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Thursday, July 23, 2009

 
Jon Stewart On Point

by tristero

I've heard it said, with sorrow and shame, that when a comedian becomes the most trusted person in America, we've tumbled an incalculable distance from the Olympian heights of Cronkite and Murrow.

I grew up with Cronkite (even met him a few times). And while, Murrow was a little before my time, I've watched and listened to a substantial number of his broadcasts (well worth it). And yes, they were both brilliant, decent human beings who worked hard - and their enormously talented collaborators worked equally hard - to make sense of the complex, bewildering issues of the day. Their work was essential.

But neither was capable of this:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day


Of course I laughed my head off. But there is a very serious, very sobering reality behind all the humor: Until the so-called news media stops providing access to jokers like the birthers, then the best news reports in America will be produced by a professional comedian.

In the early 21st century, when a lunatic bill to permit carrying concealed weapons across state lines was only narrowly defeated, ridicule and humor are at least as important as dispassionate analysis of the issues. I'll go further: Sober discussion of Republican idiocy is exactly wrong. There lie monsters.

If only Bush and Cheney and Perle and Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld and So On had been relentlessly and loudly laughed at when they suggested going to war with a country that hadn't attacked us (and couldn't), perhaps it would have been impossible to muster anything resembling a serious coalition to authorize Bush to invade. The very notion would simply be beyond the pale of rational discourse, as it should have been.

But no. People took the idea oh so very seriously. They discussed it, called invading Iraq for no reason whatsoever a bold, audacious, and breathtaking notion. Liberals discussed it, or kept their mouths shuts. They uttered barely a peep when Bush's minions, on the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, compared Bush's impatient war mongering to Kennedy's determination not to fall into nuclear war by accident or angry impulse.

And the war came.

Oh yes, newcomers, I wasn't kidding. Back before the Bush/Iraq war, the Most Respected People In America described Bush's mad folly as a "bold," "audacious," and "breathtaking" undertaking. It was never called what it really was: "bonkers," "wacko," "ludicrous, even perverted." In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in the mainstream before about 2005 - by which time Bush's war crimes and the resulting chaos had already led many thousands to the slaughter - daring to call the idea of the invasion so much as "irresponsible."

I have no doubt that one of the biggest mistakes the media and many liberals made in 2002 was to take seriously the crazies who proposed war. It provided them cachet, status, gravitas, even a weird kind of charisma (not just Commander Codpiece: Rumsfeld became kind of a sex god to many mainstream pundits).

Cronkite, I loved you, still do. But sometimes it's altogether fitting and proper to send in the clowns. And these are some times. Oh yes, we could use intelligent, serious people like Murrow and Cronkite reporting the news. But then, we need serious news, not birthers. And we must have a mainstream news media that doesn't hate the very idea of discussing or reporting news and issues, as they do now.

(Link to Gene Lyons' splendid eulogy of Cronkite added after original posting.)