Tag Archives: Jon Stewart

You Are Not The Flag You Wave, Or “Enough with the Equal Signs for Profile Pics”

Yesterday, I saw a picture of Kabul, taken in what must have been the late 70s or early 80s. It was either in or near a university- I recall there being a stone courtyard with tall, shady trees and an ornate water fountain. There were also a couple of young women, wearing short sleeves and pants, carrying their books. The comment section for this picture was awash with sighs about “how beautiful Afghanistan had been” once upon a time and “what a shame it was that religion had come along and messed it all up!”

I was, needless to say, a little ticked off by the responses to the picture. While there were a few people who managed to point out that Islam didn’t one day appear in Afghanistan and wipe out every last vestige of modernism (and that a major Soviet invasion may have played a part as well), for the most part it was all comments on the terrible threat to civilization religion plays. Continue reading

Fame Day: Basic Human Decency

I like to rail on our society.

Our blatant disregard for the poor. Our willful ignorance in the information age. Our hypocritical sense of morality. Capitalism. People who have perfect eyesight but wear glasses for “fashion.”

Worst. People. Ever.

But for all of that, I genuinely do think we’re making some (small) progress as a culture. Don’t get me wrong, I fully believe that beneath every person’s thin veneer of civilization lies a seething volcano of barbarism, cannibalism, and baby-punching-ism waiting to be unleashed at any minute. There’s no changing that.

How awesome was this scene?

Nevertheless, we are getting better in some regards. Specifically, I’m thinking about an image I saw not too long ago.

You can’t really argue with that. When something is wrong, it’s wrong. “Injustice anywhere is…”

Well, you get the idea.

Now this guy deserves some applause on his own, but it’s really the bigger picture I want to direct the spotlight to. It’s the simple belief that there’s a basic set of expectations for human behavior. Being morally outraged not simply when the news is covering one story, or during a particularly heinous scandal- but for every act of injustice out there.

Let me break it down a bit.

Chances are, you’ve run into some post on Facebook or any other social networking site in which someone attempts to make a supposedly bold or heroic stand, voicing their support for gay rights or the body positive movement, or something of that nature. While this doesn’t typically happen on any of my feeds, when I do see it, I’m usually pretty underwhelmed. Wow, _____ is coming out in support of gay rights? Brave move, next thing you’ll know he’ll be speaking out against segregation!

I know that sounds needlessly harsh, but more often than not, I feel proclamations and manifestos of that nature are looking for applause more than anything else, and that’s the whole problem. Is it good to be a tolerant, passionate, socially, and environmentally conscious person?

Yes, it is.

What do you want, a cookie?

There’s a 1994 movie by the name of Quiz Show, a drama based off of the true story of a rigged gameshow in the 1950s. While I only ever saw the tail end of the movie (and that was years ago), there’s a scene that stuck in my head. The character who had been cheating at the game is called before congress to testify. Standing up, he offers an eloquent “soul-searching” speech on how he struggled to reclaim his integrity and self-respect after having been a pawn in this entire sordid affair. The congressmen congratulate him on giving such a moving speech- all but one. A congressman by the name of Derounian leans forward and states states that he doesn’t see why the contestant should be commended for simply having told the truth.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it?

We’re patting each other (and more than that, ourselves) on the backs for what? Decrying injustice? Raging against waste and greed? Supporting equality? Should we be praised for this? For briefly rising out of ignorance and selfishness to meet the minimum requirements for human decency?

Seriously, do you think you should feel a sense of pride over not being a racist? Should we applaud ourselves for not clubbing a baby seal to death?

I don’t think so.

And it seems like people are finally starting to get it. Moral outrage for the purposes of fashion are being attacked. Not, perhaps, on a grand and noticeable scale (barring, perhaps, Jon Stewart), but quietly; with caustic jabs like that picture up above. And it’s about time, too.

Best movie of all time.

And yes, I’m fully aware of the hypocrisy of commending basic human decency not being commended. Consider this more of a public service announcement, if you must.

Terrible Moments in News Media (Not Limited to Rush Limbaugh)

Note: This is a version of a piece I wrote this with my brilliant friend Chris Hartline for our student newspaper, and am reprinting it here. Any goodness in it may be credited to him.

Most of the public is aware of Rush Limbaugh’s stupid and unfunny bit in which he referred to a Georgetown student as a “prostitute” and a “slut” for saying that Georgetown health insurance should cover contraception.

source: lifenews.com

Do not pay attention to this man. He will make you sad.

But the name-calling does not stop there: other instances of sexist slander have been just as offensive but haven’t received as much news coverage as Limbaugh’s insult. Bill Maher, a liberal comedian and amateur political commentator on HBO, referred to Sarah Palin as “a tw-t” and “a c-nt”. Chris Matthews, MSNBC host, called Hillary Clinton “witchy,” “uppity,” and claimed that she was elected to the Senate only because her “husband messed around.”

source: glennbeck.com

Looks like public discourse to me.

The state of the news media today is disheartening because the system of acidity seems to be self-perpetuating. Indeed, truculence has become a prevailing rhetorical device. Keith Olbermann had a segment on his show (and a book) called “The Worst Person in the World”. Glenn Beck wrote a book in 2009 called “Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government”.

Another clear manifestation of the deficit of trust of the media was a 2009 poll done by Time magazine. Walter Cronkite held the title (since 1974) of “Most Trusted Man in America”. Cronkite was the most visible figure in the media, which at the time provided objective discourse and information to the public, and he died in 2009. In the subsequent Time poll, voters said that the most trusted news anchor in America was Comedy Central host and political satirist Jon Stewart.

The fact is that the media is supposed to provide a momentary stay against political hostility, an unbiased source of objective information for the public, and that it is not doing this. Consequently, the public is losing their faith in the news media, and by extension the American political system itself.

The media has become tool used by political parties to influence the opinions of the public. A blatant example of this is the “Plan for Putting the GOP in the News” memo from the Nixon administration. The 15-page memo was anonymous, and has written comments on it by Nixon’s then-advisor and current Fox News President Roger Ailes.

Roger Ailes!

Roger Ailes: founding CEO of Fox News and adviser to Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. Also credited for possessing the world's least attractive set of jowls.

The memo stated that television was the best medium for political persuasion because of its imminent popularity: “People are lazy. With television you just sit – watch – listen.  The thinking is done for you.” The plan was to record prepackaged interviews with Republican politicians and deliver the videotapes to local news stations. Presently, critics say that Fox News has demonstrated their role as an arm of the Republican Party.

source: msnbc.com

All you need to know about Keith Olbermann is that he's not a pleasant person.

MSNBC, while on the opposite side of the political spectrum from Fox News, is similar in its audacious political stance. In a distasteful and recurring ending rant on his show, former host Keith Olbermann once shouted (his monologue was directed at then-President Bush), “This war is not about you … shut the hell up!”. Fellow host Chris Matthews also said after a 2008 Obama speech that he “felt this thrill going up my leg as Obama spoke.”

So it can be concluded that the media has become unabashedly partisan. Even the very fact that it is standard for each major newspaper to endorse a presidential candidate reflects a problem in the nature of journalism. It results in an overtly ideological news organization – the New York Times is liberal, the Wall Street Journal is conservative; the Washington Post is liberal, the Washington Times is conservative, etc.

A news staff tending to lean one way on the opinions page is typical and expected; however, the fear is that the ideological slant of the editorial pages will seep into the news coverage. The potential and underlying ‘spin’ of news stories becomes more important than the objectivity of the events being reported.

And maybe the Nixon administration’s prediction about the easy audience of television was prescient: political commentary television programs can be especially caustic and, at times, juvenile. They seem to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the public and of individuals. Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, and Bill O’Reilly are all political commentators who base their rhetoric on the petty mockery of whoever disagrees with them – their arguments are negative, not positive, and clever insults take precedent over constructive criticism.

source: portland.indymedia.org

Jon Stewart pleads with the hosts of Crossfire to "stop hurting America." Crossfire was cancelled shortly after Stewart's interview.

The media itself has not only lost its ability to objectively inform the public of unbiased political events – it has become a tool for fostering and encouraging political contention. The role of the news media is not just lost – it has been perverted. As Jon Stewart said to the hosts of Crossfire, this inflammation of petty and theatrical bickering isn’t just bad journalism – it’s hurting America.

David Brooks said: “There’s a collapse in the public’s faith in American institutions. The media has done a poor job. We’ve become as insular and self-regarding as any [other institution].” It is no wonder, then, that there is a deficit of trust among the younger generations – the apparent disintegration of the integrity of our news sources is nothing less than repelling.