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Wed Aug 8, 2012, 07:24 PM

The Joke's On You: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert considered harmful

Last edited Wed Aug 8, 2012, 11:03 PM - Edit history (3)

Note -- Cross-posted in GD: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10021096399

The Joke's on You
Among the hacks who staff our factories of conventional wisdom, evidence abounds that we are living in a golden age of political comedy. The New York Times nominates Jon Stewart, beloved host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, as the “most trusted man in America.” His protégé, Stephen Colbert, enjoys the sort of slavish media coverage reserved for philanthropic rock stars. Bill Maher does double duty as HBO’s resident provocateur and a regular on the cable news circuit. The Onion, once a satirical broadsheet published by starving college students, is now a mini-empire with its own news channel. Stewart and Colbert, in particular, have assumed the role of secular saints whose nightly shtick restores sanity to a world gone mad.

But their sanctification is not evidence of a world gone mad so much as an audience gone to lard morally, ignorant of the comic impulse’s more radical virtues. Over the past decade, political humor has proliferated not as a daring form of social commentary, but a reliable profit source. Our high-tech jesters serve as smirking adjuncts to the dysfunctional institutions of modern media and politics, from which all their routines derive. Their net effect is almost entirely therapeutic: they congratulate viewers for their fine habits of thought and feeling while remaining careful never to question the corrupt precepts of the status quo too vigorously.

Our lazy embrace of Stewart and Colbert is a testament to our own impoverished comic standards. We have come to accept coy mockery as genuine subversion and snarky mimesis as originality. It would be more accurate to describe our golden age of political comedy as the peak output of a lucrative corporate plantation whose chief export is a cheap and powerful opiate for progressive angst and rage.

Fans will find this assessment offensive. Stewart and Colbert, they will argue, are comedians, offering late-night entertainment in the vein of David Letterman or Jay Leno, but with a topical twist. To expect them to do anything more than make us laugh is unfair. Besides, Stewart and Colbert do play a vital civic role—they’re a dependable news source for their mostly young viewers, and de facto watchdogs against media hype and political hypocrisy.

Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times offered a summation of the majority opinion in a 2008 profile of Stewart that doubled as his highbrow coronation. “Mr. Stewart describes his job as ‘throwing spitballs’ from the back of the room,” she wrote. “Still, he and his writers have energetically tackled the big issues of the day . . . in ways that straight news programs cannot: speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language, while using satire and playful looniness to ensure that their political analysis never becomes solemn or pretentious.”

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Reply The Joke's On You: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert considered harmful (Original post)
salvorhardin Aug 2012 OP
Scuba Aug 2012 #1
salvorhardin Aug 2012 #2
Scuba Aug 2012 #3
kenny blankenship Aug 2012 #23
Chemisse Aug 2012 #19
southernyankeebelle Aug 2012 #4
Squinch Aug 2012 #5
phleshdef Aug 2012 #6
zeos3 Aug 2012 #7
flamingdem Aug 2012 #9
Animal Chin Aug 2012 #8
flamingdem Aug 2012 #10
salvorhardin Aug 2012 #12
flamingdem Aug 2012 #15
JoeyT Aug 2012 #11
seanpencil Aug 2012 #16
LittleGirl Aug 2012 #21
seanpencil Aug 2012 #13
flamingdem Aug 2012 #14
seanpencil Aug 2012 #17
Chemisse Aug 2012 #18
fasttense Aug 2012 #20
DionDem Aug 2012 #22

Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 07:27 PM

1. Anytime someone on the left makes a few bucks, the right tries to smear them as a hypocrite.

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Response to Scuba (Reply #1)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 07:39 PM

2. The right?

Are you kidding? This is The Baffler. Thomas Frank, Barbara Ehrenerich, David Graeber... yeah, those are some big right wingers. Jesus, get your head out of your arse, and actually read before shooting off your mouth. http://thebaffler.com/about

Agree or disagree with the thesis of the essay, I don't care, but at least try to sound like you're not an idiot.

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Response to salvorhardin (Reply #2)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 07:45 PM

3. Never heard of The Baffler or any of the people you mentioned. Still, the right smearing...

... those of us on the left who have made a few bucks in one of their favorite tactics. How is that getting my head in my "arse"?

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Response to Scuba (Reply #3)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 03:57 PM

23. Thomas Frank, chevalier of the old guard Right. Apparently.

And also author of What's The Matter With Kansas? Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, And Beggared The Nation, and Commodify Your Dissent along with being founding editor of The Baffler. Yes, I believe he'd savor the exquisite dissonance of this moment as richly as anyone, if he hung out at places like DU. I can't imagine he does though.

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Response to salvorhardin (Reply #2)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 06:41 AM

19. Was that level of rudeness really necessary?

Perhaps you should take your anger out on a punching bag and keep it off DU.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 08:05 PM

4. Yes they are so bad the Fox News tried to duplicate it. But the came off as very mean and

 

it died. Now they can't take it because the speak to the truth.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 09:19 PM

5. Isn't the Baffler a type of bra favored by women who don't like their husbands? I think it is.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 10:40 PM

6. This shouldn't be located in the "Good Reads" forum...

...as it was not a good read at all.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 11:25 PM

7. This IS a Good Read.

I saw this article on Alternet. The sub title was "Are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Lulling Americans Into Submission?"

Read the article.

http://www.alternet.org/story/156336/the_joke%27s_on_you%3A_are_jon_stewart_and_stephen_colbert_lulling_americans_into_submission?akid=9083.226936.bba8mc&rd=1&t=2

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Response to zeos3 (Reply #7)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 12:02 AM

9. I think Jon Stewart is overrated

His political opinions seem immature. The middle of the road crap, and now attacking Harry Reid. He needs to know his limits.

Needless to say I keep this opinion to myself in "real life"

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Wed Aug 8, 2012, 11:39 PM

8. Kill your TV!

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 12:07 AM

10. It's been this way with humor since Saturday Night Live started in the 70s

I remember fighting with a young guy about how the show made fun of beatniks with that kind of snark. I talked about what that movement was about and he just looked at me like I was an idiot bumpkin who didn't get it.

etc. on many of their themes that touched politics. I always liked watching the show, I enjoy humor so I stopped feeling so critical.

However, all this is true. Hard hitting humor is NOT popular. It will NOT make you any friends and if you criticize the gods Stewart or Colbert you'll get the same shit I got in the 70s. Like you're some kind of commie that takes yourself too seriously.

I like Colbert better than Stewart, he seems a bit brighter at least.


>>>We have come to accept coy mockery as genuine subversion and snarky mimesis as originality. It would be more accurate to describe our golden age of political comedy as the peak output of a lucrative corporate plantation whose chief export is a cheap and powerful opiate for progressive angst and rage.

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Response to flamingdem (Reply #10)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 01:17 AM

12. It seems to have gotten worse since the 1990s and the popularity of "irony" in comedy

People seem to think the use of irony is deep and meaningful, when it's often entirely meaningless.

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Response to salvorhardin (Reply #12)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 01:36 AM

15. Lately the most penetrating humor is coming from the cartoonists

They can bite and get away with it and their talent pushes aside all snarksters.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 12:54 AM

11. Four pages of

mostly whining about how Stewart and Colbert don't take it seriously enough and how they dare to make *gasp* money doing this.

Colbert and Stewart inform a lot of people that aren't aware of it how much Republicans suck. People that don't watch regular news.

But at least they did pull out the "Fans will find this assessment offensive." trump. That way anyone that disagrees with them must be a fan, and can be safely dismissed.

I'm neither a fan nor offended. I found it to be kind of sad, and unintentionally funny.

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #11)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 01:36 AM

16. "whining"

 

guess that's why it's called THE BAFFLER

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Response to JoeyT (Reply #11)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 11:10 AM

21. You say that those that watch aren't reading regular news?

That's not possible if you watch Stewart and Colbert. If you don't read the news, don't keep up with politics or know the players in the game, you will NEVER GET their jokes. Trust me, before I got involved in politics, I tried to watch Jon's show but I was ignorant about politics so just didn't get it. I didn't know who so and so was so I had no idea what they were talking about. And since I started watching the show in '08 or so, I learned more about how naive I was and started to pay attention more.

Jon and Stephen are popular BECAUSE people are paying attention.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 01:27 AM

13. voila

 

"Their net effect is almost entirely therapeutic: they congratulate viewers for their fine habits of thought and feeling while remaining careful never to question the corrupt precepts of the status quo too vigorously."

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Response to seanpencil (Reply #13)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 01:35 AM

14. There are reasons people are not moved to action as before

The fizzling started about the time that snark took hold. It serves it's purpose hugely in that it educates those who would otherwise not be bothered, but now if your beliefs don't have a "hip" cultural edge you essentially get slapped with snark.

And that serves the snarkster as assuring themselves they are hip and aware (more than you), as if.

For instance I have been very involved with Latin American politics, in particular Cuba, and a lot of people I know quickly paint me as a cliche, cigars, over the hill idealistic politics, well meaning but naive (hanging out with poor people..) .. I like getting ribbed and at least appreciate some recognition for things I've done, but I know it slowed me down and made me self-conscious. Like if I cared too much I wouldn't have friends other than those exactly into what I was into, due to intolerance for passionately fueled political stances.

The other aspect of all this is the general distaste for political discussion in the USA. Somehow I imagine Europe would be better in that respect but maybe snark and apathy is worldwide now.

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Response to flamingdem (Reply #14)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 01:38 AM

17. good point

 

people might have the crazy shit explained to them but still don't know wtf to do about it.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 06:40 AM

18. During the Bush years it was hard to even stomach the nightly news

Much less the political analysis shows.

The Daily Show was indeed soothing. Stewart would essentially talk back to the RWers, something I was helpless to do, in a way that made me laugh - a lot. Over the half hour, the knots in my stomach would loosen and I would feel so much better by the end.

So I can agree it was like an opiate during the tough years, but I disagree that they failed to play an important civic role. Then and now, they challenge the politicians in a way nobody else can. And with their huge audiences they raise awareness like no ad or Facebook share could ever do.

In my opinion, Jon Stewart is a true American hero.

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 08:24 AM

20. Interesting

Though the writer's opinion of South Park is far too lavish, I agree with the article overall.

I like Stewart and Colbert but they rarely call people to stand up to the corrupt hypocrites they expose.

This paragraph sums it up for me.

"Bill Maher was one of the few prominent voices to call his comrades out. “If you’re going to have a rally where hundreds of thousands of people show up, you might as well go ahead and make it about something,” he said. He went on to point out the towering naïveté of their nonpartisan approach, with its bogus attempt to equate the insanity of left and right: “Martin Luther King spoke on that mall in the capital and he didn’t say, ‘Remember folks, those Southern sheriffs with the fire hoses and the German shepherds, they have a point too!’ No. He said, ‘I have a dream. They have a nightmare!’ . . . Liberals like the ones on that field must stand up and be counted and not pretend that we’re as mean or greedy or shortsighted or just plain batshit as they are, and if that’s too polarizing for you and you still want to reach across the aisle and hold hands and sing with someone on the right, try church.”"

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Response to salvorhardin (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2012, 02:19 PM

22. An interesting read, but

 

The conclusions are too certain.

Comedy is meant to throw us off balance and confuse us. I don't watch TV, but I read the political satire from the past which the author holds up as the ideal. Aristophanes, for example, did indeed mock war profiteers. And those war profiteers happened to be the democrats. Aristophanes' political inclinations were highly conservative and in favor of oligarchs. (And he probably made quite a few drachma off it, too.) Nevertheless, as a political satirist he is sublime - just as Stewart and Colbert can on occasion be.

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