Skip to comments.How Jon Stewart Gave Us Obama [Bush made Stewart, but Stewart made Obama]
Posted on 02/11/2015 5:38:21 AM PST by SJackson
Generation Xers mourning Stewarts departure ought to be thanking the man who made the awkward comedians long tenure of pulling faces while making snide remarks possible; President Bush.
George W. Bush made Jon Stewart. Even Stewart has admitted that his show came into its own when Bush did. A world in which a President Gore spent eight years sonorously lecturing Americans about his love for the trees is also a world in which Jon Stewart would be out there doing pizza commercials.
It was Bushs victory that took a flailing cable show hosted by an irritating little standup comedian with more neurotic tics than a flea-bitten Woody Allen and turned him into the voice of liberalism. Stewarts nervous smirk and his passive aggressive mockery became the zeitgeist of urban Democrats nervously responding to Bushs popularity and the rise of American patriotism after September 11.
The Democratic Party was out of ideas. The politicians who would become some of Bushs most fevered critics were still following the presidents cues. A newly serious America was confronting a world war.
Stewarts disingenuousness, veering from ironic detachment to self-righteous hectoring, undermined real sincerity with fake sincerity. The Daily Shows audience of hipster yuppies cheered their newfound faith in sincere cynicism while the calculated ironic distance of his comedy kept him safe from critics. Even while he attacked the medias dishonesty, his own routine was the most dishonest of them all.
His fake news was real news, biased and spun with punch lines. It was fake news that was real and just as fake as the rest of the news. The truth was that the lie was still a lie.
What Stewart offered a party dragged down by a morose Gore and Kerry was the promise of cool. Their former figurehead had started out playing the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show only to decay into a bloated red-faced mess. With towers burning and wars rising, Stewart was to be their bridge to a cooler and younger 21st century that an aging Democratic Party no longer seemed able to grapple with.
Jon Stewart didnt actually have cool, but he could offer it up inversely by way of mockery. Like a school papers drama critic, he might not be cool, but by railing against others, he could deny coolness to them.
Stewart wasnt funny and knew little about politics. Unqualified to be in politics, journalism or even comedy, he straddled the line by casting himself as a critic of the media and politics. In his new role, he just had to be funny by the standards of politics and politically knowledge by the standard of comedians. It was a low bar that he just managed to limbo under. All he had to was to go after the right targets.
Audiences in retro glasses clapped like electroshocked seals at his every grimace and the media declared that his fake news was what real news should be. And worst of all, they meant it.
The media found Stewart refreshing not because he kept them honest, but because he encouraged their worst partisan instincts for dishonesty. The news anchors at their desks wished that they could say the things that he said. And some of them began to say them. Today the line has blurred so much that NBC News was thinking of offering Stewart a gig on Meet the Press.
While Bush may have made Stewart, Jon Stewart then made Obama. Barack Obama was a political version of Jon Stewart; a dishonest entertainer turning politics into a joke and then faking a theatrical sincerity while throwing out every possible distraction to cover up his dishonesty and bad faith.
Stewart provided a counterpoint to Bushs real sincerity with fake sincerity. It was a joke that Stephen Colbert would polish into a single mindless routine. The flip side of the routine was that flippancy equaled sincerity. If the sincerity of patriotism and the devoutness of faith were a joke, then anyone who was joking was bound to be sincere. Those were the clown shoes to be filled by hope and change.
Obamas fake self-awareness made him seem authentic in a social media society composed of reflective levels of personality. What Stewart offered Democrats was an evasive viewpoint without accountability. And nothing quite appeals to the cowardly instincts of a political hack like being able to take a political position without being held accountable for it. But it was Obama who truly embraced politics without accountability, transforming every issue into a joke or referencing it back to his own biography.
While he may have come out on the stage with a unique personal story, what kept Obama competitive was his skill at refracting everything through layers of irony and self-awareness. His approach was to borrow Stewarts own routine without any of its ambiguity. Stewarts pretense of triangulation became Obamas obsession with turning his radical left-wing politics into an imaginary middle ground.
Stewart and Obama had come out of a political movement trying to respond to September 11 without having the first idea how to do so. Stewarts comedy paved the way for minimizing the threat while inflating the absurdity of those trying to fight it. It is an approach that Obama continues to embrace.
Both men have pretended that they arent ideologues. They have acted as if the left is a third way, rather than the same old way, selling that dishonest message through style, not substance.
Jon Stewart did not offer an alternative to the media. He was what the media was becoming. The merging of opinion and reporting along with the overlay of cynical humor over every story have become ubiquitous. Stewart didnt pave the way for a better media. He paved the way for Buzzfeed, Vice, Politico and Vox. He turned the news into a joke with an agenda which is exactly what it is now.
Obama was an equally fake alternative. He didnt offer inspiration, but manipulation. His new ideas were the same old ideas packaged around his personality, around new styles and designs fed through social media and media appearances. Unwilling to connect with opponents, reporters and even voters, he then settled for digging in on his grievances and breaking the rules by ruling the country unilaterally.
Generation X cynicism fused with millennial brand awareness to create a political monster who might not be able to lie to the people all the time, but who cynically made the existence of his lies irrelevant.
Stewarts Daily Show had offered an antidote to the Bush era of patriotism, sincerity and decency. Its antidote was passive aggressive ridicule and political satire as sincerity. After the Bush era ended, Stewart and his fellow comedians had little left to do except take on the job of defending Obama, while occasionally critiquing him. They had become the official court jesters of the Democratic Party.
Its no wonder that Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, anticipating eight more years of Hillary, have chosen to move on. The genre has long since outlived its original response to 9/11 sincerity. It now exists only to feed on itself. To act as a comedic Media Matters churning out viral videos slamming opponents for some sin against the left while pretending to be part of mainstream consensus.
Jon Stewart gave us the era of Obama. As that era of bad faith comes to a close, so does his own.
When I beheld Generation X, I didn’t think this nation coudl sink lower.
Then I saw the Millenials.
I weep for my nation.
That’s the best analysis of Stewart’s vicious act as a serious newsman. I’m a millenial and I remember a lot of my generation embracing those clowns (Stewart and Colbert) and voting for Obama.
Jon Stewart has come to the sickening realization that the “progressives” he has championed his entire adult life are vicious anti Semites and really hate his guts.
Long before Sarah Palin came on the scene, but especially referring to her, many of us in the heat of a presidential campaign begged John McCain and the Bush crowd the fire half their speechwriters and replace them with comedy writers.
When the world reminisces about Ronald Reagan it invariably notes his sense of humor. Reagan cultivated a sense of humor just as he accumulated facts on index cards concerning the economy or some other field of politics. These were arrows in his quiver and he was a genius at turning away criticism with soft humor or some endearing anecdote.
Republicans need a human image which should come from comedy and they need a sharp instrument of attack which should come from satire as well as comedy. These things are in the marketplace and can actually be purchased. Why are they not bought by Republican candidates who otherwise spend up to $1 billion while failing to be elected President of the United States?
Somehow I have lived my life never once seeing this Stewart person one single time. Same for that Colbert dude.
What have I missed?
Stewart aka Liebowitz is a hypocrite of the first order. Screams to be taken seriously, but when he draws criticism for anything, retreats behind the 'I'm just a comedian' defense (never mind that a comedian is supposed to be funny). Remember that RESTORE SANITY rally he and Colbert led?
Stewart influences those that are not just liberal/millennial/progressive etc.
Guys that are pro 2A, independent or moderate, voted for Romney last election, in the military - have become Stewart disciples too.
Realize that there is cancer from the right of center economically too. Not so much those that are right of center socially.
“Republicans need a human image which should come from comedy and they need a sharp instrument of attack which should come from satire as well as comedy. These things are in the marketplace and can actually be purchased. Why are they not bought by Republican candidates who otherwise spend up to $1 billion while failing to be elected President of the United States?”
There is nothing; absolutely nothing, that can be made even remotely funny or amusing about the situation to which this kind of thinking has brought what was once the greatest nation on earth. Thanks to the brainwashing of the MSM, most Americans can barely focus or concentrate on a political article that contains more than two paragraphs. That is; if they have any reading comprehension at all. The Liberal educational system and media organizations are only too glad to pander to people who would rather watch a satire than get into real facts because the poor dears are not “entertained” by serious matters like the well being of their country or it’s government.
When this nation finally goes over the precipice on which it is now hanging; it will serve as a huge kick in the collective azzez of those who just couldn’t get into the facts because they were “boring.” They will, no doubt, be highly entertained and interested when the propaganda and media offerings cease to be optional and become mandatory, whether they tickle the fancies or not. State run TV and news media tend to get really “interesting” when you get put in jail or shot when you don’t know the “acceptable” facts and who is enforcing them.
There is a huge difference between “wit” and “stupidity”.
I don’t see much hope in a society emerging that knows the difference any time soon. There will most likely have to be a lot of blood and treasure spent before the facts and the truth become important even if they aren’t entertaining.
It’s a shame there has to be calamity of giant proportions in order to bring a society to its senses. My generation had a World War. I can see another attitude adjustment on the horizon.
“What have I missed?”
You have probably never plowed a field with a mule either. Trust me, you missed a lot more by never plowing the field than you missed by not seeing Stewart or Colbert.
I agree with that assessment and with all the gloomy assessments contained in your post. I simply say that if the unwashed are incapable of critical analysis they are still vulnerable to wit and satire and it is a shame that we simply do not pick up weapons that might serve to save the country.
As gloomy as the outlook is, I say we soldier on. I want a multi-faceted war on the leftists to be waged. In one realm we should be using wit and satire in another realm we should be employing Article V.
Thank you SJackson for posting this beautiful piece of Greenfield from FP. I am pinging it to the KNISH list to make sure all of Daniel’s readers here at FR have a chance to read this brilliant piece.
You’ve missed the same thing I’ve missed - “nothing”.
Excellent, as usual.
“I simply say that if the unwashed are incapable of critical analysis they are still vulnerable to wit and satire and it is a shame that we simply do not pick up weapons that might serve to save the country.”
Save the country for what, pray tell. Just to have the populace succumb to the next evil regime that has a better and more palatable “message” for the mind-numbed and intellectually defenseless? I would rather not have my grandchildren giving their lives for that purpose. The kind of ignorance that is prevalent in this country today is self perpetuating and endless without either decades of re-education or a virtual phoenix from the ashes of cataclysm.
I still have one of my fourth grade history books. It challenges the reading skills of a lot of high school seniors to whom I’ve shown it as an example of earlier textbooks. There is no other word for what has happened to our system of education except “deterioration”. It’s the reason we are no longer a free people.
However, we have the greatest selection of mind slop ever known to man to deter any real knowledge from taking root in the minds of the masses. Yes, by all means, let’s let them die laughing.
I’ve never watched his show
but I’ve seen folks claim its where they got their news....
To show an example of just how far the American Idiocracy has now fallen, CNN’s BIG NEWS OF THE DAY is Stewart leaving the Daily Show, and who can replace him, (That will help the Hillary 2016 Campaign)
Meanwhile, most of the rest of the world’s media is covering the Minsk talks about Ukraine, LIVE...
You’re both right.
WFB was great and did so much in part because he was so funny.
Coincidentally, his mantle seems to be passing to Greenfield.
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