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satire didn't bring down Hitler
November 12, 2010 6:39 AM   Subscribe

In his unedited, fifty-minute interview with Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart explains what's wrong with MSNBC, why you shouldn't say Bush is a war criminal even if it's "technically true," why the real political fight in the U.S. is not Republican vs. Democrat or left vs. right but corruption vs. non-corruption, and how the real point of the Rally to Restore Sanity (previously, previously) was to show that he has no actual influence, credibility, or power.
posted by gerryblog (223 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite

 
Trying to keep the editorializing out of the post: As a Jon Stewart fan and committed leftist I have to say he comes off pretty terribly in this. I wish now that the Rally to Restore Sanity had been the Colbert production Reddit envisioned; Stewart's version was an apolitical mess, because Stewart himself apparently elevates a moderate temperament to the status of (the only) virtue.
posted by gerryblog at 6:43 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


Trying to keep the editorializing out of the post:

Yeah I could tell by the title.
posted by hermitosis at 6:47 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's a paraphrase of something Stewart actually says in the interview, hermitosis.
posted by gerryblog at 6:48 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm interesting in seeing what's been said here, but not that interested in watching a 50 min interview. Does anybody know if there's a transcript posted online anywhere?
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:48 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


It kind of blows my mind that Jon Stewart, of all people, is buying into the "both sides are equally unreasonable" line of thought. Liberals have crazy fringe people, yes, and nobody listens to them. Conservatives have crazy fringe people running the party.
posted by EarBucket at 6:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [104 favorites]


I don't know that I can watch 50 minutes of Maddow, but I'll try.
posted by wierdo at 6:51 AM on November 12, 2010


I love the guy. I wish he would be consistent about things such as the "opinion making" going on at Pox News.
posted by uraniumwilly at 6:52 AM on November 12, 2010


I don't know, I think Stewart comes off okay here. It's clear he's fighting one battle and people keep trying to shoehorn him into another. He's not a progression champion on every level, he's trying to solve the problem of America's 24-hour sensationalist news media and the toxic "discourse" it stirs up. I don't have a problem with him taking on that role, and I don't see why progressives keep trying to make him some kind of champion that he is not interested in being.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:56 AM on November 12, 2010 [25 favorites]


I watched it on TV last night so I haven't seen the unedited version, and I agree that I found parts of what he said frustrating, but I think his main point was this: there is reality (his cars merging metaphor from the rally) and then there is the false reality created by 24 hour news networks on both sides, with some being more false than others. That false reality, that those who vote differently from you are your enemies attempting to destroy America, is driving a lot of what is wrong with the country. That false reality gets Bush elected, elevates the Michelle Bachmanns and Christine O'Donnells and Sarah Palins to the forefront of a party which is made up of a lot of normal people that you deal with every day and who aren't torturing anyone or invading any countries. They are just taken in by a false reality that tells them that Obama is a socialist muslim fascist. The answer to that false reality is not to create a different false reality where conservatives want to impose Christian sharia law on everyone and are killing census workers, but to say "No, this is reality. It is real life. That is fake." Because at the end of the day, most people are pretty smart and can tell real life from pretend. Now I think Maddow does a good job of that and I think Stewart recognized that she does for the most part, but there are people on the left playing the "the other side is the boogey man" game that Fox plays too. Stewart doesn't want to apportion blame and say who is doing more of creating this false reality, he just wants everyone to stop.
posted by ND¢ at 6:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [38 favorites]


and how the real point of the Rally to Restore Sanity was to show that he has no actual influence, credibility, or power.
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M I S S I O N   A C C O M P L I S H E D !
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posted by mazola at 6:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that Stewart claims false equivalence so he can keep the title of court jester for either side of the argument. Whether he likes it or not, his audience
looks to him for more than that.
posted by Sir Cholmondeley at 6:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


Trying to keep the editorializing out of the post: As a Jon Stewart fan and committed leftist I have to say he comes off pretty terribly in this. I wish now that the Rally to Restore Sanity had been the Colbert production Reddit envisioned; Stewart's version was an apolitical mess, because Stewart himself apparently elevates a moderate temperament to the status of (the only) virtue.
posted by gerryblog


I don't see how putting your editorializing in your first comment, immediately after posting the FPP, is any better than putting it in the FPP below the fold.
posted by John Cohen at 7:02 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


As a Jon Stewart fan and committed leftist I have to say he comes off pretty terribly in this.

How can you be a leftist and a John Stewart fan? Jon Stewart isn't even remotely left. He's a capitalist of the highest order. What he produces are franchise entities like Colbert.

Conservatives have crazy fringe people running the party.
posted by EarBucket at 9:49 AM on November 12


And the democrats have ordinary idiots running theirs.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:02 AM on November 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


and how the real point of the Rally to Restore Sanity was to show that he has no actual influence, credibility, or power.

Tell that to the wide-eyed, bushy-tailed early teens/twenties college students in my classes that made the trek from California to DC, getting to the show at 6am to get a decent place near the stage. To them it was "life changing."
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:02 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I haven't WTFV (the video version of RTFA I just invented) yet but I wonder if Stewart's point isn't so much that everyone's equally insane. I mean, he clearly leans liberal in his own arguments and relishes exposing Fox lies and hypocrisy much more than other news networks. He knows what false equivalence is.

But I think his real point is that if you're having a discussion with one of your Palin-loving relatives or even a conservative politician (like on his show), it's better to not come at them rabidly shouting "Liar!" or "Wingut talking points!" but to slowly, reasonably try to get them to see your point of view while you work to understand theirs. I actually tried this recently on a Facebook discussion (oh God those are the worst kind) and surprised myself how well it turned out in the end.
posted by fungible at 7:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


I love Stewart, but I also thought this interview didn't put him in a great light.

The "you're talking about the weather/I'm talking about climate, man" argument was pretty weak, and he seemed to keep moving the boundaries of the discussion. Mostly, it just made me aware of how great his writers are.

He definitely has a point about the Daily Show not being news (despite being treated like news), but it weakens his "we're different" argument when he exposes MSNBC and FOX as not-news either, for differences which are basically academic. A point which Rachel should have been all over. I wouldn't have expected him to be so removed from the audience perspective.

Also, that part about "haven't I earned time to be myself" part was off putting.
posted by activitystory at 7:03 AM on November 12, 2010


People like Maddow and Olbermann aren't quite as objectionable as people like Limbaugh and Beck because their politics are significantly less objectionable (to me). But when it comes to making arguments in good faith, being rational, informed and mature, they are in the same league (OK, Beck is more unhinged an the other three but my point still stands...just consider the tomato-headed Hannity instead). It is a hard thing to do, but try to separate ideology from professionalism, and take a look at those two clowns (Maddow and Olbermann). Venture outside your media bubble, and you'll realize how frequently they misreport facts and demagogue in general (oh god, especially Olbermann). They aren't doing ANY good for progressive interests. They're choir-preaching comfort food that's going to make you fat and lazy. If you think that the only thing Fox does wrong is lean to the right, you're missing the point. MSNBC's pundits are basically just as unprofessional. If these guys became the face of a progressive resurgence the way that Beck and Rush have come to represent Republicans, it would just be proof that current US political dialog in general has descended to the lowest levels of rhetoric. Trust me, we can do better.
posted by Edgewise at 7:06 AM on November 12, 2010 [34 favorites]


God, I wish I broke that up into more than one paragraph...sorry.
posted by Edgewise at 7:07 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Conservatives have crazy fringe people running the party.

Yeah, no.

The crazy fringe people of the right are the ones barricaded in shacks in the mountains with MREs and enough guns and ammo to outlive the rest of us when the upcoming apocalypse happens.

Karl Rove and people like him are not crazy. They are smart. They are smarter than you and have goals of getting people with R next to their name in the news and into office, and they do a damn fine job of it.

They are so awesome at it because with a word, they can make the left demonized - LIBERAL. Stamp an L on my forehead, because no Republican voters will ever listen to a thing that I say once I'm called a liberal.

This isn't crazy, it is fucking brilliant. Also, it is an easy way to get absolutely nothing accomplished without complete control of the government by that party, which they were leading up to and actually had during my entire lifespan.

They ended up losing that control because shit really got out of hand and we ran a guy who was so charismatic and likable that he couldn't lose.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:07 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


How can you be a leftist and a John Stewart fan?

What? I can't be a lefty and love "Daydream Believer"? WTF, man, wtf?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:11 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seems like for conservatives "piss off liberals" is job 1. That's where you get personalities like coulter who's sole aim is not to govern or propose solutions but to stir up shit hence articles like this. Everyone knows it's shit stirring so nobody will ask her why she hates the troops and doesn't want them to vote.

Conservatives attack,attack,attack and never back down. Any lies, tricks, insane arguments are ok as long as you shut up your opponent. Seems like liberals live in fear that they might seem unreasonable, so they will back down from anything, even the truth.

So anything a liberal says will be attacked. If they don't say anything they will be attacked. Conservatives will provoke them into saying something then attack. And liberals will always back down so conservatives will stop picking on them.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:12 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Apparently a lot of you haven't heard/seen extended interviews with Jon Stewart before. I got to attend his 92Y appearance and this was all exactly what he said as well... and a bunch of other times.

And can I just say? The posters in here saying things along the line of "Stewart is way off base asking for moderation and understanding when we all know that THE OTHER SIDE IS CRAZY!!!"... well, you get some sort of cookie.
posted by jscott at 7:12 AM on November 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


Karl Rove and people like him are not crazy.

That might depend on your definition of sane.

They are smart.

That might depend on your definition of smart.
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:14 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


EarBucket: "Liberals have crazy fringe people, yes, and nobody listens to them. Conservatives have crazy fringe people running the party."

Crazy fringe liberal here. The "Americans get their news from Jon Stewart, isn't that terrible?" meme that's been going around is pretty much toothless - getting your news from TDS is actually marginally better than just reading Yahoo News headlines, and significantly better than nothing but Fox. Granted.

The deeper issue for me is when Stewart is made into a political hero, when Terry Gross gushes about how Stewart is the last thing she sees before she goes to bed and legions of liberal college kids come to DC internships filled with the fire of using the Democratic Party to "moderate the crazies," where "moderate the crazies" means we can't talk about facts that "may be right." Ultimately, it dilutes what progressivism is supposed to be: an honest-to-goodness critique of corporate and military power. You'd be better off with William Jennings Bryan as your hero, for all his baggage, because he actually believed in something strongly enough to take on all comers about it and lose.

What's the biggest difference between the "crazies" on the left and on the right? Obama's neither a Muslim or a socialist, which I know because he self-identifies as a Christian and because no self-respecting actually socialist party will have him. Both are identity questions with easy empirical answers. Whether or not Bush is a war criminal is a question of assessing his actions, something we should always do for any president.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


john stewart articulates media criticism remarkably well, i am shocked that he is being dismissed by these comments. is he not the only clear voice on this issue? i am open to pithy links to unknown media commentators...
posted by arveale at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't see why progressives keep trying to make him some kind of champion that he is not interested in being.

The liberals have generally benefited from Stewart calling BS on Fox and the Republicans, and also don't have any particularly exciting champions of their own.

These days, the Democratic party makes for bad television. I remember reading that Will Ferrell's deadpan impersonations of Bush actually ended up helping him in the 2000 election.
posted by schmod at 7:17 AM on November 12, 2010


How can you be a leftist and a John Stewart fan? Jon Stewart isn't even remotely left. He's a capitalist of the highest order. What he produces are franchise entities like Colbert.

That's fair, but all the same I think the work the character "Jon Stewart" that Jon Stewart plays on The Daily Show does much better work than the real Jon Stewart is willing to admit.

I don't see how putting your editorializing in your first comment, immediately after posting the FPP, is any better than putting it in the FPP below the fold.

I accept your criticism. In my defense, I didn't think very hard before I did it.
posted by gerryblog at 7:18 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


How can you be a leftist and a John Stewart fan?

Can you be a fan of someone without completely sharing their politics or liking everything about them?
posted by John Cohen at 7:19 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


That might depend on your definition of sane.

Ok, seriously, how is he not sane?

He isn't standing on the corner and shouting about demons and the end of the world, he lives in a huge mansion and he's gotten a complete dope elected as president -- TWICE.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think people have long perceived Stewart as much farther left than he is, and so might find this disappointing; but he's always been closer to the center. He actually reminds me of the sort of midcentury moderate who had faith that government could advance the cause of justice and create healthy economic conditions in an atmosphere of sanity and secular leadership. But I also think, like avreale, that he's more a media critic (and to some degree social critic) rather than a political operative.
posted by Miko at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


Ok, seriously, how is he not sane? He isn't standing on the corner and shouting about demons and the end of the world, he lives in a huge mansion and he's gotten a complete dope elected as president -- TWICE.

It's my opinion that living in a mansion means nothing, but that you've separated yourself from most of the world. And speaking of most of the world, success in a particular endeavor may lead to larger-scale cultural demise, say, an ever-growing banana republic. Rhetoric that urges on violence and dumbs down political dialog is probably the most obvious example of Rove and his ilk's success. Not sane. Not smart.
posted by uraniumwilly at 7:28 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Stewart is way off base asking for moderation and understanding when we all know that THE OTHER SIDE IS CRAZY!"

What happens when the other side really is "crazy," or misled, or criminal, or whatever word you'd like to use? I don't see any reason why the idea that one's political opponents might in fact be deeply, dangerously wrong should be beyond all imagination. As Stewart says in this very interview, even if the claim that Bush committed war crimes is "technically true" we're still not allowed to say so, because it's impolite and someone's feelings might be hurt and because there are worse war criminals out there who come from other countries and times.

This is quietism. If Bush is a war criminal, he's a war criminal, even if there's no nice way to say so.
posted by gerryblog at 7:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


Fifty minutes from the FPP over.... right about .... now.
posted by norm at 7:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [21 favorites]


I love Stew-Beef but have to say I'm with Bill Maher on this, which makes me feel a little dirty.

"Keith Olbermann is right when he says he's not the equivalent of Glenn Beck," Maher explained. "One reports facts, and the other is very close to playing with his poop."
posted by shinybaum at 7:32 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Niceness aside, I think he's entirely correct in identifying that our central issue is the corruption of the system of government. Much as I dislike right-wing worldviews, I understand that there is a legitimate and respectful discussion to be had about the individual vs. the collective, the effects of various economics policies, approaches to national defense. But we can't possibly have that discussion in an honest and legitimate way in the current situation, where the degree of private interest and money in government is able to utterly control the supposedly public discussion and sway public opinion with power out of all proportion to the power of the people.
posted by Miko at 7:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [19 favorites]


... Jon Stewart explains... why you shouldn't say Bush is a war criminal even if it's "technically true"...

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Joe Beese at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Fifty minutes from the FPP over.... right about .... now.

I'm only at 16:36, but fortunately it's possible to begin discussing the surrounding issues before, or even without, viewing this specific interview.
posted by Miko at 7:35 AM on November 12, 2010


Because at the end of the day, most people are pretty smart and can tell real life from pretend. Now I think Maddow does a good job of that and I think Stewart recognized that she does for the most part, but there are people on the left playing the "the other side is the boogey man" game that Fox plays too. Stewart doesn't want to apportion blame and say who is doing more of creating this false reality, he just wants everyone to stop.

Yeah, I think that saying Stewart is playing the 'both sides are equally crazy' card is missing his point-- he isn't trying to talk about things like Tea Party racism or Obama Is Hitler or Death Panels or anything-- he's talking about the way that basic discourse is broken in this country, and that is definitely a burden shared by all of us. (I almost said 'both sides,' which thinking is basically a big part of the problem Stewart is addressing.) Whether it was empty rhetoric or not, I keep coming back to Obama's speech at the 2004 DNC:
The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
And then of course people want to jump on Obama making false equivalences, too. I've seen it. I'm sure both Obama and Stewart will gladly tell you that the crazy in that direction is worse than the crazy in that other direction, but the whole notion that we're carrying around every day that there are people on the other side who are evil and hateful-- that's bullshit. 'Those people' are your neighbors, your parents, your cousins, your coworkers, and you interact with them every day and they're nice people. You disagree about a lot of things, and they're wrong about some things, but they aren't your enemies. Some of them are racists, and some of them are homophobes, and sometimes they vote in ways that affect people negatively. I know. That's not a decent excuse.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:36 AM on November 12, 2010 [29 favorites]


"Keith Olbermann is right when he says he's not the equivalent of Glenn Beck," Maher explained. "One reports facts, and the other is very close to playing with his poop."

I'll agree with that. Despite my distaste for MSNBC pundits, I have to confess that Beck is in a class by himself, and probably not the best example I could have used to claim a rough equivalence in lack of professionalism. Beck seems to be truly disturbed.

And I know what you mean by feeling dirty about agree with Maher. World-class asshat, like a Dennis Miller of the left. But sometimes he really does hit the nail on the head.
posted by Edgewise at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2010


I heard Jon Stewart on Fresh Air's podcast - where he said a lot of the same things - and one of the points that I took away was a realization of just how good both sides' battle of rhetoric has been from a self-preservation standpoint. It is crazy to think that our country can be evenly divided into only two governmental philosophies, but each election we reinforce that. And lately, the message (from both sides) that "this election [of 2004, or 2006, or 2008, or 2010, ad infinitum] is the most critical ever" has had the effect of polarizing voters and strengthening the two-party concept. Whether the Democrats or the Republicans win or lose, as long as they are the two choices they both win.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


An overriding problem is that Jon Stewart keeps denying that his actions in satirizing news give him legitimacy and oblige him and his show to responsibilities to the public. He can't say you shouldn't call a war criminal a war criminal, or both sides are the same, while at the same time saying his views mean nothing because he's just a comedian-gee-shucks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [12 favorites]


Conservatives attack,attack,attack and never back down. Any lies, tricks, insane arguments are ok as long as you shut up your opponent.

James Carville.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that Stewart claims false equivalence so he can keep the title of court jester for either side of the argument. Whether he likes it or not, his audience looks to him for more than that.

Yes, this. I think what he does is deliberately disingenuous, and it is disingenuous because it is dismissive of basic truths in order for him to keep doing what he does.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:42 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


'Those people' are your neighbors, your parents, your cousins, your coworkers, and you interact with them every day and they're nice people. You disagree about a lot of things, and they're wrong about some things, but they aren't your enemies.

The problem with this, and the problem with Stewart's Lincoln Tunnel analogy, is that the reason we can politely bracket our political differences in our everyday lives is that they're essentially matters of taste, insofar as nearly all of us have no real influence or power. As Matt Yglesias recently put it, when there's nothing at stake, we can just agree to disagree.

But the 41 (soon 47) Republicans blocking legislation in the Senate have that power. If they're not my enemies, they're certainly my opponents. Government -- and by extension political organizations, the news media, etc -- just isn't like a Thanksgiving dinner or a family wedding or the Lincoln Tunnel queue: it's where decisions are actually made and stuff actually gets done.
posted by gerryblog at 7:50 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I respect Jon Stewart - he is obviously highly intelligent and sharp and I can sympathise with his desire to pour oil on troubled waters.

He does also make some good claims about the media, including the way that even left wing organisations have a business interest in keeping their audience outraged.

This interview, though, is very frustrating to listen to.

I think it's partly because the way that he is arguing feels very evasive.

It feels like he isn't actually engaging with the arguments advanced by each side. In fact, it feels like he doesn't want to do that at all for some reason.

Whenever he does, his arguments become very weak - "oh, Roosevelt imprisoned Japanese Americans, so how can we say Bush is bad" - and we skate on, very quickly, to another point...

Yes, tone is important.

But content, I'm afraid to say, is sometimes much more important.

A person who politely and from a position of privilege unjustly condemns you to death is doing something infinitely worse than an outraged bystander who shouts out "you evil mother-****er".

It's that failure to acknowledge that content matters more than tone that maybe accounts for some of my feeling of undefined annoyance.
posted by lucien_reeve at 7:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


A great example of Stewart's point about the current state of political affairs is the ongoing write-in count in Alaska where two sides are fighting over what standard to use when counting ballots for Lisa Murkowski. Joe Miller's team is demanding that the only ballots that count are ones where voters have exactly spelled and printed Ms. Murkowski's name - rejecting even cursive ballots where the "o" could be an "a" - which on its face is an act of desperate self-interest. But instead of acknowledging their position as such, they claim instead that it is for the preservation of voter intent and the democratic process. And most of us just roll our eyes and accept that this is appropriate political conduct for an almost-Senator.

It seems that the demands of modern day political life and campaigns have made it so that only someone willing to sell out can succeed; the earnest, above reproach candidates rarely make it past the primaries.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's my opinion that living in a mansion means nothing, but that you've separated yourself from most of the world. And speaking of most of the world, success in a particular endeavor may lead to larger-scale cultural demise, say, an ever-growing banana republic.

See? What you're saying actually sounds much more crazy than the things Karl Rove says.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:54 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jesus, I think I just lost about 90% of the respect I had for Stewart, the way he's defending Bush. Maddow's looking at him like he's full of bullshit — and he is. Did I really just watch Stewart defend Bush's war crimes?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:02 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


See? What you're saying actually sounds much more crazy than the things Karl Rove says.

So, does all of this depend on one's definition of smart/sane?
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:02 AM on November 12, 2010


even if the claim that Bush committed war crimes is "technically true" we're still not allowed to say so, because it's impolite and someone's feelings might be hurt and because there are worse war criminals out there who come from other countries and times.

This is quietism. If Bush is a war criminal, he's a war criminal, even if there's no nice way to say so.


Did you listen to his argument? I haven't finished watching this, but the point was, there's a difference between Bush and Pol Pot, or Saddam Hussein, and to call him a "war criminal" puts him in a category with people who have done much worse things. If Bush is a war criminal, then is FDR? Or Obama? What does it mean to call someone a war criminal?

That there is war, and then war crimes, is already something of a confusing philosophical area (the whole idea of "just war" is kind of mess... but I guess that's a different discussion). Leaders make decisions, sometimes regrettable ones. So Bush may have crossed a line, but perhaps it's better to address it at a level that takes into context the actions of other presidents and other world leaders who are accused of war crimes, rather than simply make it about bad guys versus good guys.

Bush isn't Hitler, in other words.
posted by mdn at 8:12 AM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


Jon Stewart reminds me of any of those movies when the hero spends the first two acts constantly fretting and whining about how he's not really the hero. Despite what many seem to think about him he's not actually Neo and/or Jesus but he seems to have a real problem with accepting that several million people look up to him for rational guidance whether he wants to actually be the provider of it or not.

He seems to be incredibly bothered by the fact that he's considered the most honest man in America and hopelessly naive about the concept that in the golden age of American journalism, that's what actual journalists were striving to be. So no, not Neo, not Jesus. But he's the closest we're going to get to our generation's Cronkite whether any of us want him to be or not, himself included. And Cronkite wasn't really a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, either. He merely took the inconceivable steps of telling the truth and treating people like adults.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


No, no you didn't just watch Stewart defend Bush's war crimes, and I don't know how you could have gotten that impression.
posted by Justinian at 8:16 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't finished watching this, but the point was, there's a difference between Bush and Pol Pot, or Saddam Hussein, and to call him a "war criminal" puts him in a category with people who have done much worse things.

The difference is that Bush was an American president, so he can't really be that bad. Honestly, that's all this is. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed as a direct result of Bush's aggressive war of choice, and hundreds of thousands of others have been maimed, displaced, or had their lives otherwise ruined by it. He and members of his administration authorized actions that Japanese soldiers were executed for committing at the end of World War II.

I didn't say that he was Hitler. But by the preponderance of evidence and his own admission the man has committed war crimes; it offends logic to say his crimes don't really count because Hitler was worse.
posted by gerryblog at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


I like Stewart well enough, but I get tired of him trying to dismiss criticism by hiding behind the "we're just a comedy show" shield.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:19 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jesus, I think I just lost about 90% of the respect I had for Stewart, the way he's defending Bush. Maddow's looking at him like he's full of bullshit — and he is. Did I really just watch Stewart defend Bush's war crimes?

What about his argument for proportionality? WAR CRIMES is not a term that can be qualified. Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Putin, Mugabe, Bush, Roosevelt, Nixon. Those guys are not equally evil and by saying WAR CRIMES, it waters down the real conversation about what is evil, how is war conducted, etc. Are all leaders in war in fact war criminals? I think that is a valid conversation, but saying Bush is a war criminal, like Stewart said, ends the conversation before it even begins.
posted by arveale at 8:20 AM on November 12, 2010 [10 favorites]


Did I really just watch Stewart defend Bush's war crimes?

No, not really.
posted by John Cohen at 8:24 AM on November 12, 2010


No, no you didn't just watch Stewart defend Bush's war crimes, and I don't know how you could have gotten that impression.

In one instance, when Maddow pointed out that Bush lied when saying one thing here and then another thing there, Stewart went out of his way to cast uncertainty about the act of lying that took place. I'm not sure how Jon Stewart thinks a conversation can start, let alone end, when the recorded series of events won't be agreed upon.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:25 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


...the whole notion that we're carrying around every day that there are people on the other side who are evil and hateful-- that's bullshit. ... Some of them are racists, and some of them are homophobes, and sometimes they vote in ways that affect people negatively. I know. That's not a decent excuse.

So, what exactly would they have to do to be considered hateful? Puppy murder? Child molestation?

For me, being a racist homophobe who votes to injure and punish the powerless is a pretty solid definition of hateful, no matter how nice their pumpkin pie is, or how devoted they are to their kid's little league team.
posted by bashos_frog at 8:27 AM on November 12, 2010 [18 favorites]


"Stewart is way off base asking for moderation and understanding when we all know that THE OTHER SIDE IS CRAZY!"

What happens when the other side really is "crazy," or misled, or criminal, or whatever word you'd like to use? I don't see any reason why the idea that one's political opponents might in fact be deeply, dangerously wrong should be beyond all imagination.


I guess the point is that in the US at least, the political system's design creates two parties that broadly represent the overall population's views, and those parties generally have to interact and compromise in order to enact policy changes. If you declare that the party that was elected by and represents roughly half of the population is crazy and that significant compromise on any issue is impossible, you are advocating a fundamentally broken political system even if you are actually correct and half of the population are idiots and criminals. As a progressive I would love for the left to have the political will and power to make the kinds of decisions I support, but as a realist I think it's harmful to have the kind of climate where compromise is fundamentally impossible.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:27 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Did I really just watch Stewart defend Bush's war crimes?

You've just helped Stewart make his point.
posted by davebush at 8:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


Are there not certain things that should never be compromised? Should we have left off at '3/5 of a person' in the interest of all getting along?
posted by bashos_frog at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


You've just helped Stewart make his point.

I think he is caught up in the narrative built into his false equivalences, when he cannot acknowledge the facts on record. If that's not the case, this interview is a big failure for him to articulate his position correctly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2010


Should we have left off at '3/5 of a person' in the interest of all getting along?

You know, if we are ostensibly talking about how political discourse functions in contemporary America, hyperbolic outrage and sarcastic rejoinders is a pretty poor way to engage.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because at the end of the day, most people are pretty smart and can tell real life from pretend.

Obviously, we're living in different Americas.
posted by brand-gnu at 8:40 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think he is caught up in the narrative built into his false equivalences, when he cannot acknowledge the facts on record. If that's not the case, this interview is a big failure for him to articulate his position correctly.

When Stewart rails against Fox News, and makes a point of showing how they create news, I think that's pretty searing, important stuff. Then he has someone like Chis Wallace on the show and pretty much sucks up, makes no point about how Fox News perpetuates certain opinions, and then ends with "Can I be on your show?"
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


What does it mean to call someone a war criminal?

It means you violated the Geneva convention. A war of aggression under false pretenses is a violation of the convention. Saying Bush isn't a war criminal because he's not Pol Pot is equivalent to saying Baby Face Nelson wasn't a social criminal because he was no Charles Manson.

Bush isn't Hitler, in other words.

True. He was more like Franco Lite.

Stewart's quote in the FPP title is perfect: satire is pointless in our present situation. It is the last refuge of the ineffectual. With a real unemployment rate close to 20%, a massive propaganda machine with the aim of privatizing the state, and no economic foundation on which to stand, we really are dangerously close to fascism. Colbert's civility agenda is literally crazy in the face of this. Maddow and Olberman's Murrowism is also mostly ineffectual. Just look at the last election. You can't tame the extreme right wing with moderation and good horse sense.

Also, none of you should confuse your American media heroes with the Left. Social security, universal health care, regulated banking and industry: these are positions of even the center right in the rest of the world. Olberman et al are actually moderate conservatives. The fact that you might consider them left is indicative of how fascist their opposition is.
posted by clarknova at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2010 [40 favorites]


What about his argument for proportionality? WAR CRIMES is not a term that can be qualified. Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, Putin, Mugabe, Bush, Roosevelt, Nixon. Those guys are not equally evil and by saying WAR CRIMES, it waters down the real conversation about what is evil, how is war conducted, etc.

Interrogation Nation
Eric Holder and Barack Obama have taken pains to tell the American people that water-boarding is illegal torture. So what? That's just their opinion. President Bush disagrees. The persistent failure to hold anyone accountable at any level for years of state-sanctioned abuse speaks louder than their words. It has taken this issue from a legal question to a matter of personal taste. What we choose to define as torture is now just another policy disagreement, like extending the Bush tax cuts or picking a caterer. This is precisely the kind of sliding-scale ethical guesswork the rule of law should preclude.
Since there will never be any accountability, what does it matter if we water down the conversation? The words are just an academic exercise occupying the vacuum left by inaction.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 8:46 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


The difference is that Bush was an American president, so he can't really be that bad. Honestly, that's all this is.

Fine, but the problem there starts to become, what major world leader is not a war criminal? Surely every post WWII US president can be accused... If you want to have a discussion about war and the contemporary methods of engagement, that's one thing. But to single out GWB as if he is unusual or particularly evil in his actions is basically just partisanship.
posted by mdn at 8:50 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I too think he's drawing a false distinction between himself and commentators, primarily because there's no rhetorical difference between the amount of truth that he traffics in and what they present.

This was well demonstrated when he told Maddow that he wasn't "in the game" but SHE was... and my thought was "wait a second, she's not running for office either." Both have candidates on their shows. Both have political operatives on their shows. Both interview news makers, news analysts, and other commentators. The line between Stewart and Maddow is far thinner than he apparently believes. Case in point: Maddow's hilarious re-enactments of various news-y transcripts, like the Blago trial.

Jon Stewart reminds me of any of those movies when the hero spends the first two acts constantly fretting and whining about how he's not really the hero.

I think that's apt, but the discussion of Al Franken shows the dichotomy in his mind. As a comedian, he can be the clown-y nihilist poking holes in a corrupt system, but if he tries to actually do something he might have to leave the scene entirely. It's a lot easier to complain than to fix it, and I think he's not ready or willing to give up his niche in order to try to do so.

Whether it can be fixed is entirely a different, and more depressing, question.
posted by norm at 8:51 AM on November 12, 2010


Here are a series of views presented on counter-punch concerning Stewart and his Sanity rally that I think may be relevant to the discussion:

What the Stewart / Colbert News Clowns Are Really Up To by Christopher Ketcham

Jon Stewart and the Left by William Blum

Jon Stewart, are you really that sane? by Trish Kahle

Up Yours Jon Stewart by Stanley Heller
posted by ReWayne at 8:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


And most of us just roll our eyes and accept that this is appropriate political conduct for an almost-Senator.

Well, like it or not, it's just a lawyer doing his job.
posted by empath at 8:55 AM on November 12, 2010


Here's a quote from the post Jon Stewart and the Left from one of my links above:

He billed his October 30 rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, as the Million Moderate March. Would a person with a real desire for important progressive social and political change, i.e, a "leftist", so ostentatiously brand himself a "moderate"? Even if by "moderate" he refers mainly to tone of voice or choice of words, why is that so important? If a politician strongly supports things which you are passionate about, why should it bother you if the politician is vehement in his arguments, even angry? And if the politician is strongly against what you're passionate about does it make you feel any better about the guy if he never raises his voice or sharply criticizes those on the other side? What kind of cause is that to commit yourself to?

Stewart in fact appears to dislike the left, perhaps strongly. In the lead-up to the rally he criticized the left for various things, including calling George W. Bush a "war criminal". Wow! How immoderate of us. Do I have to list here the 500 war crimes committed by George W. Bush? If I did so, would that make me one of what Stewart calls the "crazies"? In his talk at the rally, Stewart spoke of our "real fears" — "of terrorists, racists, Stalinists, and theocrats". Stalinists? Where did that come from, Glenn Beck? What decade is Stewart living in? What about capitalists or the corporations? Is there no reason to fear them? Is it Stalinists who are responsible for the collapse of our jobs and homes, our economy?
posted by ReWayne at 8:56 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think that is a valid conversation, but saying Bush is a war criminal, like Stewart said, ends the conversation before it even begins.

I guess maybe Bush should have thought of that before becoming a war criminal.
posted by empath at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


> there is the false reality created by 24 hour news networks on both sides

not to mention all the ones created by the small handful of favorite sites every politics junkie cycles through all day long. Which has a great deal to do with

> Obviously, we're living in different Americas.
posted by jfuller at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2010


I like Stewart well enough, but I get tired of him trying to dismiss criticism by hiding behind the "we're just a comedy show" shield.

Not dismissing it, not using it as a shield. The most centred thing about Jon Stewart, actually, is that he recognizes that his strongest asset is that he is very funny, and that as soon as you stop putting the funny ahead of all other priorities, your edge dulls overnight. This is as true of Bill Maher as it is of Dennis Miller, and yes I just more or less agreed with Stewart about the equivalency there, at least inasmuch as both of them have turned from pretty good comics into self-righteous condescending assholes. (Maher's still marginally funnier, but he's so self-satisfied with his own intellectual superiority that he wrecks his best lines with a smug smirk that is the exact analogue of Miller's self-congratulatory snicker.)

So if you're Jon Stewart, you are a slave, to some degree, to a very elusive muse. You probably aren't even sure where it comes from, but you know the moment you start trying to guide it - attack only conservative crazies, put the laffs into the service of inspiring political action - it fades. And if you're Stewart, you're absolutely self-aware enough and enough of a student of comedy to know that talents as great as yours have lost it. You think Stewart hasn't seen the Lenny Bruce biopic like 50 times, watching the funny word-jazz comedian turn into the shrill martyr?

You do this thing four days a week. That's an insane amount of new material to come up with and deliver, even if you've got a huge staff of writers working with you. You stick to your core strengths, and you always reign yourself in before you start believing you're Cronkite or the saviour of the American left, because that's what you have to do to stay funny, to keep your edge.

What's more, insofar as Stewart has an agenda, it is to tear the pomposities and pieties of the mainstream media to shreds, in part because he recognizes - and has repeatedly stated - that no amount of great policy ideas or progressive activism is going to amount to much more than feel-good posturing unless the vehicle for the conversation, the media, starts to change.

This, I think, is what Stewart means by the equivalency: Rachel Maddow may traffic in more facts than say O'Rielly or Hannity, but she frames those facts such that a conservative's about as likely to be informed by Maddow as a liberal is by Hannity. And I'm reasonably sure Maddow doesn't give a fuck. She is not trying to talk to anyone but her own echo chamber. This is a tacit concession to the parameters of dialogue as established by Fox News et al. - we will each have our own conversations, and we will talk to the other end only in deranged rants. (Again, even if I agree with Olbermann more than Glenn Beck, I'm quite sure his Murrow manque schtick scans to conservatives as nearly as unhinged as Beck does to us progressives. Guess what, Keith, Murrow's have-you-no-decency-sir thing wouldn't have had as much power if he did it fortnightly.)

There is no dialogue anymore. There are only two separate conversations. Even if this is more the far right's fault than the moderate left's, it is both of their problem, particularly as professional communicators. That's Stewart's point - because he is primarily a media critic, it is his primary one - and it is a valid one.

Look at his career greatest hits. He got Tucker Carlson fired. His acolyte, Colbert, made a mockery of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. His best work on the show is media satire, not political satire. He does this as well as anyone in the history of television. If you care about reasonable conversation, you should thank him for it and save your complaints about prosecuting Bush for war crimes for your elected officials, whose job that actually is.
posted by gompa at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2010 [72 favorites]


Stewart in fact appears to dislike the left, perhaps strongly. In the lead-up to the rally he criticized the left for various things, including calling George W. Bush a "war criminal". Wow! How immoderate of us. Do I have to list here the 500 war crimes committed by George W. Bush? If I did so, would that make me one of what Stewart calls the "crazies"?

I'm pretty sure that Stewart's point is that the vast middle of the country gets turned off by crazy and divisive rhetoric, and that even such TRUE statements don't help you build a majority political movement. I am reminded of the conscious political choice (and yes, I recognize this is kind of a reverse Godwin here) that MLK made in eschewing violence and hateful rhetoric in his leadership-- it wasn't because the Bull Connors and the George Wallaces and the Orval Faubuses weren't a bunch of vile pigfuckers, it was because the target of the movement was moderate white voters, not the Citizens' Councils.

Same principle at play here: YES, Bush was a war criminal. Stewart even says so! But he's smart enough to know that to the average semi-conscious voter, that sounds like whining from the defeated left, not a statement of righteous indignation.
posted by norm at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


The posters in here saying things along the line of "Stewart is way off base asking for moderation and understanding when we all know that THE OTHER SIDE IS CRAZY!!!"... well, you get some sort of cookie.

Yeah everybody, this is fucking hilarious. Most epic troll thread ever.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:07 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am reminded of the conscious political choice (and yes, I recognize this is kind of a reverse Godwin here) that MLK made in eschewing violence and hateful rhetoric in his leadership...

Many would respond to this by pointing out that he had Malcolm X to do that work for him. Maybe that example actually shows you need both the carrot and the stick.
posted by gerryblog at 9:09 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't blame Stewart for the ridiculousness of the Rally. What bugs me is how clearly it showed that if you want to get progressives to dress as zombies, re-enact Star Wars in subway cars, or travel to Washington DC to hold silly signs for a purposeless rally, they're totally on board. If you want them to do so to legitimately protest torture, infringement of civil rights, or rabid corporatism, they're far too busy to do so but will happily change their Twitter icon until they find a hilarious picture of a drainage ditch that looks like a sad face.

The Tea Party is what the right wing did while we were all changing our Facebook statuses for Iran. This side of the aisle is so addicted to huffing irony that it can only be bothered to make statements that specifically and purposefully say nothing. It's like trying to get people to listen to a really good band but the only song they want is the silly jokey one they heard on Tiny Toons Adventures.

God knows I understand how fruitless it all seems. Hell, when we did organize and come together for a real cause it turned out we got all excited about a Presidential candidate who turned into just another Corporate stooge who was happy to dance to the GOP's music. That shit's enough to make anyone stop genuinely caring.

But to spend effort into going to something specifically because it didn't mean anything and was just a lark, because God help us if we actually put that much energy into something that could matter -- when did giving a shit become such a crime?
posted by Legomancer at 9:17 AM on November 12, 2010 [23 favorites]


The line between Stewart and Maddow is far thinner than he apparently believes. Case in point: Maddow's hilarious re-enactments of various news-y transcripts, like the Blago trial.

Stewart addresses that, saying if the pundits are moving further toward becoming comedians, that's them moving, not him. In other words, just because journalism is changing its approach doesn't alter the intent of what he does. He recognizes his own impotence, and the fact that he's there to be "deflationary" rather than to try to build things or change things. That shouldn't stop anyone who wants to change things from getting out there and making sincere efforts toward doing what they think needs to be done, but that is not his role.

Pundits are using entertainment as a way to make political points. Stewart uses entertainment as a way to point out absurdity. There may be crossover, but that doesn't mean the motivation is the same.
posted by mdn at 9:22 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I finished watching the video, felt like Stewart made some interesting points that I would have to think about. I really enjoyed the end when Jon said "I like you," and it may have been my imagination, but I felt like Rachel was emotional about it. I was, anyways. And I just wanted to give them both a big hug and have a nice day.

So I'm going to close this thread, after reading through it, and do my damnedest to forget any of your words, because you guys are fucking up my mellow.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


On one show this week Stewart ripped GWB's memoir and then turned around and had on Rick nutbag secessionist Perry as a guest. On another he compared child-rearing notes with Harrison Grumpypants Ford. If his kick is that we need to be more moderate, tell it to the rightwingers. If his kick is that we need to speak truth to the mass media, tell it to Comcast. If his kick is that engaging in political satire is the best disinfectant, then he needs some stronger lye.

I like Stewart and watch his show a lot, and sometimes his brand of funny is the only thing that makes American politics remotely palatable, but 10 years in the catbird seat has given him money, comfort, awards, and respectability, not to mention a position to uphold, that may not be in congruence with the vision of him as some righteous outside tilter at establishment windmills.

The polarization in American politics is institutional, systemic, and endemic, and what does or does not occur with it in place has very little to do with anything that Jon Stewart can say from his current platform or would be able to say and get the same attention from a lesser platform.
posted by blucevalo at 9:24 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


The fascist's biggest weapon is their propaganda machine. Stewart recognizes this and is working against it with humor. He also knows that the opposite of "fascist propaganda" is not "leftist propaganda", it's "journalism". That's what he's fighting for. And in that way, he is the leftist's friend, and should be embraced as such.

Oh my, did I just use the word "fascist"? How immoderate of me. I guess I'm no Jon Stewart! But I know an ally when I see one.
posted by vibrotronica at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'll come to Jon Stewart's defense here, because I think there has been a bit of a piling on lately and this thread seems to be no exception.

I was stirred by his arguments. I think he cuts to the heart of the massively destructive 24-hour news cycle and how it, maybe more than any other single development in the past half-century (though the Citizens United case is another strong contender) has lead to not just a coarsening of the national debate, but a very real limitation of our ability as citizens to enact change through Democratic means, with it's continual, aggressive desire to remove that very debate from anything resembling a political reality, and it's a problem that only grows exponentially every year.

I feel like you who still accuse him of making the argument that "both sides are the same amount of wrong" didn't watch the clip. The interview is specifically a refutation of that. He acknowledges the power of the right-wing noise machine (vs. the left-wing noise machine, in whatever way that exists), even spelling out how Fox News functions so effectively (present yourself as an outsider being victimized, accuse your enemies of precisely your own tactics) and how there is (to be VERY CLEAR) no equivalency on the left. He goes out of his way to continually praise Maddow and her individual voice. It's only once her voice is swallowed up into the endless echo chamber of "liberal" punditry that it becomes harmful at all. Both sides may not be equally right, but their media homunculi are always JUST! SO! OUTRAGED! about whatever fits into the narrative that they themselves have been constructing for the past two decades (I thought the Juan Williams example was exactly on the nose).

That MSNBC has decided that it would be profitable to be a one-stop shop for your particular persuasion in the outrage economy doesn't mean that it's Fox News, but let's not pretend it's a step in the right direction, either.

Stewart's main point (I think) is that what we need isn't "an answer to Fox News." What we need is fucking journalists. Not pundits. Not "media personalities." We need someone to "keep them honest" all the time. We need investigative reporters doing real reporting, not gotcha pieces that or "analysis" consisting of seven screaming face-boxes. We need people following money. We need people rooting out corruption. It should be alarming that he is THE ONLY MEDIA PERSONALITY MAKING THIS ARGUMENT. Neither Dick Morris (the shit stain!) nor Keith Olbermann are arguing for their own irrelevance, you know?

I think Bush is absolutely a war criminal. I think Sarah Palin is the worst kind of folksy fascist. I think Karl Rove is just straight up a bad person with an ugly soul.

But I'm also inclined to agree that devoting a 24 hour news channel to hammering this point or calling Bush a war criminal in public debate (or in interrupting public debate out of protest) is ultimately harmful and serves no practical purpose except to paint him as an Evil Man and implicitly accuses him of engaging in a genocide. It's a base argument willfully ignores nuance in favor of anger. If there were to be an actual legal case presented against him (or Addington or John Yoo or Cheney), that's one thing, and that would be great. But it's a different thing entirely to try and engage in a discussion of policy when your immutable premise is that your opponents support a genocidal tyrant.

John Stewart not your savior. He's not your leader. He's not your hero.

He's a satirist. He's a critic. A very good one. He admits as much, and mentions that the only reason he always goes on about how his lead-in show is puppet crank calls (though, how dated is that reference!) is to point out that he still isn't in that echo chamber with everyone else. He does not have an hour-long talk show on a media outlet whose political views he has a vested interested in supporting. He doesn't have talking points he's obliged to hit. He does not court controversy for ratings or terrorize his audience with worst-case scenarios.

And all the rallies in the world won't change that.
posted by StopMakingSense at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2010 [39 favorites]


I misspelled "Jon." Also, goddamn, look at all that! I should shut up.
posted by StopMakingSense at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2010


Pundits are using entertainment as a way to make political points. Stewart uses entertainment as a way to point out absurdity. There may be crossover, but that doesn't mean the motivation is the same.

Where I come from, that's what we call a "distinction without a difference."

In all seriousness, pundits aren't just making political points. If they were, they wouldn't even PRETEND to be "journalists." By that token, I can remember what Stewart said the night before the 2004 election (paraphrase): "Remember, when you're voting, to vote for the right guy. My job will be a lot harder, but the country will be better off." You think there was no political point to that?
posted by norm at 9:37 AM on November 12, 2010


If you want them to do so to legitimately protest torture, infringement of civil rights, or rabid corporatism, they're far too busy to do so

I think the history of large marches by progressives over the past 10 years has shown that they are ineffectual in bringing about any real change. Even if they're held mostly for consciousness-raising purposes, the media, mainstream or not, will successfully limit the significance of these gatherings by labeling it a liberal, anarchist, etc. event (e.g.,anti-GOP convention protests in NY in 2004, the multiple anti-Iraq War protests, etc.).

I'd much rather donate my limited time and funds to the candidates and groups that work to promote the causes I'm interested in. Marches are nice for the feel-good feelings, but at this point in time, money and the media are the only things our leaders listen to these days.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:41 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am reminded of the conscious political choice (and yes, I recognize this is kind of a reverse Godwin here) that MLK made in eschewing violence and hateful rhetoric in his leadership-- it wasn't because the Bull Connors and the George Wallaces and the Orval Faubuses weren't a bunch of vile pigfuckers, it was because the target of the movement was moderate white voters, not the Citizens' Councils.

Martin Luther King was committed to non-violent action. It's frankly galling to see his name constantly invoked by people who would not have us even openly acknowledge the truth, let alone make a real, proud, honest effort to do something about it. Here is what MLK had to say about white moderate voters. It's sad that his words still describe so much that has gone on in the last decade:

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season. Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:44 AM on November 12, 2010 [35 favorites]


As a Jon Stewart fan and committed leftist I have to say he comes off pretty terribly in this.
Jon Stewart is not a Leftist. He's a humourist, and he makes his living by identifying and skewering insanity.

You may be confused because some of the time his progressive perspective of the world overlaps with yours.

We don't need more Leftists. We need more people who do not align themselves with an "ism", but instead make values-based, reasonable and humane decisions.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:44 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I would add that, for any faults he might have, Stewart would and does frequently and freely admit that if not for the hapless Craig Kilborn leaving what was then "The Late Late Show," he would be remembered, if at all, for a flopped talk show on MTV, unmemorable romantic lead parts in a couple of mid-1990s Miramax flops, playing Adam Sandler's roommate in "Big Daddy," playing a TV executive in "Death to Smoochy," and playing Josh Hartnett's professor in "The Faculty."
posted by blucevalo at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


But he's the closest we're going to get to our generation's Cronkite whether any of us want him to be or not, himself included. And Cronkite wasn't really a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, either. He merely took the inconceivable steps of telling the truth and treating people like adults.

In all fairness, it's nearly impossible to compare anything in today's media with what was happening during Cronkite's era.

News reporting was very different then. The press had much more free reign to actually cover events (none of this Pentagon-gets-to-approve-all-reports nonsense during the Viet Nam war -- people saw actual blown-to-pieces soldiers on the news nightly), and reporters were reporting, not trying to interpret what they reported for viewers. The Fairness Doctrine was in force from the FCC, so anytime an opinion WAS aired as part of news, equal time had to be granted to an opposing viewpoint if someone wanted it.

And the one time Cronkite DID speak opinion, it had real world effects.

The news today isn't like that at all. Nobody simply reports anymore, not even on the major network nightly news. They all want to tell you what it MEANS. And as soon as you start doing that, you've crossed from reporting into editorializing.

I think it's important to remember -- Stewart's program isn't about critiquing politics. It's about critiquing media coverage of politics and how politicians play the media. And his stance has always been one of "Look how ridiculous all this is. We want our media to give us truth, but they don't do that. Here is what they've done to obscure the truth." If he happens to reveal the truth along the way, it isn't because he's striving to report it. It's because in stripping back the layers of manipulation and half-truths along the way, he uncovers a nugget of reality hidden at the center of it all.

His stance during the Maddow interview (which may have been affected by his having a stomach flu and fighting nausea the entire time) was that he wasn't going to suddenly jump onto "her team" simply because he may share some of her viewpoints. His analogy of him sitting in the stands critiquing the players on the field is exactly how he sees himself. And the instant he steps off the stands onto the field, he loses something. And he stuck to his position, the same one he's had all along, that extremist rhetoric from either side is damaging our ability to hear truth from our media.
posted by hippybear at 9:47 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Bush isn't Hitler, in other words.

1 bush = 1.67 centihitlers
posted by EarBucket at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


...make values-based, reasonable and humane decisions.

That's actually what I mean when I call myself a committed leftist. Let's be friends.
posted by gerryblog at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


But I think his real point is that if you're having a discussion with one of your Palin-loving relatives or even a conservative politician (like on his show), it's better to not come at them rabidly shouting "Liar!" or "Wingut talking points!" but to slowly, reasonably try to get them to see your point of view while you work to understand theirs. I actually tried this recently on a Facebook discussion (oh God those are the worst kind) and surprised myself how well it turned out in the end.

I've tried being nice, I've tried being an ass. Some people you just can't convince any more than you could convince them to change their religion, what I would like to know from Stewart is what I am supposed to do about that.

On an individual level, yeah just ignore the you can't convince everyone, but what do I do about the fact that they go off and convince others? That Rush Limbaugh is out there every day doing that? Do I just cede those people to the other side or should I up my volume even more?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:51 AM on November 12, 2010


Where Rachel Maddow is wrong is in thinking she needs Stewart to validate her, that he needs to explicitly pat her on the head and say, "No, Rachel, you're not as bad as Fox."

He didn't stand up on that stage and say "Rachel Maddow sucks like Fox news sucks," he said (and says every night), "Bad news reporting is bad. Stupid reporting is stupid."

If she's convinced that she's not doing bad news, then she needs to carry on with her head held high, secure that Stewart is not talking about her. If she starts doing any of the bullshit that Stewart skewers night after night, then she should be ashamed.

Stewart's show is never, ever about him standing up and saying, "Both sides are equally bad and they should all just chill out." It's always him skewing specific examples of the bullshit that's making us all stupider.

The thing Stewart never seems to quite come out and say explicitly enough when he talks to media people (Crossfire was the closest he's ever got, but even there he could have been more blunt), is this:

"Rachel, I'm not here to criticize and make fun of George Bush. I'm hear to criticize and make fun of you. You and any other reporter (usually it's someone on FOX) that does something stupid."
posted by straight at 9:53 AM on November 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


"I guess the point is that in the US at least, the political system's design creates two parties that broadly represent the overall population's views"

I don't think this is true. I think we have *only* two parties, and neither of them come close to representing the overall population's views. But we've fallen into a habit of just shrugging our shoulders and voting for what's on the ballot.

I sort of wish Stewart would stop beating the dead horse of how the media is ruining our country. The problem has nothing to do with the media, as f'd up as it may be. The problem is the systemic non-representation, inequality of power, and overall crappy leadership in Washington.

The MSNBC/Fox media bubble is not even marginally a problem. It's just entertainment, and I think almost everyone knows that, even people who agree with Fox most of the time. The problem with our government is, simply put, our government.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:00 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whether it was empty rhetoric or not, I keep coming back to Obama's speech at the 2004 DNC...And then of course people want to jump on Obama making false equivalences, too. I've seen it.

Obama is the elephant in the room on Stewart's point though, isn't he? Obama doesn't vilify the other side, he tries to solve real issues...but his presidency is turning into a disaster because the other side won't stop vilifying him and focusing on phony issues.

It's proof you have to fight fire with fire, Clinton certainly wasn't afraid to be a big meany to the right and he still got plenty of bipartisan legislation passed, more than Obama ever will.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


What does it mean to call someone a war criminal?

This.

Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill treatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

It is not "technically true" that George W. Bush is a war criminal.

It is true.

There is no hope without truth.

Fuck Jon Stewart.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:19 AM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


We need more people who do not align themselves with an "ism", but instead make values-based, reasonable and humane decisions.

I don't know why we can't all stop fighting and agree I'm right.

-Isms aren't the problem. People actually disagree about what values to use, what is reasonable, and what is humane. Some of those people are wrong. We can be nice about disagreeing, but being clear about the disagreement isn't what causes the disagreement in the first place.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:27 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


>...make values-based, reasonable and humane decisions.

That's actually what I mean when I call myself a committed leftist.


Then why all the handwringing (not necessarily you) about "Stewart himself apparently elevates a moderate temperament to the status of (the only) virtue"???

The guy is a comedian. He's not a Leftist or even a politician.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:28 AM on November 12, 2010


StopMakingSense: We need investigative reporters doing real reporting, not gotcha pieces that or "analysis" consisting of seven screaming face-boxes. We need people following money. We need people rooting out corruption.

Yeah, I agree with you there. But here's the thing: There's no point in having people digging up the facts if they're simultaneously supposed to self-censor because one side of the political spectrum might take some offense to it. There's no value in having someone out there, somewhere in the ether, finding out the truth and then not telling anyone.

You specifically said "following money." Here's an example. This election cycle, ThinkProgress actually followed the money coming into the general fund that the Chamber of Commerce used to purchase political ads and found that huge amounts were coming from businesses located in foreign countries, and weren't segregated in any way from domestic money. Foreign companies with an interest in American politics were paying money into an account that was then being depleted to run (repulsively deceptive or flat out untruthful) ads against Democratic candidates.

Bringing this up hurt a lot of Republicans' feelings and didn't change their minds. Should ThinkProgress not have reported it? Was it right for the New York Times, the AP, Time, etc. to run a summary of these allegations against a statement from the Chamber of Commerce saying "we didn't do that" without explaining how anything TP found was incorrect, then drop the subject?

The problem with avoiding any kind of language or subject matter that makes the other side uncomfortable is that we're at the tail end of at least a decade where a huge plurality of the population has been dog-whistle trained to believe that the slightest criticism or questioning of their side's talking points is some kind of sinister, godless, Soros-funded sedition from the lamestream LIEberal media. So if the only way to have an acceptable discourse is to avoid saying things that offend or inflame anyone, and one side is trained to get offended by any questioning of their worldview, what kind of discourse is possible? And what's the point?
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 10:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I like The Daily Show, but Stewart's appearance in The Faculty was the high point of his career.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I kept struggling to understand who Stewart was referring to when he used the word "you." Rachel? MSNBC? Cable news? The media? Himself? What a waste.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:42 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


So when is Stewart running for some sort of political office? If he keeps talking like this (when he's not trying to make his producers happy), he might be able to find "Stewart Republicans," like Reagan had his Reagan Democrats. He's gotta be a better mayor of NYC than Bloomberg.
posted by cleancut at 10:45 AM on November 12, 2010


cobra_high_tigers, I think that Stewart's entire point is that the legitimate story you are referring to got the same or maybe less coverage on MSNBC and CNN than the stupid Juan Williams brouhaha. That because of MSNBC's willingness to run with stupid partisan "outrages" like that, the legitimate outrages are ignored as if they were equally partisan bullshit.
posted by straight at 10:48 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


The example you cited is a great one and precisely what I mean. It's a disservice to American citizens that things like that don't get more extensive coverage, but well-researched stories about political mechanics fall out of the public eye not because the people writing them aren't passionate or partisan enough (though, maybe that too), but because they're not sexy. There's not a big shouty debate to be had over it. There aren't two sides to have talking heads disagree about. So it disappears.

This is the context 24 hour news has created, and is precisely what Jon Stewart is critiquing. And it's because of this context that you can't get traction on a story like that, because the audience is already trained to think of everything in simple partisan terms instead of "There are wealthy, powerful people who are willfully trying to fuck me over because they think I'm stupid."

It would be great if CNN, MSNBC et al covered stories like that, lord knows. But the only way they know how to cover any issue is to bring in fucking Pat Buchanan and talk over each other for five minutes about it before segueing into something funny they found on the internet. When there is just a plain truth put in front of them, they don't know what to do! They are baffled! They need EXPERTS!

The problem isn't hurting feelings when speaking truth to power. The problem is speaking bullshit to power to drown out other bullshit. Because when you finally get around to speaking the truth, everyone just thinks it's more bullshit.
posted by StopMakingSense at 10:56 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think his premise was perhaps better explained in the two or three shows leading to the Rally in which Jones and Oliver loaded up a bus of various Americans with different political leanings and experiences. They try to point out that most Americans are reasonable, can discuss their differences in a rational fashion and its only the media, with a variety of political leanings, that seem to be fermenting this batch of bitter beer that have become politics in the US.

Even The Daily Show tends to focus on presenting stories in the worst possible light, perhaps to either wring the comedy or outrage out of them, leaving viewers half bemused and half hopeless.

Even a casual analysis of the situations presented often demonstrates that things aren't quite as batsh*t insane as they seem...
posted by bobloblaw at 11:01 AM on November 12, 2010


News reporting was very different then. The press had much more free reign to actually cover events (none of this Pentagon-gets-to-approve-all-reports nonsense during the Viet Nam war -- people saw actual blown-to-pieces soldiers on the news nightly), ...

Granted, my research is limited to the Wikipedia article on U.S. News Media and the Vietnam War, but this doesn't seem to be true:
"There was, in fact, an actual scarcity of combat footage depicted on television, since such footage only ranged from three to six percent of all war segments broadcast, depending on how the scenes were categorized.[75] Factors that limited the graphic depiction of combat included the manner in which the war was fought - most of the operations that were covered took place in extremely remote areas of Vietnam and involved little or no contact with the communists and the technological limitations of the equipment - three-man television crews, carrying 80-100 pounds of bulky equipment each.[76] The chief limiting factor, however, was that the television networks had no desire to broadcast gruesome battle scenes during the dinner hour in America, which might have prompted viewers to switch channels or turn their sets off. The result was that the American public, "although treated to nightly scenes of combat and men in battle...rarely, if ever, before 1968 and the Tet Offensive, saw the war in all its bloody detail."[77] The result was that from August 1965 to August 1970, only 76 out of more than 2,300 television news reports originating in Vietnam depicted heavy fighting.[77]"
Further:
"Restrictions also covered still photography and television news coverage. Newsmen were tasked with abiding by a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) ruling that pictures of recognizable American dead or wounded servicemen would not be released until their next of kin had been notified. Pictures of disfigured wounded, of amputees, or of men in severe shock were also to be withheld unless the permission of the individual had been obtained first.[43"
I'm also not aware that the Pentagon currently gets to approve all reports. Cite?

The news today isn't like that at all. Nobody simply reports anymore, not even on the major network nightly news. They all want to tell you what it MEANS. And as soon as you start doing that, you've crossed from reporting into editorializing.

That's just not possible. You have to have a point of view about what it means, otherwise you'll have no idea what's important to put on the air and what isn't.
posted by Jahaza at 11:04 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


So when is Stewart running for some sort of political office?

Um... never? That's kind of a point he made - that he's not in the game, and values his position sitting in the stands.
posted by lullaby at 11:07 AM on November 12, 2010


Crazy fringe liberal here.

For what it's worth, when I used the words "crazy fringe liberal," I didn't mean "someone who thinks a single-payer health care system would be a good idea." That's not the Left's equivalent to the birthers and the tea partiers and the OMG THE PRESDINT IS A NEGRO crowd. The equivalent to that on the left are people like 9/11 truthers, who have zero constituency in the Democratic party's power structure.

There are birthers in Congress. John Shimkus, who wants to be the new chair of the Energy Committee in the House, doesn't believe in global warming because the Bible told him not to worry about it. It's hard to think of a prominent Republican who's not a total clown.
posted by EarBucket at 11:23 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


1 bush = 1.67 centihitlers

Ok, by that metric every one of our presidents from Truman thru Ford is at least some kind of centi- or demi-hitler (they all presided over some portion of the korean or vietnam wars).
As for the rest...
Obama, war criminal
Clinton, war criminal
GWHBush
Reagan
Only Carter is a question mark, but this piece makes a case for him too.

Once again, as a systemic problem, there is something to discuss. As a case unique to GWB, it is highly questionable. Even if you think Bush is worse than, say, Clinton, do you think he's more like Clinton, or more like Pol Pot?
posted by mdn at 11:33 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Advocates of a single-payer health care system have zero constituency in the Democratic Party's power structure.

"Crazy fringe liberals" - or "fucking retarded" - is the exact description the Democratic Party applies to them.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jahazza: you misunderstood what I wrote. I didn't mean to convey that news footage of soldiers being blown to bits was shown on the nightly news. Rather, that wounded soldiers out on the field were regularly shown. Yes, there were restrictions on showing identifiable pictures of the wounded, but there was plenty of footage without faces of men who had been shot or were missing limbs or were bleeding profusely being loaded onto stretchers or otherwise hauled out of the combat zones.

I can't think of a single instance of seeing this in any network news broadcast from either Afghanistan or Iraq.

And then there was the moratorium on reporting about the return of dead soldiers to the US, which was only lifted last year.

As to the Pentagon approval of coverage of the current war(s), perhaps that situation has changed in the past few years, but when they were starting, there was the whole embedding program, and there were numerous complaints by embedded reporters about how their ability to cover what they saw was curtailed by the military.

Without spending too much time searching, I found this report from 2003 which questions the embedding program and its purpose in curtailing full coverage of the war from before the Iraq invasion, and found this overview of embedding which contains a list of good links at the bottom of the page.
posted by hippybear at 11:44 AM on November 12, 2010


It is not "technically true" that George W. Bush is a war criminal.

It is true.

There is no hope without truth.

Fuck Jon Stewart.


Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed, Joe. If it wasn't for your impeccable grammar and spelling some of your posts sound an awful lot like things I see high schoolers say on Facebook.

Look, we're not saying Bush isn't a war criminal. Stewart isn't saying Bush isn't a war criminal. What he's saying, and some of us are agreeing with, is that in a conversation, whether it's on the news or on MetaFilter or with our conservative friends and family, repeating something like that isn't exactly something nobody's heard before, and so it's not going to change their minds or get us anyway or convince anybody that we're not crazy liberals with a deliberately provocative catchphrase. We're not going to try Bush for his war crimes in the immediate future. A lot of the public doesn't support it. We can keep shouting "HE'S A WAR CRIMINAL I KNOW HE IS IT'S THE TRUTH" all we want but it's not getting us anything other than maybe a little circlejerk hardon.

If we want to stop the people we think are crazy, we need to get them talking in the same dialogue as us. Bridge the gap between them and us so that we can finally try to restore some sanity to the way the country thinks about things.

It's not that you're wrong. It's that your being right isn't going to save the country. A significant part of the nation isn't open to hearing the things you want to tell them and they're free not to listen. So either you sit here and let them get farther and farther away from us, you leave the country and find a place without this problem, or you talk to them in the hopes of somehow salvaging the wreck, and maybe rebuilding in the future.

How else do you think this country can deal with the right? We either talk to them, we ignore them, or we resort to acts of violence. And you don't sound like you really like the thought of talking to them or ignoring them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't see how putting your editorializing in your first comment, immediately after posting the FPP, is any better than putting it in the FPP below the fold.

I accept your criticism. In my defense, I didn't think very hard before I did it.


Thanks for saying you accept my criticism, and I'm not trying to attack you, but I think this is an important enough point about what's OK and not OK in an FPP that it's worth dwelling on this. It's a recurring issue; it's come up before in MetaTalk. You can say you didn't think much about it, but your comment suggests you did think about it. So the problem isn't that you posted without thinking, but that you reached the wrong conclusion: that editorializing is somehow not part of an FPP if the OP immediately editorializes in the first comment. Anything the OP posts directly under the FPP, as soon as possible after posting the FPP, might as well be part of the FPP itself.

Notice that nothing I've said here is saying: "You shouldn't have editorialized." I'm not taking a position on whether editorializing by the OP is acceptable. If it's accepted on the site, it's accepted. But if we accept it in a comment by the OP immediately under the FPP (and I notice the mods haven't deleted your self-proclaimed editorializing), we should admit that editorializing in an FPP is considered acceptable on Metafilter.
posted by John Cohen at 11:54 AM on November 12, 2010


It is not "technically true" that George W. Bush is a war criminal.

It is true.

There is no hope without truth.


But as Rory Marinich correctly pointed out, that's not the question. At least, it's not the question in this context. The question is whether that's the most useful way to have the conversation — and not just calling Bush a "war criminal," but selectively calling him a "war criminal" while leaving others untarnished by this slur even though they may be people who have committed crimes in a war.

No one just goes around looking for "truth" and spouts this "truth" at every possible context. Truth is always filtered, and it's always set in a context, and it's always phrased a certain way. It's valid to discuss whether our filters and context and framing are useful, and you can't just shut down this discussion by declaring that the only thing that matters is "truth." Truth matters, but it's not the only thing that matters.
posted by John Cohen at 12:05 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


No one just goes around looking for "truth" and spouts this "truth" at every possible context.

Ahh, I should have said "at every possible opportunity." Or "in every possible context." You get the idea.

Mods, how's that edit feature coming along?
posted by John Cohen at 12:07 PM on November 12, 2010


Perhaps this belongs in MetaTalk instead, but when I wrote my first comment and hit submit I was definitely thinking of the way things used to be way back before there was any extended entry field at all. When MetaFilter Was YoungTM the practice was always to keep the post itself as clean as possible -- you were supposed to keep commentary, self-links, etc. to the comments. Even though the extended entry field is essentially a replacement for putting a "more inside" in the first comment, it doesn't replace that practice in every respect. The post would feel much too GYOB if my first comment were tucked inside it. Doing it this way felt and feels more right.

But maybe I'm a dinosaur and the world has passed me by.
posted by gerryblog at 12:11 PM on November 12, 2010


Rory, the problem is that it makes literally no difference how civilly liberals speak. No matter what Democrats say or do, there is a massive noise machine screaming that they are godless socialist anti-American thugs out to steal your votes, shut down your business, and force them to get gay married. Democrats say things like "these tax cuts are designed to help the richest 1% of people" or "without more serious Wall Street reform, there's nothing to stop another crash like the one we had in 2008." Republicans say things like "The health care plan has DEATH PANELS that are going to SENTENCE YOU TO DIE" and "President Obama keeps SHAMING OUR NATION in front of foreign leaders!!"

The difference is important. You might want to talk and compromise with someone that you have a simple difference of opinions with. But you wouldn't dare do the same thing with some lunatic who is trying to kill you and destroy the American way of life! I'm not exaggerating in a some un-Moderate way. This is the exact kind of language that their MAINSTREAM is using, not their lunatic fringe. Literally two days ago, Rush Limbaugh said that liberalism "destroys the human spirit" and "the greatest things about humanity."* I'm not going to go as far as Digby and compare this to Tutsi/cockroaches/etc., but dude. This guy has anywhere between 14 and 25 million listeners, and they're tuning in to hear about how the people who disagree with them politically are not human. You think speaking politely is going to bridge that gap? Do you think they even want to hear anything you say in the first place?

(btw it's a fucking riot that just after that quote in the clip, where Rush said that liberalism destroys charity, he complains about "long-haired maggot-infested ingrate students complaining about how much education costs" and tells them "if you can't afford it, don't go to school!" Obviously liberalism has destroyed his sense of charity)

* Is it any wonder that so few people self-identify as "liberal" in political polls, even when they actually support liberal policies? It's not because we're some obviously "center-right nation," it's because the word has been absolutely poisoned in political discourse.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:12 PM on November 12, 2010 [14 favorites]


What really burned my chops was when Jon claimed that he had "no responsibility," he actually said those words. If you have a show commenting on the political arena then you are a voice in politics, it really isn't any more complicated than that.

Ebert doesn't make movies? So what? Ebert is a force in the discussion of How Movies Ought To Be Made, just like Fellini is; Stewart is a force in the discussion of How The Nation Ought To Work just like Glen Beck and Obama are.

Jon wants to sit on the sidelines and make little jokes? That's fine. Jon wants to keep reminding you that everyone on either side is at least a little full of shit? Ok. But the President of the USA was on his show, it isn't exactly like he doesn't have the ability to be the change he wants to see in the world, he is simply too cowardly to act on it, and hides behind a wall of denial.

Just because "it isn't [your] intent" to be a voice in the political discussion doesn't make you not one any more than not meaning to mow down that little girl while you were drunk driving makes you not a murderer, your intent has fuck-all to do with the reality. You claim: "oh you guys are Bad News People because you don't do Journalism you do Entertainment, but I'm Ok because I don't do News I do Entertainment." It's the George W Bush conundrum: are you actually dim enough to believe what you're saying, or are you just a shitty coward?
posted by paisley henosis at 12:17 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


And for all of that: I thought that the host came off much, much worse than Jon did, to the point where I don't even feel the need to point out what a fool she seemed.

(I watched 45 of 49 minutes)
posted by paisley henosis at 12:18 PM on November 12, 2010


The question is whether that's the most useful way to have the conversation — and not just calling Bush a "war criminal," but selectively calling him a "war criminal" while leaving others untarnished by this slur even though they may be people who have committed crimes in a war.

To be clear about what's actually in the interview: What Stewart did was deny that Bush had continued to lie about WMDs, even though Maddow pointed out Bush had been doing so as recently as his memoir.

His defense of Bush was that he (Bush) thought he was right, that it was the feeling about being right that makes it questionable to say he lied. It's a gray area, according to Stewart, because Bush didn't believe he was speaking an untruth.

The stark hypocritical irony of this is that this is exactly the kind of truthiness-it-feels-right-so-it-is-right bullshit that TDS calls out FOX News over almost every night.

What makes it even worse is when Jon Stewart then calls out Maddow (as her role as the representative of the "liberal media" for this interview) for sensationalizing the lie — if such a thing is possible — by simply pointing out the factual, recorded inconsistency.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:19 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The question is whether that's the most useful way to have the conversation — and not just calling Bush a "war criminal," but selectively calling him a "war criminal" while leaving others untarnished by this slur even though they may be people who have committed crimes in a war.

(1) I don't understand how you could call for criminal prosecution, or a truth & reconciliation commission, or any sort of coming-to-account of what happened to this country during the last ten years, if you can't even bring yourself to say the words "war crime" or "illegal" or "torture." Calling for a rhetorical ban on strident criticism of Bush's prosecution of the Iraq War is more or less the same thing as calling for a ban on accountability itself. I simply don't accept the premise that this is necessary or good.

2) I really don't think Jon Stewart's problem with calling Bush a war criminal is that you're not calling Obama and Clinton war criminals too. He doesn't say anything like that in the interview. What he says is that Bush shouldn't be called a war criminal, even if he technically is one, because Hitler was much worse.

This idea that it's unfair to target Bush "selectively" because obviously all American presidents are warmongering torturers strikes me as a frankly bizarre attempt to rationalize the cognitive dissonance caused by seeing Jon Stewart defend George Bush in this way in these terms. It's definitely weird to see Jon Stewart defend George Bush, but rather that twist myself into knots I'm just going to go ahead and say Jon Stewart's wrong.
posted by gerryblog at 12:21 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


At some point the Stewart "play nice" crowd is going to have to actually prove they can actually accomplish something instead of talking down to everyone else for their tone. No one plays nicer than Obama, how is he doing?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:31 PM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


The great thing about Jon Stewart is, if you don't like him you can change the channel. It doesn't work so easily with politicians and the people in charge.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:35 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bridge the gap between them and us so that we can finally try to restore some sanity to the way the country thinks about things.

You can not restore sanity to the way country thinks about things if you are not willing to say that 2 plus 2 equals 4.

You can not end war crimes by politely refraining from pointing them out.

You can not "save the country" by persuading Republicans to vote for Democrats.

If you want Republicans to listen when you point out the President is a war criminal, you should start by holding your politicians to the same standard you hold theirs.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:40 PM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dialogue solves nothing... meanwhile, all the people in charge continue to operate unchallenged (in any serious sense other than "dialogue") by the creed that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. And thats the troof.
posted by ReWayne at 12:45 PM on November 12, 2010


No one plays nicer than Obama, how is he doing?

Historically? Better than average for this point in his presidency. More popular than either Reagan or Clinton were at this point in their presidencies.
posted by empath at 12:48 PM on November 12, 2010


Joe you've been railing about this on metafilter since the day Obama took office. How has that worked out for you? Convinced anybody? Informed anyone of anything that they didn't already know? How has 'not playing nice' worked out for you?
posted by empath at 12:49 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Gompa's comment above was simply brilliant -- Stewart has a career and prestige choice to make and, at its heart, partisanship is just not funny. because partisanship is about having sacred cows and comedy is about slaughtering them. Even harder in the US these days, because of each of the two standard sets of partisan beliefs are so larded with political correctness, which is especially unfunny.

However, I can believe that Jon Stewart has a dislike for the left. One thing the left seems not to get is how discomfiting leftists can be to moderates. However progressive they may feel about the world in principle, professional-class moderates' actual personal lives are organized around (loosely-speaking) conservative objectives: stable marriages, well-ordered and criminal-free surroundings, productive private-sector careers, accumulation and preservation of property, and (most importantly of all) the transmission of advantage to their children. Leftists in their words and deeds can really put those priorities into question. Some people resolve the dissonance by recognizing that leftist values/objectives are not, in fact, the correct way they should see the world. Others just end up personally angry with leftist style and tone and the people who embrace them, while not trying to reconcile the deeper contradictions.
posted by MattD at 12:54 PM on November 12, 2010 [13 favorites]


This idea that it's unfair to target Bush "selectively" because obviously all American presidents are warmongering torturers strikes me as a frankly bizarre attempt to rationalize the cognitive dissonance

It's not that it's unfair, it's that it's inaccurate. If all his peers can be accused of something so broad as "war crimes", perhaps the terms need to be more finely grained. Why not just talk about the actual infractions? Accuse him of invading Hussein's Iraq, when you think it was the wrong thing to do, or of allowing water-boarding when you consider that torture, but by grouping it under "war crimes" it categorizes these actions with rape rooms, concentration camps, and active genocide. If you want to have an actual conversation, bring the actual facts to the table, not the vague overarching judgment.
posted by mdn at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


No one plays nicer than Obama, how is he doing?

Historically? Better than average for this point in his presidency. More popular than either Reagan or Clinton were at this point in their presidencies.


Haha, I meant how is he doing at accomplishing things, not winning popularity contests or elections. If winning votes is the measure the Republicans are doing GREAT right now without being remotely nice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:09 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stewart is a force in the discussion of How The Nation Ought To Work just like Glen Beck and Obama are.

No. Just as Ebert isn't a force in the discussion of How Life Ought To Work, when ostensibly many movies depict some kind of life on screen, Stewart isn't a force in the discussion of How The Nation Ought To Work.

His topic is How Media (Specifically News Coverage) Ought To Work.

Both Ebert and Stewart are critiquing how things are presented, not their actual workings.
posted by hippybear at 1:09 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


However progressive they may feel about the world in principle, professional-class moderates' actual personal lives are organized around (loosely-speaking) conservative objectives: stable marriages, well-ordered and criminal-free surroundings, productive private-sector careers, accumulation and preservation of property, and (most importantly of all) the transmission of advantage to their children.

I agree with this. It's the difference between small c conservatism and big C Conservatism. I have no problem characterizing myself as a small c conservative, tempermentally, because I think current institutions are, in general, just fine and I don't want to see radical changes to anything. I have a career, etc. Which isn't to say I'm a Conservative, in the ideological sense. I'm in favor of labor unions, social security, welfare, unemployment benefits, the civil rights act, etc, etc, etc. I'm generally in favor of more progressive, redistributive, governmental policies, progressive taxation. I'm anti-war, and so on. I'm perfectly willing to have a civil discussion with people about whether the top personal tax rate should be 30% or 70% or what have you, but what I'm not in favor of, in general, is talking about abolishing the IRS or confiscating vast amounts of wealth and redistributing it to the poor.

What the hard-core leftists and the tea-partiers have in common is that neither one of them likes The System, and want to replace it with something new. They also share a belief in conspiracy theories, and lots of other fringe ideas, which are related to their belief that the World Is Wrong. It's almost gnostic, except instead of a demiurge trapping us in a world of illusion, there's The Man, or The New World Order. All we need to do is WAKE UP SHEEPLE and we'll see the prison that THEY have created for us. It's a paranoid mindset, though of course if you have nothing to lose, it's a much easier mindset to inhabit.

But a lot of us like the prison. We're well served by the prison, we work for the prison. The prison has done just fine by us. We just want to collect our paychecks and pay our taxes and know that when we go to sleep at night, we won't wake up with the streets on fire and all hell breaking loose. That's why the moderates equate the left and the right. Because the left and the right both want radical change, and to someone who is pretty happy with their life, it doesn't matter what the change is and what the guiding principles behind the change are, radical change is going to be seen as a threat.
posted by empath at 1:11 PM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you want to have an actual conversation, bring the actual facts to the table, not the vague overarching judgment.

Why then does Stewart refuse to engage Maddow on Bush's documented history of dishonesty with regard to Iraq, as Blazecock Pileon mentioned twice above? He's really not calling for more specificity when we accuse Bush of war crimes. If that's what you want, you're not on Stewart's "sanity" train -- you're out here with us extremists, in the wilderness.
posted by gerryblog at 1:13 PM on November 12, 2010


You think speaking politely is going to bridge that gap? Do you think they even want to hear anything you say in the first place?

The shape of the country changes one person at a time. One old lady gets to know her gay neighbor and decides they're not boogeymen after all. One truck driver hears a snippet or two from the other side and starts questioning a few of the things Rush Limbaugh tells him. One person sits down with their family at dinner and over a year or two of discussions, brings them around to understanding global warming.

Sure, there's a role for a few shrieking lunatics. They help bracket the debate and define where the center lies. But the real work of shifting that center has to be done in everyday conversations, and if you can't even speak to people on the other side, you sure as hell aren't going to change their minds.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


But they elect their lunatics and they run their news station?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:25 PM on November 12, 2010


So the lesson I'm drawing here is that if you're likely to do a lot of very real, very terrible things, all you need to do is start screaming loudly enough about extremists made-up godless terrible things the other side is doing to lower the discourse to the point where people who point out what you're doing are considered 'political extremists' like you.
posted by Jairus at 1:26 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


He's really not calling for more specificity when we accuse Bush of war crimes

Nor am I. I'm saying, drop the whole "war crimes" thing, and concentrate on whatever problems actually exist.

What do you hope to do by accusing him of war crimes? Have him condemned to death? Thrown in jail for the rest of his life? Do you really think that a) has a chance of happening and b) would be supported by the majority of the population? (he'd become a martyr). There is no reason to accuse him of war crimes except to make a point about what an asshole he is.

So what can you actually do? Make the case against water boarding and show why that was an error on Bush's part. Make the case against preemptive strikes against dictators in other countries, and how it causes more harm than good. Explain the problems, and the negative results that have occurred because of bad judgments previous leaders have made.

The punishment for war crimes for most of those at the Nuremburg trials was death by hanging. Forget the rhetoric and really consider if that is what you are calling for here. If not, I think there are better ways to frame the discussion.
posted by mdn at 1:27 PM on November 12, 2010


What do you hope to do by accusing him of war crimes? Have him condemned to death? Thrown in jail for the rest of his life?

I'd love to see a trial, honestly, but it's just not realistic. He's out of office. The main thing to do now is to make sure nobody like that ever gets elected again.
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look, O.J. Simpson is a popular actor and former sports star. What do you hope to achieve by accusing him of murder?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:31 PM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Not a criminal conviction, surely.
posted by empath at 1:35 PM on November 12, 2010


Which means holding the trial was a mistake, of course. Should have just let him walk cause it was so divisive and he became a martyr to some black people.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:38 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Bringing it up in every single thread about football or black people might get a little bit tiring, though.
posted by empath at 1:41 PM on November 12, 2010


Yes, but it would be entirely appropriate to bring up in every thread about O.J or the people who decided not to give him a trial.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:48 PM on November 12, 2010


Joe you've been railing about this on metafilter since the day Obama took office. How has that worked out for you?

I won't pretend. It's been lonely. I'll be glad when the Republicans retake the White House so I'll have as much company in unapologetically condemning war crimes as I did two years ago.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:54 PM on November 12, 2010 [5 favorites]



Joe you've been railing about this on metafilter since the day Obama took office. How has that worked out for you?


How has not railing worked out? Torturers still walking free, eh? Oh well, at least it's good politics! It's just impossible to try someone for torture because it's so divisive, not like for blow job perjury trials which we do have the political will for.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:58 PM on November 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


I think Stewart did a decent job of explaining how he's set apart from news media. His point is that he is a satirist and as such he should in no way be held accountable in the same way as legitimate element of the press. The Daily Show is a satire in the same way that The Onion is a satire. And in that, neither the Onion or the Daily Show consider themselves a legitimate news organization that has a stake in controlling the debate that is ongoing at the levels of real power. They are satirists who use their platform to show the ludicrousness of some of the viewpoints and arguments that are being reported by the press.

I have always thought of the press as the organization in a free society that offers a level of real transparency into the workings of government that the government itself is unwilling to give. I may give in a bit to romanticizing its role, but there is a reason that the press is called the fourth estate. It is because it is supposed to serve a real purpose of offering that transparency so that the citizenry can be more informed and make quality choices about who they are putting into power and then hold them accountable for their actions. Here in the United States, the founders saw that role as so important as to specifically spell it out in the first amendment to our constitution.

While in this particular interview, he was trying explain the purpose of himself NOT being a journalist, he still touched on one of his cornerstone topics: the role of the press. I think that Maddow missed the entire point that Stewart was trying to make. He wasn't trying to show the subtle differences between a comedian who satires those in power and the editorial positions of a news organization who comment on those in power. He was trying to say that a satirist is a completely different animal that doesn't and shouldn't have the same responsibility. I think it's a sad and somewhat frightening commentary on our times that a professional journalist is debating the real role of the press as compared to a satirist and trying to make the case that they are essentially the same.

The press has a responsibility to reveal the workings of the government the citizenry. When they distort the truth for ratings, or sacrifice their impartiality for access, or become so intertwined with the very government that they are supposed to be exposing that you can't tell the two apart, then the office of the press has failed in that responsibility.
posted by bionic.junkie at 1:59 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it's hard to really take in Stewart's perspective without watching millions of hours of cable news like he and his staff do. Cable News is really important and broken to him because he absorbs it as a profession and absorbs more of it than anyone really should. He acknowledges that this skews his perspective.

Fox News and MSNBC are influential and shape conversations, but they aren't really that big of a deal.
posted by ejoey at 2:12 PM on November 12, 2010


Is it even useful to compare George W Bush with the war criminals tried and convicted at Nuremberg? As bad as he was, he wasn't in the same ballpark as the monsters put on trial after that war.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:13 PM on November 12, 2010


MattD: One thing the left seems not to get is how discomfiting leftists can be to moderates.

As they say, the political spectrum is actually a circle — go far enough in either direction and you end up in the same place.
posted by moonbiter at 2:21 PM on November 12, 2010


I recommend the entire post by digby from which this is just a small excerpt:
On the other hand, he admits that he approved torture, which is a war crime. And he created prison camps throughout the world where innocent people were tortured, abused and held without any kind of due process for years. And, obviously, he opportunistically invaded a country on a phony pretext which resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Letting that go without even any serious inquiry is an injustice of massive proportions.

So, I guess my question is, how do we "learn" from his presidency if in addition to giving him a pass on his crimes, we aren't even willing to have an honest conversation, using real words with real meaning about what happened? If we dance around these things as if it's wrong to call white white and black black and insist that someone who ordered war crimes shouldn't be called a war criminal then I see a very different lesson being taken from that example than the one this commenter anticipates.

Yes, it's pretty to believe that the country will self-evidently come to the right conclusion without any legal or even social condemnation of what went wrong. We'll just "know" going forward that we need our leaders to have more patience, and be more thoughtful and less bellicose in the future. But I think this defies human nature and it certainly defies the reality of the world in which we live.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:30 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


You can not restore sanity to the way country thinks about things if you are not willing to say that 2 plus 2 equals 4.

Did you watch the fucking video? Stewart isn't saying that Bush isn't a war criminal. Rather the opposite. He's just saying that if your only plan is to yell "war criminal!" loudly then you'll only gather around you people who already believe what you're saying. The rest of the country isn't listening to you, either because they actively think you're lying to them or because they don't give enough of a fuck about Bush's war crimes to even care about your saying it.

I'll be up front with you: I don't give a practical fuck about Bush's war crimes. I think it's awful that we had a criminal president. I wish we'd never gone to Iraq. I haven't had friends killed in war but I've had friends of friends killed and I hate that people in my life have been hurt by the war. On paper, in political discussions, I am completely 100% on your side. But that doesn't mean that I give enough of a shit to do anything. Partly it's because I don't know what to do. The Left doesn't have a cohesive plan here. Nobody's organizing effectively. The only large remotely political event I can think of from the last half year that I cared about was Stewart's Rally, and (as I said in that older thread) I agreed with the message but didn't think the Rally exactly motivated me to do anything. Nor did I think it intended to.

During the 2008 election I made calls for local Democrats. I was an active participant in trying to help out candidates that didn't have much of a chance for winning. But I wasn't there because I'm a particularly political person. I showed up because Obama, for all his flaws, for all the things he's done wrong that I agree with you he's done wrong, he organized. He made it easy for a relatively apathetic person like myself to help his campaign out. He made it fun. He had a freaking iPhone application and a social network and it was all very pretty and enjoyable and I'm sure a lot of people working for him had a blast helping him out. You never get anything done without having fun along the way.

Stewart gets this too. Sometimes I feel he's not doing enough to push for the things he believes in. But he recognizes that people don't take part in processes if they're bored, and that if you say something people don't want to hear, you turn them off to your cause.

You can not end war crimes by politely refraining from pointing them out.

By pointing them out to who? What the hell is your plan here, Joe? Simply to not vote until a third party emerges from the mist like Excalibur from a lake? Are you going to sit and hope that something miraculously happens that makes antiwar protests effective, or that turns people to your side at the press of a button?

One thing the left seems not to get is how discomfiting leftists can be to moderates.

The most wretched and unpleasant conversations I've had in politics are with liberals who I almost entirely agree with. I've had conversations with conservatives who think gays should be rounded up and put in pens that went pleasanter than my conversations with liberals. Sometimes it feels like the entire movement consists of social malfunctions who stopped evolving their conversational skills before they grew public hair. There are conservatives on the other side who are just as immature and bothersome, I know, but it always feels like I only see it on the Left, probably because those are the people I see more frequently.

Holding a disgusting, irrational belief does not make somebody a disgusting, irrational human being. Most of the time people who think things that offend me think them because they're operating on faultier facts than I am. I've had conversations with homophobes that went over swimmingly well because rather than indict them for their beliefs I tried my best to provide counterexamples and counterarguments; generally if you know what you're talking about you have these little moments where the other person goes "You have a point" and it slowly nudges their beliefs to places they wouldn't be otherwise. I've been the recipient of a thousand of those conversations myself. My political beliefs are radically different than they were a few years ago, because people have taught me things I simply wouldn't know otherwise.

A certain kind of person, found both on the Left and the Right, thinks that the "Insult your opponent and condescend to them" tactic of argument actually works. Look at Joe Beese who writes in short sentences because he doesn't think my brain can handle anything more, and who makes only black-and-white declarations because I am wrong and therefore too stupid to actually converse with. People who haven't realized that just because you haven't outright insulted somebody doesn't mean they can't tell when you're looking down on them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:57 PM on November 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


Advocates of a single-payer health care system have zero constituency in the Democratic Party's power structure.

That's fair. I don't think re-litigating the "he couldn't have gotten single-payer through the Senate/yes he could" argument is worth doing here, but I think it's certainly accurate to say that the left wing of the Democratic party (particularly the young, technocratic left that makes up most of the liberal blogosphere) doesn't have much of a voice in Washington. I think that will shift a fair bit over the next few decades as the generation that's grown up reading blogs gets older and moves up the political food chain and the changing racial demographics of the country (hopefully) provides Democratic politicians with a firmer electoral bloc.

Democrats have their problems, certainly (and Obama's been a huge disappointment on civil liberties issues, though I can't say that was entirely surprising) but they're at least mostly competent at governance, which puts them light-years ahead of the Republicans. I can't say I think their problem is that they're too harsh on Republicans; if anything, treating conservatives as if they're grown-ups who simply have a valid difference of opinion is the biggest problem with our political system. Torturing people's not okay, treating gay people differently from straight people's not okay, trying to ban Muslims from building mosques isn't okay, denying the reality of global warming isn't okay.

There are plenty of Republican voters who are perfectly nice people. But the politicians they're voting for are awful, bad people who are making horrible decisions that will have terrible consequences for our country and our planet for centuries to come. People need to stand up and say that--and, yes, call out Democrats for the same thing when they do it.
posted by EarBucket at 3:03 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]



A certain kind of person, found both on the Left and the Right, thinks that the "Insult your opponent and condescend to them" tactic of argument actually works.


I just don't understand what the point is here. Sure, maybe yelling can't convince anyone...but you can't actually convince anyone with niceness either so stop telling other people to shut up. You do your nothing about it, other people will yell about it, who cares? Why the insistence that Joe has to shut up?

Until you can prove you have a better way, let him have his way. That is the problem with what Stewart is saying, he has no valid alternative method. I guess because that isn't his job, or whatever.

When President Palin brings back torture and there is a precedent that it is allowed, at least some of us will have a clear conscience on it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:19 PM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Look, O.J. Simpson is a popular actor and former sports star. What do you hope to achieve by accusing him of murder?

I think OJ Simpson should have been convicted, probably for second degree murder, and given an appropriate sentence (which most certainly would not have been the death penalty). And it was not considered beyond possibility that he would be, when his case went to trial.

Do you think GWB should be hung, then? Does it seem remotely plausible that his actions would call for that? Do you understand the sorts of decisions presidents make? War sucks, even if everyone on "the good side" is being very careful about protocol and rules (but so long as there's an enemy, there's someone who can't be trusted to adhere to rules). Bush thought Saddam was a dictator who needed to be taken out, like Milosevik or Hitler. You, and many others, believe he was wrong to make a move. But it's just not the same as genocide, and I do not think it is useful to imply he should be put to death for it.
posted by mdn at 3:29 PM on November 12, 2010


I think crimes should be investigated, and when there is enough evidence they should go to trial. I think the punishment should be decided by the laws and the court.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


But it's just not the same as genocide, and I do not think it is useful to imply he should be put to death for it.

I'm not aware of anyone calling for the death penalty, here.
posted by empath at 3:33 PM on November 12, 2010


Are you aware of what accusing someone of war crimes implies? Contemporary heads of state accused of war crimes are people like Milosevik and Charles Taylor. This isn't petty stuff. In the past, the most common punishment has been death.
posted by mdn at 3:41 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a Jon Stewart fan and committed leftist....

Fuck Jon Stewart.

You know what? I am so sick of hearing this.

Jon Stewart doesn't exist to give the same megaphone to the Left as Fox News does to the Right. Hate to break it to you, Liberals (and I get it--I lean more Left than Right), but you don't have the equivalent of Fox News and Stewart does not wish to be that.

He is a critic of the media. He is a critic of punditry versus real journalism. If you watch his show at all before the 2000 election (most of 1999 and 2000), you'd realize this. He SEEMED to criticize the Right a lot more because they were in power for 8 years. He is concerned with media literacy and media manipulation.

And, you know what? THAT IS IMPORTANT. We don't teach media literacy in schools, we don't teach people to look beyond what the Idiot Box is telling them. THANK YOU, JON STEWART.

Does the Left need something to counteract Fox News? Yes.

Does it look like "Fox News for the Left"? Only if you want to be the idiots and liars that Fox News journalists are.

Does it look like increasing the skill level of media literacy and ability to distinguish between opinion and fact for all citizens..Left, Right or Center? I'd prefer that personally. Sounds like Stewart would, as well. Don't like his goals? Get your own damn show.
posted by jeanmari at 3:43 PM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sorry, that should be Fox News "journalists".
posted by jeanmari at 3:47 PM on November 12, 2010



Are you aware of what accusing someone of war crimes implies? Contemporary heads of state accused of war crimes are people like Milosevik and Charles Taylor. This isn't petty stuff. In the past, the most common punishment has been death.

A person found guilty of committing torture faces up to 20 years in prison or the death penalty, if someone died from the torture. We didn't write this law, and Taylor and Milosevik have nothing to do with it. This is US law, do we enforce it or ignore it? It used to be that the rule of law had to be fought for when it came to presidents, even for deeply unserious issues like blowjob perjury.

If you think the law should be changed and the death penalty for torturing someone to death is too harsh that is fine, but we didn't come up with it. I for one don't support the death penalty, but that isn't my decision to make.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:48 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Are you aware of what accusing someone of war crimes implies? Contemporary heads of state accused of war crimes are people like Milosevik and Charles Taylor. This isn't petty stuff. In the past, the most common punishment has been death.

Are you aware of what Bush and Cheney are accused of? Starting a war on false pretenses, indiscriminately killing civilians, rounding up prisoners and having them tortured, in some cases torturing them to death. We're talking about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, here. I think what happened in Fallujah, and Abu Ghraib and Guanatamo alone should be enough to send them and Rumsfeld to prison.

I recognize that it's simply not plausible that the two of them will be tried for war crimes in the near future, and I think it's pointless as a political exercise to talk about trying them, but at the same time, I don't think we should whitewash history and pretend that it didn't happen.
posted by empath at 3:51 PM on November 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


you can't actually convince anyone with niceness

Yes you can. Happens every day.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


What the hell is your plan here, Joe?

Step 1: Recognize who my enemy is
Step 2: Realistically gauge our respective strengths
Step 3: Recognize that direct action is futile
Step 4: Bitch about it on the Internet as long as it's not too dangerous

I wonder about your plan as well. Does it involve "holding Obama's feet to the fire" after you re-elect him?
posted by Joe Beese at 3:54 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]



Yes you can. Happens every day.


Ok, and so does convincing people with angry rhetoric, ever heard of right wing talk radio? Those listeners don't start out as true believers.

The point is, neither method is reliable at plying someone out of a deeply held belief with any success. I can yell at the dittoheads, you can be nice to them, it won't change anything.

The undecideds however are clearly up for grabs to either tactic, despite what is being claimed by Stewart.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:59 PM on November 12, 2010


Step 1: Recognize who my enemy is
Step 2: Realistically gauge our respective strengths
Step 3: Recognize that direct action is futile
Step 4: Bitch about it on the Internet as long as it's not too dangerous


Here's your problem:

Step 1.

You know that you don't necessarily even have to have an enemy, right? I've lived my whole life without any. At least since the 3rd grade. Well and the guy that stocks the goddamned soda machine in the office that's always out of mountain dew.
posted by empath at 4:02 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


As long as there are people defending torture as the right thing to do you have an enemy, it doesn't matter if you choose to acknowledge it or not.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:04 PM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


The point is, neither method is reliable at plying someone out of a deeply held belief with any success. I can yell at the dittoheads, you can be nice to them, it won't change anything.

Actually I know a lot of people who've changed their deeply-held beliefs after kindness. I'm one myself. I used to be an ardent libertarian with Objectivist leanings. Now I'm pretty vehemently anti-libertarian and my economic views include, as stated before, very very high taxes.

Step 1: Recognize who my enemy is
Step 2: Realistically gauge our respective strengths
Step 3: Recognize that direct action is futile
Step 4: Bitch about it on the Internet as long as it's not too dangerous


So, Joe, just to be clear about this. You're saying upfront that you have no political motive anymore other than being a dick on the Internet? That your only motive for bitching online is for the sake of bitching?

I wonder about your plan as well. Does it involve "holding Obama's feet to the fire" after you re-elect him?

If I were anything other than inherently apathetic politically, my plan would be something like:

Step 1: Vote for the best candidates every national election and every primary.
Step 2: Make efforts to either identify-and-support or actively organize movements to give better candidates a legitimate chance at being elected.

My major's got a concentration in advertising; while I don't know if I'm going into ads for a post-college career, I'd absolutely love to work with a dedicated team on a global political platform as tight-knit and well-run as Obama's was in 2008. That's a designer and a marketer and a copywriter's dream. I'm all three. But if I'm not doing it as a job I'm probably not going to care much at all, so instead my plan is something like:

Step 1: Vote when I know who I'm voting for and when it's not horribly inconvenient.
Step 2: Read MetaFilter daily and delight in the level of discourse.
Step 3: If people are unpleasant on MetaFilter criticize them for being so.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:12 PM on November 12, 2010



Actually I know a lot of people who've changed their deeply-held beliefs after kindness.


The point is, neither method is reliable at plying someone out of a deeply held belief with any success.

If I give you a microphone and access to the audience of Rush Limbaugh, how many people will you convert?


I used to be an ardent libertarian with Objectivist leanings. Now I'm pretty vehemently anti-libertarian and my economic views include, as stated before, very very high taxes.


I used to be a libertarian too, I was convinced mainly by angry rhetoric pointing out some of the early mistakes of George W. Bush. We are both anecdotes.

How about though, instead of you telling people how to speak you just do your best to nice people into your line of thinking because that works for you and I'll do it my way because that works for me and stop telling people like Joe what to do, that isn't really nice, you know.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:18 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you aware of what accusing someone of war crimes implies? Contemporary heads of state accused of war crimes are people like Milosevik and Charles Taylor. This isn't petty stuff. In the past, the most common punishment has been death.

Milosevic... you mean this murderous thug?

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright explained the U.S. Government's view that, "Slobodan Milošević initiated four wars during the 1990s, including a devastating campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo which killed thousands and drove almost a million people from their homes."

(Albright: the one who said the death of half a million Iraqi children was "worth it".)

Do you understand that George W. Bush also initiated a war that resulted in a devastating campaign of ethnic cleansing, killed at least 30,000 by Bush's own estimate [though of course the true figure is probably 10 times that at least], and created 1.6 million refugees?

It may be impossible for you to imagine an American president being executed by hanging for crimes against humanity. But that doesn't mean it's not what the law says should happen to him.

Unlike the UN Security Council, the Geneva Convention does grant any special privilege to American presidents.
posted by Joe Beese at 4:22 PM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


How about though, instead of you telling people how to speak you just do your best to nice people into your line of thinking because that works for you and I'll do it my way because that works for me and stop telling people like Joe what to do, that isn't really nice, you know.

Because MetaFilter works best when the discussions are civil and eloquent and clever and everybody's enjoying everybody else. So we mold our habits to fit the flow of the site. I'm prone to much lengthier displays of profanity than I show off here, but I trim myself because people politely asked me to. People have requested for quite a while now that Joe do the same. He hasn't. It hurts the community when you use the site as a soapbox.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2010


You are in Metatalk territory there though, we are talking about the strength of political methods not Metafilter etiquette.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:34 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It kind of blows my mind that Jon Stewart, of all people, is buying into the "both sides are equally unreasonable" line of thought. Liberals have crazy fringe people, yes, and nobody listens to them. Conservatives have crazy fringe people running the party.

Skipping the thread to respond to this interesting, but typical, early comment. I'm not an American. I watch what you do, in your politics, from outside. It's like sport to me. When the Australian Political League is in the off season, I watch some American or British politics. And I'm a big Jon Stewart fan.

And the position that the Democrats are just about as bad as the Republicans is a completely legitimate complaint, from an outside perspective. Seriously, your system is fucked. Your parties lack discipline, which means individual politicans, of both sides can be completely bought and paid for by lobbyists. Which means the biggest drain on your economy, the millitary expenditure, can never be addressed in a sensible manner because every politician, on either side, has some millitary contractor in their district, or lots of millitary families, and the short 2-year election cycle means there is constant campaigning, constant fundraising, and the money from lobbyists keeps flooding in. The "open primary" system means your electability is directly proportional to how much money you have to spend. Yeah, sure, it's more democratic than men in smoke filled rooms choosing the candidates, but quite frankly, the quality of candidates is awful. The low voter turnout means parties have to appeal to the crazies, the extremists, instead of just offering sensible middle-of-the-road, unexciting policies. Well, maybe this doesn't apply to the Democrats...they have interpreted Republican success as "we need to do things like they do!", with horrendous results. The separation of the legistlative from the executive branch is, once again, wonderfully democratic, but again, it leads to a very hazy direction for the country, and it leads to very little accountability for both congress and the executive. The voting system is also screwed; yes, being able to vote for your own attorney general, dog catcher, whatever is wonderfully democratic, but it leads to elections that are stupidly complicated and full of problems. Then there's the bullshit call for "bipartisanship". I've never heard that term until I started following US politics. Here, one party gets elected, it gets to implement its own plans almost completely for three years, the other party gets to sit there and bitch about them, then after three years, the public gets to decide if they like them or not. I see little evidence bipartisanship achieves anything but time wasting.

Which is all fun to watch, you know, but it's no wonder that nothing gets done. That a simple law that would provide care for people who rescued people on 9/11, funded by tax cheats, would be rejected, as Stewart showed, is evidence of this.

The problem is systemic. The problem isn't that Republicans are all right-wing crazies. The problem isn't that Democrats are all sold-out pussies. The problem is completely structural. And since the people who control that structure are the onces elected to that structure, nothing's ever going to change. For example, I remember reading that a majority of districts in the US are now completely "safe" for one party or the other, because district boundaries are redrawn in order to keep the incumbent elected. In a lot of Australian states, in contrast, there's a statistical process that redraws boundaries to make electorates as even and unsafe as possible. How could such a process ever be implemented in the US? It couldn't. The people who would have to vote on such a policy never, ever could.

And then you bring in the media...and, well, you're completely fucked.

As I've said before here, I also listen to a lot of Dan Carlin, who's surely the most conservative person I listen to. But to the conservatives who listen to him, he's probably the most liberal. Now Dan Carlin pushes for the idea of the independent point of view. This doesn't mean he's a South Park-centrist "the truth is in the middle" guy. It means he sees the system is screwed, and he's not going to throw his support behind any party or ideology when there are actual real problems that aren't going to be fixed by either of them. I tend to agree with him that Denis Kuchinich and Ron Paul are, between them, the most honest, reasonable and non-sold-out politicians you have.

Anyway, that's my rant. Yes, staying away from the polls because you think the Democrats are lame is a bad idea. But so is the idea that every battle can be divided into Left and Right, and you have to pick sides and stay true to whatever bullshit is handed to you by them, when the system itself simply doesn't work.
posted by Jimbob at 4:40 PM on November 12, 2010 [17 favorites]


But I think his real point is that if you're having a discussion with one of your Palin-loving relatives or even a conservative politician (like on his show), it's better to not come at them rabidly shouting "Liar!" or "Wingut talking points!" but to slowly, reasonably try to get them to see your point of view while you work to understand theirs.

This has actually ALWAYS been his point, as far as I've seen.

I actually tried this recently on a Facebook discussion (oh God those are the worst kind) and surprised myself how well it turned out in the end.

This is also what the mods try to encourage in here. Because yeah, it does work.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:47 PM on November 12, 2010


I'd just like for someone in the polite discussion and facts camp to explain to me why 42% of Republicans are birthers.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:56 PM on November 12, 2010


I sort of wish Stewart would stop beating the dead horse of how the media is ruining our country. The problem has nothing to do with the media, as f'd up as it may be. The problem is the systemic non-representation, inequality of power, and overall crappy leadership in Washington.

But the point is that the crappy leadership only gets TO Washington because WE send them there. And the reason we make such crappy choices is because some of us are listening to the 24-hour Star-bellied Sneech channel, which tells us that the Plain-Bellied Sneeches are wrecking the country, and the others of us are listening to the 24-hour Plain-Bellied Sneech channel, which keeps talking about how evil the Star-Bellied Sneeches are -- and neither gets into the nuances of actual issues without pointing fingers about whether the Star-Bellied or Plain-Bellied Sneeches screw things up. And we, the public, trust the media to be impartial -- but they're not. So we believe they're telling us the unadulterated truth, instead of propaganda -- and we vote based on this propaganda. And this sends crappy people to Washington.

So, yeah, he goes on about the media, but it's a big-ass problem out there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:58 PM on November 12, 2010


But he has no solution. The problem with media is it is profit driven and the current format that was transplanted from talk radio is profitable, explain to me how to explain to News Corp and GE not to be profit driven anymore?

Ok, it's the media's fault. Now what? I guess we could hold a rally to protest corporate media power and the lack of a fairness doctrine...but we didn't.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:01 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok, it's the media's fault. Now what?

Now we demand more from our media by:

* Not watching the 24-hour Starbellied/Plainbellied Sneech channels, and watching other channels/reading other newspapers instead.

* Taking what we read/hear/watch with a grain of salt.

* Writing in to the newspapers/TV stations to call them on their bullshit.

* Patronize news networks that give a more moderate and less fighty perspective.

The problem with media is it is profit driven and the current format that was transplanted from talk radio is profitable, explain to me how to explain to News Corp and GE not to be profit driven anymore?

Ah, but the fact that the media is profit-driven is WHY this plan works. Because when the 24-hour shock channels start losing viewership because we're sick of the bullshit, they will either

a) go broke and go out of business, or
b) change their tactics.

They don't have to stop being profit-driven. We just have to stop making what they do BE PROFITABLE for them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:13 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


But I don't have the microphone, they do. No matter how much I try to convince someone to switch the channel someone else well tell them louder, more persuasively, for a longer sustained period of time to keep it on.

Telling people to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and expecting to get results is living in a fantasy world.

The pragmatic approach is to play within the system as it is.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:37 PM on November 12, 2010


The interview was just really uncompelling. It felt like Stewart just wanted to be contrary and disagree with anything Maddow said. To that end it often seemed that he was straining or searching to make a point out of whatever rambling, contrarian tangent he'd gone off on. I understand an interview is all about hearing what your subject has to say but I'd have liked it if Stewart gave Maddow more opportunity to speak. She could barely get two words out without being cut off.

I watch Olbermann and Maddow's shows whenever I get the chance and I don't really follow the reasoning that concludes they're a part of this 24-hour news-cycle echo-chamber thing he's talking about. Maybe it's because that's about the limit of my exposure to cable news. But Olbermann is a loud, bombastic fool: that's what I like about him. I feel it's a character he plays, as much a character as Stephen Colbert's is. Maybe he's more earnest, but as sappy and overwrought as his "special comments" can be, I don't feel that's a fault. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I disagree, sometimes I roll my eyes--but sometimes, sometimes, the man really has a way with words, and as a student of language I admire that above just about anything else.

As far as Maddow goes, she really isn't in the same ballpark as any of these clowns. Yes, she's a liberal, and there's no hiding that, but she's fearless, too: one of the things I like best about her show is that she'll have guests on that she deeply, truly disagrees with, but she tries as hard as she can to have a civil, interesting discussion with them. (The general high quality of her interviews is part of why this one was so disappointing, I think.) Her stories are in-depth and factual. There's a selection bias, sure--but I don't sit down to watch her program expecting to get a full view of what's going on in the world. You can't do that in an hour (minus commercials)--nobody can.

Isn't that the real problem? You can't change how Fox News operates--they touch on this in the segment, Fox doesn't do what it does to be evil or anything nuts like that, they do it because it makes money hand over fist. Why does it make money? Because there are people out there--millions of them--willing to get all of their facts, their political narrative, what to think and how to vote, from a cable news network. And it doesn't matter what Stewart does, or what Maddow does, or Olbermann, or O’Reilly, or Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck--take any one of them out of the equation and a replacement would be sitting at his or her desk the next day.

People are lazy, and they're scared--they've been scared for ten years and nobody has done anything on either side to make them less scared--and deep down they want to be told what to do, even when they claim they don't. If you just vote for the right candidate, if we just get those dirty Republicrats out of office, we can fix this whole mess and get the country moving in the right direction.

And I don't think anyone has an answer for that. I sure haven't heard one.
posted by kjh at 6:02 PM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


oh c'mon furiousxgeorge, you're comparing OJ Simpson with George Bush?
posted by liza at 6:15 PM on November 12, 2010


I know, it was pretty unfair to OJ.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:34 PM on November 12, 2010


But I don't have the microphone, they do.

But you have the remote control, they don't.

No matter how much I try to convince someone to switch the channel someone else well tell them louder, more persuasively, for a longer sustained period of time to keep it on.

No one is saying that you ALONE is single-handedly responsible for bringing about change. That's why Jon Stewart wasn't talking to you ALONE, he was talking to all of us. And believe me -- every television program pays attention to its ratings. I worked on an ESPN show for a year and a half, and we LIVED AND DIED by the ratings we got every week. That was 30% of my week -- getting the ratings printout from ESPN, compiling the data in an easy-to-read chart which showed the trends for the past several weeks along different demographics, and getting that information to our sponsors. And the sponsors would do a LOT if we lost even just a little in the ratings.

No one single person caused our ratings to go up or down -- but it didn't take much of a dip for the sponsors to freak out. Networks take ratings INCREDIBLY SERIOUSLY.

Telling people to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and expecting to get results is living in a fantasy world.

Only if you expect it to happen overnight.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't give a fuck if Bush is evil but I'd really like to see him face justice for his war crimes.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:54 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jimbob: Thanks for pointing out the role that party discipline, and the relative lack of it in American politics, has to play in this clusterfuck. As you've probably noticed, it's a commonplace in America to credit failures in the system to too much party discipline (the standard "I vote for the man, not the party! I want an independent thinker!" spiel), which is just completely daft. Of course, one of the other problems we're experiencing is that one of the parties has remade itself on Westminster/strong party discipline lines, while the other one is still both internally divided and also, awkwardly, deeply invested in the independent thinker idea.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:59 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stewart seems a little bit full of himself and just part of the system.
posted by tarvuz at 12:29 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was very frustrated with Maddow during the entire interview. She kept bringing up specific points (WMD, 2nd Amendment, waterboarding) to illustrate the "evil" of the Republicans and the Right. Those may be noxious views. By doing so however, she seemed to miss the point of Stewart's philosophy - namely, to actually listen and consider all points of view within a reasonable context.

If I had to sum up John Stewart's argument during this interview, it would be "Maybe I'm wrong". It would be better - after stating a political view with certainty, after passionately defending a long-held belief - that you follow-up with "But maybe I'm wrong." At the very least, it keeps one humble and intellectually active.

This becomes very difficult, however, when it feels like your opinion on every single issue signifies your allegiance towards either freedom or fascism. Oy.
posted by dngrangl at 1:22 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm not particularly interested in considering that I might be wrong about it being evil to torture human beings, frankly.
posted by EarBucket at 6:24 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]



Telling people to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and expecting to get results is living in a fantasy world.

Only if you expect it to happen overnight.


Ok, you get started, when you get his audience and the Fox News audience down by about 10% I'll join in and finish up.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2010


Ok, you get started, when you get his audience and the Fox News audience down by about 10% I'll join in and finish up.

Stewart's point -- and mine -- is that no one person CAN do it alone, and no one person CAN "get Rush Limbaugh's audience down by about 10%."

Stewart -- and those of us appealing to people to use reason rather than the media -- is saying that the Fox News Audience needs to start doing that THEMSELVES. And, at the same time, I and the MSNBC audience needs to start doing that OURSELVES.

So there is nothing for you to "Join in and finish up." There is only you choosing whether you want to use your own reason, or whether you want to continue to buy into the whole "All red staters are morons" propaganda.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also -- those who are saying that Stewart's position was that "maybe we shouldn't prosecute Bush for war crimes"? I'm not sure that's his point. I think his points were more like:

Bush committed war crimes. But so did other presidents we regard favorably. So this means that while we absolutely should prosecute him, dismissing him as "the worst guy since Hitler" or whatever is probably an exaggeration. Instead of trying to make huge exaggerated claims like that, let's prosecute what he ACTUALLY DID rather than trying to also bring polarizing emotions into it. Because those polarizing emotions keep us from also recognizing that many of the people who VOTED for Bush may have had sincere reasons for doing so. And dismissing all THOSE people as backward hicks and morons just continues to contribute to the divisiveness and partisanship in this country, and so does the spirit of "but they started it" and so does the "but they're worse" that we often engage in when we discuss this.

He wasn't saying "Bush's war crimes weren't evil." He was saying "save the value judgements for the man's ACTIONS, not the man himself."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is only you choosing whether you want to use your own reason, or whether you want to continue to buy into the whole "All red staters are morons" propaganda.

I admit that I don't watch Maddow every day, but the problem with Stewart's false equivalence is that this isn't how people like Maddow behave. As far as I can tell, she reports facts. Granted, those facts are presented with a left-wing bias, but they are facts nonetheless. And the problem is that Stewart has consumed so much FOX News that he has chosen to no longer distinguish facts and political bias, of any kind. His throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater narrative is dangerous because we desperately need factual reporting, even at the expense of it daring to having a point of view, however slightly that might contradict the FOX-dominated perspective.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:46 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You want to know why I appreciate Jon Stewart's approach to this Fox News thing?

I already shared before the 2008 election how my parents staying with me for weeks after my daughter was born and being forced to watch The Daily Show every night, we were able to have conversations about the government, politics and media literacy that we've never been able to have without tears.

Lifelong Republicans voted for Obama in 2008. I fell over in shock.

Then Glenn Beck fever caught hold and they jumped on the Beck bandwagon. Back to Fox News 24/7. It became so bad that my mom and I had a HUGE blowout about her desire to attend the Glenn Beck rally. Really bad. Long story.

So, this week she came to visit for the first time since then. We agreed not to talk about it. But after my daughter went to bed the other night, while I was watching the Jon Stewart/Maddow interview on my laptop, my mom drifted over and sat on the couch next to me to also watch it.

We were able to have a conversation after the interview was over about how the cable news distorts information they share to support an ideological agenda. How they do it, when they do. What Stewart meant by the "amplification" effect. I was able to show her Politifact, Media Matters, and such. (I had already turned her on to Snopes a couple of years ago and the amount of crazy chain letter emails I received plummeted.)

I could not have had that conversation with her from a Maddow perspective. It was only possible from a Jon Stewart perspective. Because it disarmed her defensiveness and allowed us to really TALK.
posted by jeanmari at 7:52 AM on November 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


So this means that while we absolutely should prosecute him, dismissing him as "the worst guy since Hitler" or whatever is probably an exaggeration.

I cannot recall any time when Rachel Maddow has called Bush a modern-day Hitler — nor Keith Olbermann — at least not on air. I think you will only find Hitler analogies being made on FOX News, honestly.

And we need to be really precise about this, I think, and not make FOX News-like "whatever" comparisons, because equating the left and right on this is murderous for reporting the factual record, and makes our society worse off for having an uninformed electorate.

Facts need to have legitimacy again. Repeating Stewart's hyperbole may make him sound more noble, but his rhetoric is quite detrimental to acting on actual criminal activities. I'm now unsure if he really understands that, when he dismisses facts in such a way as was demonstrated in this interview.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:54 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]



Stewart's point -- and mine -- is that no one person CAN do it alone, and no one person CAN "get Rush Limbaugh's audience down by about 10%."

Stewart -- and those of us appealing to people to use reason rather than the media -- is saying that the Fox News Audience needs to start doing that THEMSELVES. And, at the same time, I and the MSNBC audience needs to start doing that OURSELVES.


You seem to be bouncing back and forth between telling me to put down my remote and saying that is meaningless because the Fox and MSNBC audience has to do so as well, what I've been asking for all along is an explanation for how to make that happen. Since what I do alone isn't going to do it, how do you do it? That is the whole point here, it's nothing but whining about the media with no plan on how to actually get people to watch something else.

I hate American Idol and other reality TV, it would be great if people stopped watching it and there was more The Wire but some things are just going to run their natural course. If I wanted to convince someone to watch a show I was producing, I would be looking a lot more closely at what persuades viewers to watch Idol rather than what makes people watch Caprica.

It's the same thing in politics, Limbaugh is Idol. Reasoned debate and facts are Caprica. It isn't enough to tell me just to persuade people to change the channel, because if I knew how to do that I would be a well paid advertising executive. Stewart is asking the left to leave reality TV politics to the right, ceding the popular ground to them. It's a recipe for disaster. As long as the game is played one way, some of us have to play it to keep our side in the game. You can work on changing the rules, someone else can play the game. We don't all have to do the same things.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:11 AM on November 13, 2010


Bush committed war crimes. But so did other presidents we regard favorably. So this means that while we absolutely should prosecute him, dismissing him as "the worst guy since Hitler" or whatever is probably an exaggeration.

And we absolutely should prosecute the war crime-committing presidents we regard favorably who are Democrats, yes?

And there's no need to be shy about naming them, is there?
posted by Joe Beese at 9:28 AM on November 13, 2010


It may be impossible for you to imagine an American president being executed by hanging for crimes against humanity. But that doesn't mean it's not what the law says should happen to him.

it's not that it's impossible for me to imagine. I simply want to clarify the claims.

So if Bush is responsible for War Crimes, do you accept that every other American president since WWII is likewise responsible for the same, as Noam Chomsky argues (and others, as I linked above)?

That means the solution is to put to death every ex-president of this country and presumably jail or execute some portion of advisors... (and probably a decent portion of world leaders of other countries). Are there any current leaders who are trustworthy, or are we talking full-on revolution? If the latter, do you have a system in mind to replace the current one...?

Really, all I'm getting at is, if you are accusing GWB of war crimes, you can't then go back to "nobody called anybody Hitler!" - accusing someone of war crimes is in the same league.

I guess that's really all I'm getting at: own the statement or don't throw it around, and if it's the former, we really are past discussion, and it is time for "second amendment solutions"...
posted by mdn at 10:21 AM on November 13, 2010


Related: Ted Koppel on the death of real news.
posted by and for no one at 10:49 AM on November 13, 2010


More: Charlie Brooker and the Onion.
posted by and for no one at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2010


So if Bush is responsible for War Crimes, do you accept that every other American president since WWII is likewise responsible for the same, as Noam Chomsky argues (and others, as I linked above)?

Yes.

It's not a difficult question once one escapes the blinders of American exceptionalism. There is clear international law and the American ruling class, both its Republican and Democratic factions, have clearly violated it.

I think you may be confusing me with other commenters. Though I don't believe I have ever said Bush=Hitler or Obama=Hitler, I am proud to "own" having said - repeatedly, stridently, and in the face of hostility - that both Bush and Obama are war criminals deserving of life imprisonment, and that only because I oppose the death penalty.

One does not need a plan for dealing with the consequences of there being 4 before stating that is what 2 plus 2 equals.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:02 AM on November 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


You seem to be bouncing back and forth between telling me to put down my remote and saying that is meaningless because the Fox and MSNBC audience has to do so as well, what I've been asking for all along is an explanation for how to make that happen. Since what I do alone isn't going to do it, how do you do it?

I'm not saying "it's meaningless for you to put down your remote." I'm saying that both you AND they have to do it. You seem to be looking for some kind of "either I put down my remote or they do." I'm saying "you BOTH have to."

That is the whole point here, it's nothing but whining about the media with no plan on how to actually get people to watch something else.

Why does there have to be a PLAN for that? Other options ARE already out there. There doesn't NEED to be a "plan" for "let people see what's on other channels", becuase they're already there.

And we absolutely should prosecute the war crime-committing presidents we regard favorably who are Democrats, yes?

I don't believe I ever said otherwise.

And there's no need to be shy about naming them, is there?

Jon Stewart himself pointed out that FDR was guilty, for one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 PM on November 13, 2010


I hate American Idol and other reality TV, it would be great if people stopped watching it and there was more The Wire but some things are just going to run their natural course. If I wanted to convince someone to watch a show I was producing, I would be looking a lot more closely at what persuades viewers to watch Idol rather than what makes people watch Caprica.

It's the same thing in politics, Limbaugh is Idol. Reasoned debate and facts are Caprica.


And Glenn Beck is Sharktopus. Maybe Maddow and Olbermann are, say (and don't read too much into this), "The Walking Dead" -- something that may not be hard to like but is pretty squarely middlebrow, lacking nuance because nuance isn't a crowd-pleaser, and you can tell yourself it's a serious drama but you know this isn't exactly "Deadwood" over here and really, even if it's better than "Two and a Half Men," it's still a show about zombies. It's cool and all, but you know that too many shows like this would be bad news, just like it's fun to eat bacon but it's probably not a good idea to eat bacon for dinner every night. But ultimately everyone does starting eating bacon for dinner every night, and then we all get fat and die and it's because we were all too stupid to watch "Caprica." ....wait.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:49 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just saying - the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war crimes, has no death penalty. Not that the US is a signatory of the Rome Statute or would ever send Bush there, but modern war crime trials don't end in death by hanging.
posted by lullaby at 4:50 PM on November 13, 2010


You seem to be looking for some kind of "either I put down my remote or they do." I'm saying "you BOTH have to."

Ok, them first. I'm not willing to let them have the media and the government to themselves while I wait for the ethics of journalism to catch up with Glenn Beck.

Why does there have to be a PLAN for that?

You are just straight up admitting you are just living in a fantasy world here if you don't think you need a plan to change mass consumer preference.

Other options ARE already out there. There doesn't NEED to be a "plan" for "let people see what's on other channels", becuase they're already there.


What? Yes, we know there are boring informative news products out there, that is old news. Nobody watches them, that is the problem at hand.

You are essentially just saying, "people just need to stop driving drunk!" Yes, they do. However, you don't lower the drunk driving rate from what it was in the 70's to what it is now by just saying, "PEOPLE REALLY NEED TO STOP DRIVING DRUNK!"

It took action, and regulation, and laws, and enforcement, and planning, and advocacy. Is Stewart doing any of that? Nope. Just a whiny rally. People aren't going to magically switch the channel because someone points out the show sucks, people watch the shows they like.

When you have actual action on this, let me know and I'll try and help, until then the media is what it is.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:54 PM on November 13, 2010


Did anyone link to this joke? I wish I'd posted this right after this FPP.
posted by clarknova at 5:21 PM on November 13, 2010


er, this joke.
posted by clarknova at 5:21 PM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to say, this thread is great. I love TDS and Stewart and I watch Maddow and Olbermann...and I kind of have a hard time deciding what I think about all three of them.
posted by zardoz at 5:45 AM on November 14, 2010


furiousgeorge, YOU are living in a fantasy world if you think there's some kind of grand sweeping "get the FCC to ban Glenn Beck" kind of action to be taken.

> You seem to be looking for some kind of "either I put down my remote or they do." I'm saying "you BOTH have to."

Ok, them first. I'm not willing to let them have the media and the government to themselves while I wait for the ethics of journalism to catch up with Glenn Beck.


Okay but you've got someone on the other side folding their arms and saying "YOU first, dude, because I'm not letting you have the media and the government to yourself while I wait for the ethics of journalism to catch up with Keith Olbermann." Now what?

And media and govermnent aren't directly linked -- they are only connected because of us.

Yes, we know there are boring informative news products out there, that is old news. Nobody watches them, that is the problem at hand.

The "boring informative news products" are what will educate the public to voting in a better government. I thought that's what you wanted? Surely that's worth being a litte "bored," right?

And I have to say, the fact that you call them "boring" may indicate that you yourself are more interested in the 24-hour heightened-media model. Why do you want to be part of the problem?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:01 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that's an important part of the problem, Empress. There's a collusion between some media outlet's primary drive to profit and Americans' own insistence that we be continually entertained. Informing oneself about important issues is work, takes focus, and is not always fun 'n' fast. The fourth estate has let us down in some ways, but we're in large numbers agreeing that we're fine with that, by not opting for better choices.

I think the time might be right for some kind of news-getting challenge. I haven't had TV for a few years now, so all my experience of TV news is now happenstance or secondhand. Most of my news comes from print, online, or public radio. Not that those don't have their own set of problems, but when I am at the gym and the TV news happens to be on - well, for all it has in common with my other news sources, I might as well be watching the news from another country. In many ways, I am.

People don't have to accept the TV news (network or cable) just because it's what's placed in front of them. It's still possible to insist that your news sources help you find out what you know it's important for you to know.
posted by Miko at 7:10 AM on November 14, 2010


...Blaming "the media" lets people absolve themselves of their own responsibility for choosing news sources, in other words. Yes, it's important to critique media and the way it interacts with society, particularly the "low-information" components thereof. But if we're not examining our own complicity and changing our behavior accordingly, we're maintaining the status quo.
posted by Miko at 7:13 AM on November 14, 2010



furiousgeorge, YOU are living in a fantasy world if you think there's some kind of grand sweeping "get the FCC to ban Glenn Beck" kind of action to be taken.


Haha, no. I'm the one saying there isn't and we have to work with the media we have, stop projecting onto me. I'm saying if you actually want to accomplish anything other than whining about the media like professional athletes whining about how the local paper treats them you have to come up with some kind of plan.

Okay but you've got someone on the other side folding their arms and saying "YOU first, dude, because I'm not letting you have the media and the government to yourself while I wait for the ethics of journalism to catch up with Keith Olbermann." Now what?

I don't know now what, that's what I'm asking you and Stewart to solve instead of just whining about it.

The "boring informative news products" are what will educate the public to voting in a better government. I thought that's what you wanted? Surely that's worth being a litte "bored," right?

Yes, now explain how you will get the American Idol audience to change the channel to them.

And I have to say, the fact that you call them "boring" may indicate that you yourself are more interested in the 24-hour heightened-media model. Why do you want to be part of the problem?

I call them boring as a statement of fact, like a lot of history books. Sometimes education is boring. I am interested in right wing talk radio and cable news because they have persuasive political power. When it comes to politics I am pragmatic and wish to see my personal political goals achieved, propaganda networks are good at that.

As my goals are based on science, logic and reason, I would be equally happy with a boring, fair, and informative news media. However, since we don't have one I am more than willing to accept the other thing for now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2010


When it comes to politics I am pragmatic and wish to see my personal political goals achieved,

In other words, your ideology is driving your expectations of media. This is exactly the issue being critiqued. Why should the news (rather than opinion, commentary) be the vehicle for this? What if news leaned back more toward informing about fact, leaving other formats for discussing ideology? It's the overt mixing of ideological content with news reporting that is at the root of the problem.

The solution you present instead is to respond to propaganda with more propaganda. It seems wonderfully even-handed, except that propaganda is not good information. When propagandas battle, the result is inevitably a confused and ill-informed public whose decisions are based more on identity alignment and ideology than an understanding of the facts and a thoughtful consideration of them.
posted by Miko at 8:09 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, I am aware boring, informative news is better. That is not the issue. There is no debate on that. What I am looking for is an explanation for how you are going to get people to watch it. Until you can do that, it's better the left does not fall even further behind in the propaganda war.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:27 AM on November 14, 2010


Again, I am aware boring, informative news is better. That is not the issue. There is no debate on that. What I am looking for is an explanation for how you are going to get people to watch it.

Any of the big three network news shows has higher ratings than fox news and msnbc put together, taken together the big three dwarf the rest of them. And NPR has more listeners than network news and the cable news shows put together.

People actually do prefer straight news.
posted by empath at 9:54 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those shows are of comparable quality to most cable news programs aside from opinion shows. If we are seriously worried because there are a couple hours of opinion shows no one watches I don't see why we needed a big rally about that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:14 AM on November 14, 2010


empath wrote: "People actually do prefer straight news."

Unfortunately, it's the crazy shows that set the agenda these days.
posted by wierdo at 10:48 AM on November 14, 2010


You are saying there is no difference between All Things Considered or Morning Edition and Fox News?
posted by empath at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2010


No, I'm saying that the crazy shows basically decide what all news shows will be talking about. All that outlandish shit you hear them talking about on NPR? They wouldn't be talking about it if the crazy folks hadn't been talking about it last night.
posted by wierdo at 11:11 AM on November 14, 2010


You are saying there is no difference between All Things Considered or Morning Edition and Fox News?

If this is directed at me, no, I think there is very little substantive difference between Fox News straight news programming and the network news.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:29 PM on November 14, 2010


the crazy shows basically decide what all news shows will be talking about.

I don't think you listen to public radio, then. Because this really isn't true.

What I am looking for is an explanation for how you are going to get people to watch it.

I don't worry about "people." I worry about me, and I'm asking about you. Where do you get your information?
posted by Miko at 6:01 AM on November 15, 2010


Miko wrote: "I don't think you listen to public radio, then. Because this really isn't true."

You "think" wrongly. On both Morning Edition and ATC I hear about the idiocy being spewed from the radical quarters every day. The only things that make those shows better is that they're not yelling at me and there are some other, actually informative, stories amongst the bullshit. They don't just ignore the noise, it pervades our entire society and in some ways I think they'd be doing their listeners a disservice by not making them aware of it.
posted by wierdo at 7:32 AM on November 15, 2010


Here are the top stories from three outlets today. In addition to noting the differences between topics covered, it's also worth noting that the depth/length of the stories from the respective outlets is quite different, as is the reporting perspective.

As an avid consumer of news, I could never truthfully say that the news available in three diverse outlets like these is "the same."

Again, the challenge: if you really perceive no difference, switch your news source for 30 days. Stop using your current source(s) and start using source(s) that you think are popular with people unlike yourself.

Morning Edition: Today's stories:
Rebel or Compromiser: Which Boehner Will be Speaker?
Rangel Ethics Trial Set to Begin in House
Suu Kyi Galvanizes Mynamar's Democracy Movement
Southern Sudan Voters Mull Independence Bid
Milk Caramel is a Sweet Treat in Brazil
Bow Down to the Medicinal Power of Cranberries
Ireland is the Focus of Investor Anxieties
Yuengling, Oldest US Beer Maker, Eyes Expansion
Listeners Urged to Submit Cherished Mail
G-20 Summit Makes Ecomonic Progress
Life on the Sidelines: The Long-Term Unemployed
Jury Selection Begins for Civil Rights Cold Case
Two Views of Likely Catholic Leader
Obama Nominee for Justice Post Left in Limbo
Taliban-Allied Group Widens Influence in Pakistan
Turkey Resists NATO's Defense Missle System
The Autobiography of Mark Twain: Satire to Spare

New York Times front page:
Rangel Ethics Hearing (headline keeps changing - Rangel acting up!)
US Plan Envisions Path to Ending Afghan Conflict
A School Fights for Life in Battered Haiti
U.S. Retail Sales Post Biggest Gain in 7 Months
Taliban Leader Rejects Afghan Talks
N. Korea Defections on Rise, South Says
Gebrselassie Calls Off His Retirement
Pressure on Ireland Eases After Talk of European Aid
Putting Money on Lawsuits, Investors Share in the Payouts
Years Later, Armey Once Again a Power in Congress
Obama Returns, Facing Unpredictable Congress in Lame-Duck Session
Deficit Remains Focus of National Attention

Fox News:
The Third War - "America is fighting a 'third war' and it's not halfway around the world — it's right at the fence of our own backyard, against vicious and murderous Mexican cartels that will stop at nothing to smuggle drugs — and humans — across the border. "
Dems, GOP Return for Lame-Duck Session
Rangel Requests Delay in Ethics Trial
U.S. to End Afghan Combat by 2014
Oregon Island Searched in Missing Boy Case
Pa. School Sued for Banning 'Boobies' Bracelets
More Chinese Students Studying in U.S.
Obama Statement Startles Israeli PM's Office
Nazis Offered 'Safe Haven' in U.S.
Bidders Pay Big for Piece of Criminal History
Israel Considers U.S. Settlement Proposal
At Least 900 Dead in Haitian Cholera Outbreak
Faulty Camry Likely Caused Fatal Utah Crash
Couple Freed by Pirates After a Year
VIDEO Gunmen Kill 5, Wound 9 at Mexico Border Bar
Apparent Gas Explosion at Mexico Resort Kills 7
Freed Democracy Leader Calls for Burma Talks
Ranks of Millionaire College Presidents Grow
Muslim-Christian Tensions Boiling in Egypt
S. America Still Battling Over Google Maps Error
posted by Miko at 8:15 AM on November 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


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