Why Jon Stewart's Departure from The Daily Show Is Long Overdue
For years I have been uncomfortable about The Daily Show. It mocks politicians and media and we all laugh. And nobody does mockery of politicians and media better than Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.
But it's been over 15 years and nothing has changed. Indeed, everything has gotten worse. Each night, Jon Stewart points out the latest lies, misdirection, and idiocy spewing from, say, Fox News. And we laugh and shake our heads and wonder how anyone could listen to that nonsense. Each month, each year, more lies and the rest are presented as evidence for how pernicious Fox News is to the nation. And nothing changes.
Jon Stewart accomplished his mission. (So did Colbert, and he's smartly also quit already.) He made it blatantly, glaringly, painfully, side-splittingly obvious how nasty a piece of work are Fox News, Roger Ailes, the Koch Brothers, the Republican Party, and so on.
What use would it be for Jon Stewart to continue? I think he is smart enough to realize the answer is, "no use." I wonder if Stewart has come to the realization that he too is "hurting America," just like he told CNN's Crossfire host all those years ago.
We have become Skinner's pigeons pecking for morsels of food. We get rewarded for the same behaviors night after night. We laugh, we roll on the floor, we have tears flowing from the brilliance of how Jon Stewart and his team have identified the madness that is American politics and media. And we do nothing about it. No action gets taken. Nothing changes. Fox News continues its blatant lying. Greedy politicians continue taking bribes (stop calling it campaign contributions) from corporate interests. All the folly persists. And the laughs continue. The comfortable continue afflicting, and the afflicted never get comfortable.
This has become a very cozy media ecosystem for liberals and conservatives. The conservatives know that the Daily Show is, in the end, and always has been, harmless. No need to change one's ways, however unethical, immoral, or illegal, simply because Jon Stewart has pointed out those ways. Nobody will remember by the next evening, when a new parade of folly is presented for the Daily Show's audience.
A lot of people, including a lot of media types and pundits, are bemoaning Stewart's departure. "We need you," they say. Especially for the 2016 presidential race. How will we possibly digest the goings on in 2016 without Stewart's commentary?
And there lies the rub. It's high time we LEARN to. Fun and scathingly satirical the Daily Show may be, its mission has been accomplished for years. It's time to stop treating the nation's problems as entertainment. It's time to start treating them as problems actually needing solving, instead of fodder for momentary satire. I have for years felt that the very scrutiny that the Daily Show has provided on outrageous corporate, media, and political misdeeds was in fact making it easier for such misdeeds to squeak out of actual scrutiny that might actually stop the misdeeds in the first place. Instead of an Inspector General documenting the failures of government in a way that might force change, we have a talented comedian amusing the nation and now for a commercial break.
The Comedy Central channel has succeeded in creating an entity that could thrive right in the thick of the political/media/corporate ecosystem. Over its 15+ years CC's Daily Show has taken on a key role in that ecosystem. It's a player. It's a platform. It can be used by all parties, good and evil, liberal and conservative. It found an audience, and got them hooked. But nothing's changed. Stewart is a one-percenter just like the one-percenters he mocks every night on TV. He lives in a completely different world than most people. I suspect he knows this, dislikes the irony of it, and perhaps this is another reason he chose to get out.
I am glad he's getting out before the real insanity of the 2016 presidential race begins. We, the audience members of The Daily Show, don't need it anymore to know what is bullshit and what is not. Stewart spent a huge chunk of his life educating us, honing (if we were paying attention) our bullshit detectors to spot from a million miles away the slightest nonsense spoken as fact anywhere in the news.
Of all the Daily Show people, I think John Oliver is being the most effective right now. His new show goes deep on issues, and he makes valid points. The question is, will anything change, or will we once again just turn to Oliver's show for mild amusement, perhaps a momentary dose of outrage, and then switch back to selfies and cat photos on Instagram, what outrage, what issue? Who? La de da.
We do not need Stewart or Colbert anymore. I believe they know this. They're smart guys. I think they realized the time had come to kick themselves, and us, out of the nest. It is time for us all to fly and fend for ourselves.
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