serious. It may not be the sort of commentary Jon Stewart wants on the air, but he'd be back working clubs without it. It may not be 100% accurate, or 50% smart, but it is commentary; further, it--I say obviously, you may say "arguendo" if you'd rather--uses hyperbole. When that same guy--it's Ed Schultz, by the way, just try to contain him!--voices support for the Wisconsin protesters, that's not hypocrisy. It's called opinion. Hypocrisy is what FOX did: term the one a popular upwelling of Free Speech and the other a dangerous example of mob justice.

Now, maybe Ed Shultz--the man's a comet!--did exactly the same thing. He sure didn't do so in the clip you showed. And I'll gladly allow for a difference of opinion on such things. I'm a partisan. I'm not a partisan who feels he's represented by MSNBC, nor one who wants to be represented by MSNBC, but I understand why some people want a network that does for their viewpoint what FOX does for Roger Ailes'. What I think I'm arguing for here, though, is simple, and obvious, acceptance of what words mean. Calling an idea "bullshit" is not the same as calling an idea "treasonous". Lighting a fire in your fireplace in the middle of a scorching summer is looney; setting fire to your neighbor's house on a chilly evening is criminal. We enshrine the difference, legally, rhetorically, every which way.

There is, I'm sorry to say, always this sense in someone of my age, hat size, and general demeanor, the feeling that so many of you people in your forties betray a satisfied laziness about your own politics, a sort of watery libertarianism which mistook the Reagan-era backlash of your young adulthood for the Great Ridgepole of American centrism, and which loudly proclaims its willingness to split the difference as the apex of acuity and middle-aged common sense. Honestly, I've been waiting since my own forties for some sign that this might be fleshed out, and so far I'm still waiting. It's as though because you wouldn't have been caught dead driving around campus in 1982 in a van with shag carpeting and a unicorn mural, you obtained some insight into the foolish excesses of 60s social movements. It isn't that these matters are settled; it's that you're So Over them. The destruction of the right of collective bargaining for you is somehow metaphysically balanced by the gaucherie of people carrying signs and chanting. It's like you divide the country into two groups: those who have porn 'staches, and those who don't.

Colbert has Eugene Jarecki on to plug his new documentary dispelling Reagan Myths. Jarecki's an intelligent man; he certainly didn't enter the project a Reagan apologist. And what Myths does he uncover? Well, turns out the Gipper raised taxes. On the other hand, he wasn't an amiable dunce.

And, y'know, I'd be happy to debate the latter, or the aside that painted Jimmy Carter as History's Greatest Liberal Firebrand. But here's the fucking deal: on the one hand there's the thirty-year, politically-motivated Soviet Realist painting of the Gipper, and the fabricated record ("Reagan never cut taxes" is not a myth. It's a goddamned lie), while on the other, Clark Clifford once said something sorta nasty about him. Have you been laboring under a great weight because of that all these years? Really, isn't there some point when you say, y'know, somehow, those things don't really seem all that equal?


Kathy said...

Glenn Greenwald will be on the Colbert show this week, perhaps tonight. THAT'S worth watching. I pretty much gave up on Stewart after his stupid D.C. rally; and learning his brother is a Big Shot on Wall Street.

RobertB said...

Did you mean, "Reagan never raised taxes" there? Or do I just need more coffee?

Anonymous said...

Riley, how come you're not on the front page of the NYT?? Or at least displacing the worthless Douthat? Honestly, just one of your screeds has more truth and rationality in it than young Ross' "oeuvre." I'm going to start my own blog just to blogroll you! You rock, sir. Keep up the good work.

Murfyn said...

does for their viewpoint what FOX does for Roger Ailes'
Tell ridiculous lies? I wouldn't want that. What would a genuinely progressive/socialist network look like? What would the shows be about? Merely refuting the Rightwing propaganda (while it could be funny) seems insufficient.