Monday, March 06, 2006

The Daily Show vs. The Future Democrats of the United States of America

Sister of ASWOBA sent me a link to this piece in The Boston Globe, written by Michael Kalin, a recent graduate of Harvard. The headline's a red herring -- he doesn't think Jon Stewart isn't funny; he just thinks his brand of humor is dangerous because its "self-conscious aloofness pervades the liberal punditry," and "a bright leader who may have become the Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson of today instead perceives politics as a supply of sophisticated entertainment, rather than a powerful source of social change." In other words, the Daily Show is destroying the future of the Democratic Party.

Never mind all those who have destroyed the present of the Democratic Party, and who got started on that task way before Stewart was skewering the news. And ignore the fact that Stewart has made "sophisticated entertainment" not out of the exploits of old-school leaders like TR and Woody, but out of the wreckage of political trust that dates back, at the very-very least, to LBJ and Nixon. The Globe column makes it sound like Stewart created our nationwide sneer at politicians out of whole cloth.

Kalin is essentially trying to predict how future leaders watching the Daily Show right now will one day reflect its influence, but that's nearly impossible. For all he knows, an incredibly bright student is both laughing at Stewart's shtick and using it as motivation to turn things around. Laughing in outrage isn't necessarily a cul de sac; it could lead somewhere. Didn't Lenny Bruce perform to people who laughed and then went out and did stuff (or tried to)? Stewart is more cool and detached in the way he dissects things, but that tone is much less a molder of our generation's attitude than a reflection of poses that we had already rehearsed to perfection.

Kalin concludes: "Jon Stewart undermines any remaining earnestness that liberals in America might still possess." But is that a bad thing? I don't think pure earnestness has been winning politicians like Al Gore many points. And anyone remember "John Kerry...reporting for duty"? Pretty earnest. And equally useless.

(Ed. note: All of the above is only a response to Kalin's argumentation. I'm not endorsing the politics of snarky Democrats, earnest Republicans, or -- dear lord, no -- Lenny Bruce. Not here and now, anyway. I've made a promise to myself: No actual campaigning for anyone, even on the blog, until at least 2007.)

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