Why Jon Stewart’s Speech (On the Mall) Left Me Cold
By Matthew Rothschild, October 31, 2010, The Progressive
Because it was stale.
Because it was sappy.
Because it was self-important.
Because it was platitudinous.
Because it minimized the hideousness of some of the tea partiers and it blurred the odiousness of Fox.
Because it was politically meaningless and thereby a diversion at just the wrong time.
Because it was a mix of a high school graduation speech and a bad country western song, with too few jokes tossed in.
When Stewart said, “We can have animus and not be enemies,” he was parroting President Obama, who has said, repeatedly, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.”
A big part of Obama’s problem in governing is he failed to grasp the degree of disagreeableness he was going to face, so it was peculiar to hear Stewart reinvoke this mantra, as though what we need is more niceness in this country—as opposed to better organizing, or better messaging, or better mobilizing for a better vision.
When Stewart said we need to be “able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers,” he conveniently ignored the fact that racists actually do permeate the tea party movement, as a recent report endorsed by the NAACP amply demonstrates.
When Stewart said, “Our country’s 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder,” he was making a false equivalency between Fox on the one hand and CNN and MSNBC on the other, one that lets Rupert Murdoch off the hook way too easily.
When he said cable TV exaggerates the polarization and makes it seem like “we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV,” he was minimizing the political differences that actually do exist and lapsing into Toby Keith territory.
He acted as though there isn’t a meaningful battle going on right now about which way our country should go, or what kind of country we should be.
As Kate Clinton put it so presciently, “At this particular moment in our nation, ironic bonhomie is no substitute for making a stone cold sober decision to turn our political will into greater political power.”
But Jon Stewart’s message wasn’t to fight for political power; it was to play nice.
And in his sappy, self-important ending he said, “Your presence was what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you.”
It’s still unclear to me what he wanted by people’s presence—other than a stunt, which he then scurried to justify with some high-minded rhetoric.
And Jon Stewart wasn’t sane before he brought a couple hundred thousand people to DC for no good reason? I don’t buy it.