Friday, March 03, 2006

First they came for Comedy Central...

Harvard might want to ask this kid to give back his diploma:

THE SELECTION of Jon Stewart as the host for Sunday night's 2006 Oscars undoubtedly marks a career milestone for the aspiring king of late-night comedy. Unfortunately, however, the ascension of Stewart and ''The Daily Show" into the public eye is no laughing matter. Stewart's ever-increasing popularity among young viewers directly correlates with the declining influence of progressive thought in America. Coincidence? I think not. Let me explain. ...

Stewart's daily dose of political parody characterized by asinine alliteration leads to a ''holier than art thou" attitude toward our national leaders. People who possess the wit, intelligence, and self-awareness of viewers of ''The Daily Show" would never choose to enter the political fray full of ''buffoons and idiots." Content to remain perched atop their Olympian ivory towers, these bright leaders head straight for the private sector.

Observers since the days of de Tocqueville have often remarked about America's unique dissociation between politicians and citizens of ''outstanding character." Unfortunately, the rise of mass media and the domination of television news give Stewart's Menckenesque voice a much more powerful influence than critics in previous generations. As a result, a bright leader who may have become the Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson of today instead perceives politics as a supply of sophisticated entertainment, rather than a powerful source of social change.

OK, let's get a few things straight. Jon Stewart invented neither political satire nor cynicism--which the writer acknowledges. In fact, the author of this tripe concedes his own argument. Mencken may not have had a television show--but he did write for a newspaper, which a hell of a lot more people read back then than they do now. Stewart didn't even invent televised political satire. Hello? Ever hear of "Saturday Night Live"?

Most important, this disturbing cultural phenomenon overwhelmingly affects potential leaders of the Democratic Party.

The type of folksy solemnity brandished by President Bush does not resonate with ''The Daily Show" demographic. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, only 2 percent of the show's audience identify themselves as conservatives. At a time when the Democrats desperately need inspired leadership, the show's self-conscious aloofness pervades the liberal punditry.

Although Stewart's comedic shticks may thus earn him some laughs Sunday at the Oscars, his routine will certainly not match the impact of his greatest irony: Jon Stewart undermines any remaining earnestness that liberals in America might still possess.

Let's keep a few other points in mind. It was Republicans, not Democrats, who made an art form of trashing government for years. It was Republicans whose call for congressional term limits in the 1990s implied that the corruption of politicians was inevitable. (A self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.) It was a Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who said that government is the problem and not the solution.

And liberals do not need to be more earnest. They are too earnest as it is--humorless, if you will. They need all the Jon Stewarts they can get.


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