Where Jon Went Wrong
“My job is I make jokes. I don’t solve problems. If my job became solving problems I would suddenly become a lot less good at what I do, unless the problem being had by the country was a lack of jokes”- Jon Stewart
I’ll preface this post with the disclaimer that I’m a huge Daily Show and Jon Stewart fan. While I like the Colbert Report it’s not something I watch religiously. There’s a special wit and charm on The Daily Show that’s missing in most modern television programs. I’ll readily admit that the show kept me sane living in Texas throughout most of the Bush presidency. Despite the high turnover on “corespondents” moving on to greater things the show has maintained a consistent level excellence since Stewart took over hosting 10 years ago.
Jon recently went to far with The Rally to Restore Sanity. I have no qualms with the message of the rally, on the contrary I think it’s an admirable cause that Americans should adopt to improve our republic. My concern, was how it was carried out. There was a definite crossing of the Rubicon when the show went from entertainment to something else at the rally. In the weeks leading up to the rally Jon always stated in it’s promotional spots, which were many, that the rally was in response to the pervasive divisiveness in the current political process.
This divisiveness has no better exemplifier for Jon and Daily Show than Glenn Beck. I’m no fan of Beck, he’s a crack pot that makes his penny stirring irrational fears and hatred. He is regularly lampooned on the show as the buffoon that he is. The Rally to Restore Sanity grew as a rival to Beck’s Rally to Restore Honor. It was a perfect opportunity to strike back at idiot pundits, both on the left and right and the culture of mindless hate they spew. Instead, it was concert.
At the rally itself there was very little actual commentary not counting the feeble “message” that Stewart tacked on at the end of the rally. Instead attendees were treated to entertainer after entertainer promoting whatever new song, cd, movie, show etc to such a massive crowd. It didn’t encourage the audience to act, to get involved with whatever party or cause they identified with. There was the same level of inactivity at the rally as when you sit on the couch watching TV. Ironic detachment is great to a point but becomes a fault on the eve of an election. If your lamenting the state of the current political process it’s way too hypocritical to abstain from the process, and the process extends beyond voting. I love the sharp cynicism of The Daily Show, but in this case it actually did discourage action.
Even worse than this to me, is how eerily similar Jon’s and Beck’s rallies were. You can tell me all you want about how it was a brilliant satire on Beck, but the truth of that matter is that both men were in it for the money, and nothing else. Neither rally had the slightest effect on the election, but both had a massive effect on the new book’s both men were pushing. I saw Earth The Book plugged massively anytime the rally was mentioned. Jon did a media blitz in self promotion of the book, just as Glenn Beck used his rally to promote his new work. Both saw sales skyrocket because of it. Are Stewart’s profits somehow “satirical” as well? In the end both rallies were merely shameless self promotion.
I have no doubt that The Daily Show will continue to produce great episodes that both make me laugh and think. It all too often highlights the broken machine that is the modern media cycle. I know it will be great, but I do hope Jon stays behind the desk from now on. Until he’s ready to commit to an idea greater than his book tour the world can do without another concert…erm rally, excuse me.