I missed The Daily Show on Tuesday night, because, well, it’s The Daily Show. But I was told that comedian* and pundit** Jon Stewart delivered quite a stemwinder, railing against anyone who tries to argue that calling a woman a [VULGAR TERM FOR A WOMAN'S GENITAL AREA THAT STARTS WITH "C"] is at least as bad as calling a woman a “slut,” regardless of which loudmouthed jerk you happen to agree with politically. And of course, he excoriated Fox News in particular. Just watch him go:
What he’s saying must be true, or else why would he be screaming? So, he’s all worked up because he was criticized for doing an Amos & Andy voice to impersonate Herman Cain. He’s seething with resentment over being treated the way Limbaugh is right now. His ego took a hit and he didn’t like it. It’s no fun being called a racist when you know you’re not.
How about that.
Anyway. I think this is his argument, if we can find an actual argument in that diatribe: A lot of Republicans like Rush Limbaugh, so when he says a bad thing about a woman, his fans are complicit. Whereas a lot of Democrats like Bill Maher (especially when he gives them a million dollars), so when he says bad things about a woman, his fans aren’t complicit. And it’s not fair to point out the discrepancy, because some Republicans think Obama is a Muslim. Which would not be a bad thing for Obama to be, and that’s why it’s wrong for those people to say it.
No, Jon, by bringing up Bill Maher, we’re not saying, “Now we’re even.” We’re saying — try to stay with me here — we’re saying the following:
“We’ve been carefully watching the left’s sustained, utterly cynical attempt to capitalize on a stupid, sexist thing Rush Limbaugh said in order to knock him off the air once and for all, and we scoff at the notion that they’re doing it to protect women. Because they certainly don’t show this much interest in protecting women who disagree with them. They never throw this sort of fit over Bill Maher and all the other lefty misogynists on TV. It’s a double standard, and they’re hypocrites, and they must be silly geese indeed if they think we’re just going to keep quiet about it. We’re making them play by their own rules, and some of us are even taking impish delight in how much they hate it.”
That’s what we’re saying.
While I’m making my semi-annual acknowledgement of Jon Stewart, this seems like a good time to reiterate my Clown Nose Off/Clown Nose On theory. Those clips he played from The Five touched on it, but either they didn’t express it the way I would have, Stewart edited it out of context, or possibly both.
I agree with Stewart’s point that there can still be repercussions for the words you choose, even when it’s in the context of comedy. But Stewart himself has managed to sidestep that, mostly successfully, for a decade now. About eight years ago, in reacting to his now-legendary appearance on Crossfire with Tucker Carlson*** & The Other Guy, I noticed that Stewart was playing his two roles as comedian and pundit against each other. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Jon Stewart expresses a strong opinion, and we’re supposed to take him seriously because he’s famous. He’s not kidding around here, folks. Clown nose off.
Step 2: Someone disagrees with Jon Stewart, and possibly even manages to score a point against his devastating intellect. Rather than acknowledge the possibility of error, rather than concede that his opponent might have a valid point, rather than actually engage the rebuttal to his argument, he puts up his hands and says, “Whoa, hey, hold on a second. I’m just a comedian. The show before mine is all YouTube clips of people falling down and/or puking. Why are you hassling me?” Clown nose on.
Step 3: Repeat as necessary.
You can be both a comedian and a pundit. You can even be both of them in the same breath. What I object to is the way Stewart plays them against each other to deflect criticism. It’s a defense mechanism, and I suppose it’s possible that Stewart doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. But he does, and he’s quite good at it, and it’s dishonest.
See how annoying that is?
P.S. It should be noted that back in Jan. 2010, Jon Stewart called out Keith Olbermann for his invective and hypocrisy. It would end up taking Olbermann over two years to apologize for calling Michelle Malkin a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick on it,” and even then it wasn’t much of an apology, and he only made it because he was backed into a corner by this Limbaugh business. But Stewart did stand on principle, and for that he should be commended. For serious.
*When it suits him.
*When that suits him.
***Who would go on to hire me years later, even though I said Stewart made him look like a “jerk” and a “dick.” But then, he’s been called worse by better.