Stewart, the Fox and the Wizard

Jon Stewart this week brilliantly withstood Fox News’ concerted effort to destroy The Daily Show host by turning their 24/7 propaganda machine against him. Instead of shrinking away as many Fox News opponents do, including the president of the United States, Mr. Stewart took what I can only refer to as the Art of War approach.

After trying to spin a fairly accurate impression of presidential candidate Herman Cain as a racial slur, Fox News ordered its Death Eaters to target a comic known for roles in such classic movies as Half Baked, Death To Smoochy, and Big Daddy. Clearly in the public’s interest of course. My, how petty Roger Ailes looked when Stewart returned fire by playing a reel of all his cultural, political, geographical, and ethnic impressions since steering The Daily Show from its Craig Kilborn celebrity-driven days.

These often over the top satirical impressions resonate with people who process the fabric of this multicultural democracy of ours through humor. Don’t Fox News commentators and republicans in general constantly berate the media for being too politically correct? I don’t remember Fox converting nearly as much air time into “fair and balanced” news when a GOP official in Southern California sent around a picture depicting President Obama as an ape, saying “now you know why no birth certificate.”

By depleting their ammunition, Mr. Stewart forced Fox News to slink back into the primordial soup from which it sprung a little over a decade ago. Jon Stewart stood by his sketches, his analysis of Fox programming, and most importantly, his humor.

This experience should teach the world two important lessons:

(1.The best way to beat a storyteller isn’t to fight with facts.

Good storytellers make the audience suspend disbelief for the sake of a narrative. For example, the idea a Kenyan Muslim illegally infiltrated the US, gaining access to the highest levels of government by becoming President of the most impregnable political system in the world so he can enslave white people and lead a jihad against American Exceptionalism, forces us to suspend disbelief just as Superman can somehow hide his identity with just a pair of glasses. Facts take a back seat in any narrative.

Fox is a greater storyteller than Disney (oddly enough both are often accused of supporting fascism). Stewart defeated Fox by embracing their narrative of him as an unflinching liberal and hypocrite who reverts to using racist attacks against anyone who disagrees with him. Unlike Sean Hannity or the dearly departed Glenn Beck, Jon doesn’t need to personally or culturally attack someone that disagrees with him because he’s not afraid of people who disagree with him. It’s refreshing to see someone in the political arena that recognizes the strength in our country’s political system in allowing, and at times encouraging, dissent among its citizens.  I think that’s pretty exceptional.

(2. The mainstream media proved itself lazy when it began to accept Fox’s narrative, just as they did during the presidential vote counting in 2000.

Bloggers chided Stewart for not being more partisan, news outlets questioned the role of satire in today’s political media environment, and some commentators went so far as to demand that Comedy Central get a right-wing comedy show. I won’t go into how inane this last comment is except to say these 3 things: conservative parody never seems to find an audience (look at Dennis Miller); Comedy Central runs such “real America” comics as Larry the Cable Guy and Jeff Dunham, the puppeteer with a Halloween skeleton dressed in a dish rag posing as a dead suicide bomber; and it has South Park which has espoused libertarian ideals like ending hate crime legislation and even inspiring the phrase “South Park conservative”.

Fox has created an illusion and promoted it as reality. While the height of their soapbox and strength of their megaphone may be sizable, they are nothing more than a device used to distract and intimidate those who think for themselves. The illusion itself is weak because it can’t adapt or change. Post-colonialists from Gandhi to Mandela to Guevara refused to fight imperialists on terms dictated to them by their oppressors. Instead, they fought their adversaries by unraveling the illusion of perceived power and brining to light the weaknesses inherent in the colonizer’s authority. Or, as Professor Dumbledore told Harry Potter in book 7 “just because something’s in your head, doesn’t mean it’s not real.”


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