I was struck by bits of clarity in David Marchese's interview
of Jon Stewart. The interview was occasioned by the upcoming release of Stewart's satirical new movie "Irresistible." I want to pass on some clips of comments by Stewart that I made for myself:
Twenty-four-hour news networks are built for one thing, and that’s 9/11. There are very few events that would justify being covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So in the absence of urgency, they have to create it. You create urgency through conflict.
We continue to make this about the police — the how of it. How can they police? Is it about sensitivity and de-escalation training and community policing? All that can make for a less-egregious relationship between the police and people of color. But the how isn’t as important as the why, which we never address. The police are a reflection of a society. They’re not a rogue alien organization that came down to torment the black community. They’re enforcing segregation. Segregation is legally over, but it never ended. The police are, in some respects, a border patrol, and they patrol the border between the two Americas. We have that so that the rest of us don’t have to deal with it. Then that situation erupts, and we express our shock and indignation. But if we don’t address the anguish of a people, the pain of being a people who built this country through forced labor — people say, ‘‘I’m tired of everything being about race.’’ Well, imagine how [expletive] exhausting it is to live that.
There’s not a white person out there who would want to be treated like even a successful black person in this country. And if we don’t address the why of that treatment, the how is just window dressing. You know, we’re in a bizarre time of quarantine. White people lasted six weeks and then stormed a state building with rifles, shouting: ‘‘Give me liberty! This is causing economic distress! I’m not going to wear a mask, because that’s tyranny!’’ That’s six weeks versus 400 years of quarantining a race of people. The policing is an issue, but it’s the least of it. We use the police as surrogates to quarantine these racial and economic inequalities so that we don’t have to deal with them.
...there’s no oxygen for the campaign other than the oxygen that Trump’s Twitter feed puts into things. And no matter what, Trump has defined the terms of the fight. It’s going to be: What is America’s greatness? You have to fight on those terms, and that’s an opportunity to define what you believe is our greatness. Now, that’s not to say the political consultants won’t say to Biden, ‘‘You need to define your own lane.’’ But he doesn’t. The road is built.
What is broken about Washington isn’t the bureaucracy. It’s legislators’ ability to address the issues inherent in any society — and the reason they can’t address them is that when you have a duopoly, there is no incentive to work together to create something better. Plus, you have one party whose premise is that government is bad and whose goal is to prove that, which makes them, in essence, a double agent. All these things coalesce to make problem-solving the antithesis of what we’ve created. We’re incentivized for more extreme candidates, for more extreme partisanship, for more conflict and permanent campaigning, for corporate interests to have more influence on the process, not less.
‘‘The Daily Show’’ was a critique of the news and a critique of those systems [News intertwined with Entertainment]. If they’d taken in what we were saying, they wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing now: creating urgency through conflict. Conflict has become the catalyst for the economic model. The entire system functions that way now. We are two sides — in a country of 350 million people.
I don’t think it [the news media] has ever had a good handle on a political moment. It’s not designed for that. It’s designed for engagement. It’s like YouTube and Facebook: an information-laundering perpetual-radicalization machine. It’s like porn. I don’t mean that to be flip...The algorithm is not designed for thoughtful engagement and clarity. It’s designed to make you look at it longer.
The media’s job is to deconstruct the manipulation, not to just call it a lie. It’s about informing on how something works so that you understand the lie’s purpose. What are the structural issues underneath the lie? The media shouldn’t take the political system personally, or allow its own narcissism to rise to the narcissism of the politicians, or become offended that the politicians are lying — their job is to manipulate.
...I think he [Trump] understands very well — and the right understands very well — that undermining the credibility of the institutions that people look to for help defining and making sense of reality is the key to bending reality to your will. It’s a wonderful rhetorical trick. He had a great one on Memorial Day weekend:‘‘We’re getting great reviews on our pandemic response. But of course, not getting credit for it.’’ The twisted logic of that: If you’re getting great reviews, I’m pretty sure that’s considered credit. It’s like saying, ‘‘I’m being praised, but of course I won’t be praised for it.’’ Language is utterly meaningless. Everything is placed into its category in the tribal war and who its real victims are: Donald Trump and his minions. Poor little billionaire president who can’t catch a break. It’s incredible. Are we all just extras in this guy’s movie? But I do feel as if his approach has worked for him his whole life.
There’s all this talk of being on the right side of history, but what does that mean? ‘‘The arc of moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’’ Who’s bending it? What are we doing to further that? If you just get rid of Trump, that doesn’t end this. It’s too easy to say: ‘‘I support this other guy. Therefore, I’m part of the solution.’’ Or: ‘‘You support that guy. Therefore, you’re the problem.’’ Now, that is in no way exculpatory to the supporters of those policies or that regime. My point was: What does that judgment get you? What is the accountability that we have for those who really do believe this is unjust but still accept the tacit societal arrangements?
...the view we get of the country is not accurate. We get the artifice of it, the conflict of it. I’m not naïve. I don’t think that true divisions and animosities and bigotry and prejudices don’t exist. We see that every day. But fundamentally, we are a resilient and strong and resourceful nation that has oftentimes overcome our worst tendencies — ‘‘overcome’’ is probably too strong a word. But our biggest problem as humans is ignorance, not malevolence. Ignorance is an entirely curable disease...You need to talk to people. Ignorance is often cured by experience, by spending time with what you don’t understand...In the same way that Trump’s recklessness is born out of experience, so is my optimism, because good people outweigh [expletive] people. By a long shot.
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