Watching my second-to-least favorite broadcast news host, Bill O’Reilly, is a bit more than unpleasant because, if anything, his terse interjections and incorrigible manner go against how I think a journalist should conduct himself. Yet watching him interview my very least favorite, or I should say most loathed, “journalist” Jon Stewart last month reaffirmed my long-held belief that Stewart, in fact, has no life.
Jon Leibowitz (sorry, I mean Stewart—he changed his name in 2001; for all his talk about fakery, he doesn’t exactly have a good record) has fueled a general mistrust of government for years now. “The Daily Show’s” once jovial tone turned caustic during the Bush administration. Its many mishaps and terrible lack of popularity gave rise to a show not found in the major news networks. Stewart, to his credit, marketed the show successfully as an alternative voice to the supposedly biased Fox News and the incompetence of everyone else. The other shows are boring; the news becomes the same. Watch The Stewart and you will be saved.
The problem is that “The Daily Show” is wretchedly biased, and that Stewart has abused his power. He has turned his show into a left-wing soapbox that attacks Republicans with the casualness of adults handing out candy during Halloween. Every day, Stewart digs deep into the Republican agenda, ripping it apart without much regard for what the other side has to say.
As much as his liberal lessons bore me—and let’s face it, he is a liberal—I’m not here to defend the GOP. I’m here to attack Jon Stewart. There’s something more troubling about him, and that is his lectures on the media and journalism. For someone who continually denies taking himself seriously, he takes himself very seriously. And as someone who might enter journalism one day, I find his finger waving about how people like Campbell Brown or Katie Couric—people with real jobs—should do their jobs aggravating. He rarely has anything nice to say, and jumps on every one of the media’s peccadilloes.
For example, Stewart was furious a few weeks ago with the media’s coverage of chatroulette.com, the Internet’s latest fad. (It’s still better than Twitter.) He viciously mocked CNN, Fox, NBC, and others for merely covering the Web site. Apparently, covering something new that has a few dicks in it is a bad thing. If that’s the case, then he should be upset by their coverage of President Obama’s staff. Or perhaps he should take a look at his own writers.
Of course, Stewart’s defenders will say that he is only kidding. As he said in O’Reilly’s interview about his image in the media and, I think, his material in general, “I don’t take any of that stuff seriously.” Huh. That’s funny, considering in that brief half-hour interview he threw out pedantic phrases like “re-engage the regulatory mechanism” when describing Obama’s job performance and “cyclonic perpetual emotion machine” when describing Fox News. These things sound less like harmless quotes and more like stuff found in the monologues of Glenn Beck, the very person he so virulently despises. Beck, by the way, isn’t any better, but at least he admits that he is just an opinion-maker, not a source of news.
If you feel that I’m overreacting, then perhaps you might want to take a look at his interview on the late CNN show “Crossfire” in 2004, where he virtually established himself as a defender of truth and dignity against the horrors of Tucker Carlson. Carlson, a respectable but not exactly likeable political commentator and journalist, questioned Stewart about his credibility. Like me, he raised the point that he is just a comedian, something Stewart himself always uses to dodge criticism. He told him that he has no legitimacy in criticizing the media because he is not a real journalist, and that it would behoove him to take a look at himself and calm down.
Stewart, with his uneasy grin, condescending body language, and only-bearable logic, didn’t quite make his case. He claimed that the hosts of the show were partisan hacks, and although the rhetoric of the show was incredibly hotheaded and somewhat made his point, Stewart was only meekly convincing. He was like that kid in high school who would criticize how a club was run without actually doing anything. When Carlson called him out, Stewart ended the show by calling him a dick. Childish name-calling. Great.
And as a comedian, he is only mildly funny. He has his moments (aided of course by his 10 or so writers), but his tone is so serious and pointed that the humor rubs off the wrong way. In fact, there seems to be a smug humorlessness in his bits that ruin what could be comedic gold.
But then again, he claims he’s a satirist, not a comedian. Or wait, he’s a comedian, not a satirist. Or is he a satirist? Comedian? Satirist? Journalist? I’ll tell you who he is. He’s a clown. He’s a sanctimonious fool who consumes himself with tearing apart the media and the likes of Sarah Palin without once thinking about who he truly is or what he should be. This so-called “watchdog” of the media has for too long hypocritically criticizing the journalists that he wishes he is but is not. There’s no other way of putting it. Jon Stewart has no life. He has simply got to go.
…and don’t get me started on Stephen Colbert.
Corrected on 3/23/2010 – Title Fixed