How does Jon Stewart get away with it? Night after night he fictionalizes the actions and statements of conservatives, building goofy, moronic straw men which he then tears to pieces in a hyperkinetic frenzy of invective and ridicule.
For example last night, during a recap of yesterday’s Healthcare Summit, Stewart said Rep Eric Cantor (R-VA) told President Obama that the government must get out of healthcare “completely.” Then Stewart introduced a video clip that seemed to show Cantor being blown away by a devastating comeback from our silver-tongued president.
Stewart was so thrilled about Obama’s supposed gotcha moment that I thought he was going to swallow his tongue. (He is seriously hyperactive for a middle-aged man. I wonder what he has for dinner before each show… cigarettes and 5-Hour Energy shots?)
Anyway, it would have been good political theater if it had really happened that way, but it didn’t. You can read the actual stultifying dialogue here. (If you must. Just don’t combine with alcohol or operate machinery at the same time.)
Yes, this is more proof that reality and the “Daily Show” rarely meet. They are usually separated by long hours of editing. For example, on last night’s show, Stewart introduced a video clip in which Cantor states, “It does have to do with our fear that if you say that Washington can be the one to define essential health benefits… If we assume that Washington could do that, could really take the place of every American and decide what is most essential, what — what would be the consequences?”
Cantor was concerned about whether the federal government is going to define essential health benefits, rather than the people. However, Stewart then “paraphrased” Cantor’s remarks this way: “Cantor is basically making the argument that if we want to come together on this we have to agree to keep government out of it completely, because costs will skyrocket. He’s making the never-been-proven argument that smaller government is better because it costs less.”
Next, video is presented showing Obama’s acerbic one-line “rebuttal” to Stewart’s made-up statement from Cantor (Still with me?). Obama: “We could set up a system where food was probably cheaper than it is right now, if we just eliminated meat inspectors.” Sounds glib, but in real life that sentence was just a sliver of a long, dry Obama monologue, not a witty zinger.
This is vintage Stewart. A couple days before, while commenting on Glenn Beck’s keynote address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) convention, he stated, with no corroboration, that Beck’s anti-progressivism requires elimination of all taxation and government services, including libraries. That was followed by a skit dramatizing a dangerous, polluted, and oppressive Beck-sanctioned future.
Such blatant, habitual dishonesty makes you wonder about the “Daily Show’s” loyal audience. Doesn’t anyone ever say, “Wait a minute! He didn’t say that! That didn’t happen! You made that up!”
But then, I suspect there is a scientific research paper in there somewhere among Stewart’s fan base, entitled The Effects of Long-Term Cannabis Use on Attention Span and Short-Term Memory.
It’s clear after the first few seconds, that each night’s studio audience comprises an informal convention of “The Nerdy Guy the Quarterback Let Hang Around Him Senior Year.” The stereotypical sycophant whose sole purpose in life is to bask in the glow of someone else’s eternal coolness. (And no one is cooler than Stewart.) They howl, scream, and whistle every time Stewart raises an eyebrow. It reminds me of that campaign rally in Texas when Obama got applause for blowing his nose.
Stewart is an ideological leftist who has an intentional and significant impact on public discourse. However, his satirist credentials give him inexplicable license to lie with impunity, position himself above the scuffle, and seize unfair advantage in the national debate.
Stewart bullies with his own particularly vicious brand of dishonesty and invective, only because he can. His adversaries know they would never get away with responding on his level, even if they wanted to. No one wants to get into a peeing contest with a skunk.
Tucker Carlson summed it up on CNN’s Reliable Sources in March 2009. “I think Jon Stewart is dishonest. And by the way, I also think he’s a sacred cow. There’s nobody who has the huevos to attack Jon Stewart because he’s too popular. The press sucks up to him like I’ve never seen…. I would like to see somebody have the stones to come out and say, Jon Stewart’s kind of a pompous jerk, actually.”