Liberal Salon to Jon Stewart: 'Actually, You Are an Activist'

Salon writer Will Bunch is such a Jon Stewart fan that he gets antsy when the “Daily Show” goes on vacation. But he’s also disappointed in Stewart’s stubborn and dishonest refusal to acknowledge his true political motivations. Greg Gutfeld, George Carlin, Bill Maher and Richard Pryor are (to use Stewart’s words) examples of comedians “informed by an ideological background.” Jon Stewart is a full-blown activist and the damage he’s doing to his own brand in denying the obvious has been pretty spectacular to watch.

Video courtesy of Ben Howe

Will Bunch at Salon:

But outside of “The Daily Show,” in interviews like the one he gave to Chris Wallace and even his famous 2004 confrontation that may or may not have killed CNN’s “Crossfire,” I find that Stewart (and it pains me to say this, as such a fan) can come across as kind of lame, his “media criticism” beyond trite. In interviews, his complaints against the media tend to be an unsophisticated “pox on all of your houses.” I thought his largely pointless D.C. mall rally in late October repeated the mistake he makes in these interviews — trying to argue that our discourse is too loud while ignoring the real point that he hammers home on “The Daily Show,” that our politics is irrational.

But the lamest thing of all, frankly, is Stewart trying to absolve responsibility from the gravitas of what he does — and make no mistake, the gravitas is there — by claiming that merely, “I am a comedian.” That’s true, but he fails to see what many others realize, which is that he is also much more than a comedian. In a world where far too much of highly paid professional journalism, especially inside the Beltway, has become a joke, it has fallen on the comedians — Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher perhaps the most prominent — to say what on-one-hand, on-the-other hand journalists are too tied up in knots to tell you, that much of America’s discourse in 2011 is bat-guano insane.

Actually, Jon Stewart, you are an activist, and the cause you fight for is most worthy because — as you do correctly note — it is not a purely ideological one, but the cause of reason. And the fight against illogic is not a “fair and balanced” one, that the most dangerous bogus ideas may be concentrated in the spots where global warming doesn’t exist and the way to balance a budget deficit is more tax cuts for rich people. For whatever reason, in the past your friend and colleague Colbert — who coined “truthiness” and said that reality has a known liberal bias — has gotten it a lot better than you do.

Comedians need not be truthful or even get their facts straight, but they do have to be honest with their audience about who they really are and what they really believe. Honesty is a crucial currency in the business of comedy and Stewart’s quickly squandering his.

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