Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Jon Stewart - the "lefty" that rightwingers hate to love?

In a US cultural and political environment where the level of acrimony rises steadily and discourse has the substance of a chorus of jack-hammers, Jon Stewart's show - on Comedy Central yet! - offers a gentle oasis for minds parched by the blistering hatred that radiates from Fox News and its imitators. From here

... Stewart seems to like hosting conservatives ... In recent weeks, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Kristol have stopped by. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, Stewart has interviewed more conservative pundits than liberal ones. (Remember when fans fretted he'd have trouble finding ways to be funny under the new president?) It may be because it's simply easier to tangle with an ideological adversary than to needle a compatriot. A clash of ideas is always more entertaining than an echo chamber. And, for a liberal wit like Stewart, it's easier to stake out a clear position when facing off against a direct opponent. ...

Conservatives like Stewart because he's providing them a platform to reach an audience that usually tunes them out. And they often find that Stewart takes them more seriously than right-wing political hosts, who are often just using them to validate their broad positions, do. Stewart will poke fun, but he offers a good-faith debate on powder kegs — torture, abortion, nuclear weapons, health care — that explode on other networks. "Shepard Smith did the same discussion [on torture]," says May. "He kept yelling me at me: 'This is where I get off the bus! Not in my name!' He wasn't arguing with me. It was just assertions and anger. That's not what Jon deals in."

To be sure, Stewart wants to outsmart and discombobulate his conservative guests. He loves catching them in inconsistencies. "I feel like you just trapped me," a grinning Kristol told Stewart, after Kristol conceded that the government provides "first-rate" health care to American soldiers. "I just want to get this on the record," said Stewart. "You just said ... the government can run a first-class health-care system."

At The Raw Story, Stephen C. Webster observes on the New Yorker magazine story:
... an exceptionally interesting look at the man who is quickly becoming, in this writer's humble opinion, this generation's Mark Twain and easily the most important iconoclast on cable. The man who won Time magazine's "most trusted newscaster" poll appears to have a little trick up his sleeve when it comes to seducing prominent Neoconservatives onto his program: Intellectual curiosity. And they "love" him for it. Who'd-a known?

Not everyone admires him or enjoys watching Stewart stick-handle his guests with finesse rather than slamming them on the boards. Says Andrew Sullivan:
Several of my friends argue that Stewart is toothless, but I think his deference is what sets him apart - both in civility and effectiveness.


Jennifer Smith said...

"This generation's Mark Twain". Wow.

Antonia Z said...

It always cracks me up when people like Andrew Sullivan hold Stewart up to the journalistic standards to which they should be holding unfake news folks.

deBeauxOs said...

Indeed, Stewart himself alludes to that ... here it is (from the comments at the first link):

... on a recent program that several TV journalists were eulogizing Walter Cronkite ... saying that they miss the honest, truthful journalism he practiced, and Stewart commented "It's too bad you're not in a position to restore that" (or words to that effect), I wept tears. It was funny, and it was true.

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