Did you catch Rachel Maddow’s interview of Jon Stewart?Â Â Here it is in its entirety, unedited:
The interview bordered on the philosophical and was extremely engaging, touching onÂ complexÂ topics such as the role of a satirist in our society and the state of ourÂ news media.Â Stewart stuck to arguments thatÂ qualified his roleÂ as purely that of a satirist; he also used that mantle toÂ justify why he should try to avoid stepping out of thatÂ roleÂ lest heÂ crossed over into more of an advocate one.Â
While Jon Stewart may be right in that we must encourage more dialogue in our society’s daily discourse rather than shutting it down, itÂ seemed a bit disingenuousÂ that he blamedÂ theÂ polarization of our politics solely on problems of “tribalism” betweenÂ the left v.Â the right and thus chose to gloss over the massive disparity (and what’s behind it) between the might of right-wing media infrastructure v. those few dissenting voices that run counter it.Â
By the same token, it was interesting that Stewart had such a purist idea of what a satirist ought to be, glossing over how sometimesÂ a person can defineÂ a role, rather than passively letting the role define you.Â It would certainly not be unprecedented for a satirist to make a deliberate choice to advocate for a cause that he or she deems worthy of such a choice.Â In fact, his colleague Stephen Colbert didÂ just thatÂ recently when he testified in front of Congress in support of AgJobs, stepping for a moment out of his role as a satirist and cross over into that of an advocate, embracing a level of responsibility of what was in his power to doÂ in supportÂ of migrant workers’ rights:
Furthermore, it wouldÂ seem that Stewart has chosen to stay frozen in time, reminiscent of that infamous appearance he made on Crossfire that preceded conservative pundit Tucker Carlson being fired from CNN.Â As such,Â it seems that StewartÂ continues toÂ insist that the cableÂ networks areÂ “tearing our country apart” by pitting two positions, “left” v. “right” on the screen and turningÂ theÂ argumentsÂ into apparentÂ circus events.Â Ironically, by pretending that “the left” v. “the right” have equal footing in this country’s corporate media, Stewart is really doingÂ the same thing the networks he criticizes are guilty of: painting two positions as if they had equal validity, damn the details or grey areas all in the name of hiding behind asceticÂ roles of “neutrality” or “centrism”, which in the end abdicate responsibility of any kind.
Ultimately, it is Stewart’s right to remain in a roleÂ of aÂ “pure” satirist as heÂ defines it in his worldview to serve the purposes that he has defined for himself, but perhaps he should acknowledge that it is a choice he makes, rather thanÂ pretending that someÂ form ofÂ sanctityÂ in being a “satirist” would be in peril should he define it otherwise.