The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

The paralysis of Jon Stewart liberalism

Mark Judge
Author, A Tremor of Bliss

Jon Stewart is a paralyzed man. Intelligent, articulate, perceptive, he nonetheless cannot commit himself to expressing what he considers the true, the good, and the beautiful. For someone about to lead a rally on Washington, D.C., this is bad news.

But wait, Stewart always says when someone calls him on his smirking irony, “I’m just a comic! Don’t look to me for answers! I’m not supposed to be serious!” But here’s the thing: comedians have often been deeply penetrating critics of society and culture, and in doing so have gotten to timeless truths about human beings. Stewart is something of a coward in that he has never gone deeper with his material. He is a victim, as well as perpetrator, of the smug decadence of the liberal West, which valorizes choice and irony above all else, even truth. But endless irony means never settling on anything as true. It means not choosing at all. “Daily Show” watchers are always keeping a tally on how often he whacks the left versus how often he whacks the right, somehow believing that sarcasm doled out equally would get to the truth of things. Stewart is a glib dancer who doesn’t ever stop long enough to declare what he believes to be true.

The most compelling book I have read this year is called “Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary” by Richard Reinsch. In it, Reinsch convincingly makes the claim that modern man’s problems stem not from totalitarian impulses and regimes like fascism and communism, but from an Enlightenment philosophy that pre-dates and causes these movements. The Enlightenment, Reinsch compellingly argues, elevated reason and choice to the exclusion of the reality of man as a spiritual being — and thus became unreasonable. Enlightenment reason and rationality, taken to an extreme, argues that man creates his own reality instead of discovering timeless truths. Taking the forms of communism and Nazism, it becomes a form of insanity. Today, it has become incapable of seeing the spiritual values in suffering, or limits, or mortality. It is utopian, disregarding history and human nature. It is, in short, the kind of liberalism that Stewart and his fans represent. Seriously, does anyone expect Jon Stewart to appear at his “Rally to Restore Sanity” and announce that it is intrinsically wrong to overtax people? That it’s wrong to kill babies? That we should not expect the government to care for us our entire lives?

This makes Stewart’s an incoherent philosophy. Marches on Washington are forums for proclaiming truths about human beings, truths that are more often than not tied to ideas about God, morality, and the common good. It is a time and setting that should encourage aiming for the fences. Stewart, trapped by his own smirk, has no choice but to bunt. One thinks of his famous confrontation with Tucker Carlson a few years back on “Crossfire.” Stewart came on the show looking deeply sad and troubled. “Partisan political hacks” like Carlson and co-host Paul Begala, he said, were “hurting us.” How? Stewart couldn’t give a coherent answer, which would have meant stating a truth and defending it. He could have said to Paul Begala: “Liberals have been defending abortion for 40 years, when the human conscience and science have revealed that that is indeed a child in there.” Or he could have said to Carlson: “Conservatives fight the minimum wage — do you think it is moral to pay someone a dime to paint your house?” Stewart could have engaged. Instead, he kept his shield of irony in place, which led to a pathetic enervation. He looked sorrowful, but his answers to direct question were flaccid and nebulous. You guys are hurting us. How? Um…“stop hurting us.” To the postmodernist, liberty means endless choice, and a scolding of those one disagrees with without having to settle on anything one considers true. It is, in fact, a form of slavery. Saddled with endless choice and crippling irony, they allow themselves to break every taboo except for the taboo of earnestness — not to mention facts and moral truths they find uncomfortable.

  • jduffner

    Other comments: First, he does have his own held opinions, and he’s expressed them many times on the show, but I doubt you’ve done enough research to know his side. Second, it’s clear that you want Stewart to go after some kind of universal truth, but only so you can mock him, for two reasons: a) liberals don’t think truth exists and b) even if he did arrive at a universal truth, it would be the wrong truth, because he’s a liberal. (Haha.) Essentially, you’re trying to make him an easier target to hit so that your future columns on him require less time to write. I don’t understand how this reflects well on you in terms of your character as a member of the media, though the masses may yell “zing!” when they read it.

    The difference here, of course, is that I’m just a commenter you’ll never read, you have slightly more reach than I do, and Stewart has a far better reach than you may ever have, precisely because people of all beliefs have an innate, unconscious, and profound respect for someone trying to search for something better in the way that we talk with each other.

  • jduffner

    You’re misguided. You want Stewart to basically pick a set of general morals – abortion, the minimum wage, God’s place in American society, the existence of universal truth, and those are just what I saw – and then declare his positions and proclaim them at the rally. But the rally is about the nature of the *discussion* behind those issues, about the horrid (and you should argue sinful) nature of human beings to stomp heads, to yell and scream, and to let the fight obscure complex issues, careful discussion, and the truth in each matter. Look at the user “oysterbone,” who uses insults like “Screwart” that I heard last on the playground in elementary school. Of course he’s not 10, but because everyone on the Internet does it, of course he can join the club and start name-calling. That’s basically what was going on Crossfire, and that’s why it got canceled. That’s what fills comment boards on websites and that’s what gets ratings on CNN/Fox/MSNBC – strong opinions and then massive amounts of yelling.

    I think a legitimate argument can be made about how Stewart attempts to straddle the line between serious and funny, and often removes himself from responsibility when he could be making a larger difference. You have a point in that Stewart’s attempt to rise above partisanship and promoting a specific set of beliefs doesn’t always work – of course, no human being can do that. But his intelligence, and his mission, is in calling out media and journalism for helping us promote the worst side of ourselves. I think Stewart could agree that there are universal truths in many matters – but unfortunately, we’re fighting with each other too much and we’ve lost sight of the discussion we should be having.

    Well, not like this article helped, in the end.

  • libertyatstake

    Excellent read. How far can Stewart be from the crystalline pure Nihilism of Mitchell Heisman?

    However, one little quibble – my understanding of the Enlightenment is different than your presentation. The path toward completely unmoored relativism (e.g. Nihilism, the “sensitivity” elements of PC) requires a total focus on the intellect to the total exclusion of human nature. This irrational condition is more a characteristic of the tyrannical anti-individual (that is, anti-human nature) theories (e.g. socialism, facism, communism) than it is of the the goals of the Enlightment – i.e. relinquisahing the tyrannical binds to dogma.

    Am I up to 140 yet? Is this Twitter? :)

    http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
    “Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

  • ussben

    Bravo zulu Mr. Judge! Excellent job exposing Stewart’s
    (I don’t care about reality I want utopia now!) cowardice and lack of conviction as well as those who idolize him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Olsen/100000663102774 Chris Olsen

    Great job Mr Judge! I don’t think Stewie should say “I’m just a comic.” he should instead say “I’m just a coward”. Take away the suit and the army of writers and editors and he’s just a middle aged frat boy. Which explains why he behaves so incoherently when he appears on shows with the likes of Tucker Carlson and Bill O’Rielly.

  • BooneCountyGirl

    The most insightful part of our article was about the “sin of earnestness” – that is what really enrages the left…and why they feel compelled to beat down the corn-pone naivete of the tea party, and why they so Hate Sarah Palin. To beleive in something, to be patriotic, to be sincere…for some reason they can’t bear to look.

    • Newly Minted

      You’ve got it. They believe in nothing except the belief that you can’t believe in anything. Nothing is true, in their world, except the belief that nothing is true. Even at this level, you can see that it’s incoherent. This dialectic – this contradiction – has to resolve itself and it will resolve itself in the direction of stifling all dissent from the alter of “tolerance.” Cardinal Ratzinger wrote about what he calls the dictatorship of relativism. The ancient world saw a similar thing – an educated elite who had long since stopped believing in their old gods but who were inimically hostile towards monotheistic religions like Judaism and Christianity.

      The article missed one trait that Jon Stewart, who I like but don’t watch, has with George Carlin and with lots of others in the elite class – permanent adolescence. They’re stuck in the stage of complaining about everything that reminds them of their parents, or of anyone who is a responsible adult. At best, this tends to loosen up people in adulthood. At worst, it leads to living a life as a middle-aged boy, a man who whines, complains, stands up for nothing but whines constantly.

  • gooners

    That’s a whole lot of time and effort to put into saying, “I don’t understand the Daily Show”.

    • ussben

      And that’s a predictable and vacuous reply from someone who didn’t comprehend this article. Just like Stewart you refuse to back up your convictions or make an effort to refute anything Mark Judge wrote.

    • oysterbone

      It”s you who doesn’t understand Screwart and his show. Screwart says his show is one thing but he wants you to believe he’s giving you enlightenment when it’s swill he’s serving up.