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.”


A New Hope That The Empire Strikes Back at the Jedi’s Return to the Dark Side

As we approach the possible sequel to Barack Obama’s New Hope the Empire is surely striking back. Personally, as a fervent Obama supporter in 2008 (I made calls to New Hampshire, Florida, and Pennsylvania) I’m happy that should he be reelected there won’t be a trilogy. There doesn’t need to be. Like Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, Obama is being tempted and seduced by the dark side. Gitmo is still open; Afghanistan has drained the wealth of our nation, debilitating its ability to weather the global financial storm, while thousands of young Americans and Afghani civilians have died. Furthermore, an assault on the middle class in the form of debt championed by corporate welfare in the Senate and the White House has gone unfettered by our president. The empire has indeed co-opted this promising young padawan.

I’m not a fan of Lucas’s prequels to his masterful and visionary Star Wars Trilogy and I especially hated Episode 1: The Phantom Acting Ability. However, Lucas’s take on the process of political decay that befalls all republics has been spot on. In The Phantom Menace (the real title) it is a permanent bureaucracy in conjunction with a monopolistic business class that has true control while representatives squabble over inane policies and our kept in the dark on military and regulatory action. This bureaucracy knows no party affiliation or check on its power and through a combination of fear tactics, media malpractice (business class), and money has allowed for a reversal of civil rights of all Americans.

It’s on the back of these events that the Tea Party has successfully funneled white anger against the system only to reinforce the system. Senator Palpatine used fear of this bureaucracy to force of vote of confidence in the chancellor and take control for himself. The current rising star of the republican presidential field, Michele Bachmann, has stated in a Wall Street Journal interview that her favorite philosophical author is Ludwig Von Mises, the economist known for such writings as Socialism, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total State and Total War, and surprise surprise, Bureaucracy. 

The Tea Party continues to push back against this bureaucracy but through an unbalanced approach, blowing away sensible regulation of what pollutants go into our water and food while supporting tax credits for industries, deregulation of the financial system and the Sherman Anti-trust policies, and the reauthorization of the patriot act, all programs that have successfully crowded out the free market from American business.

The Tea Party should be careful not to make the mistake of propping up a messiah figure forth right that only serves to indulge their nativist attitudes while allowing the same monopolistic and bureaucratic policies to continue.

We must remember that the problems facing America are not the sole creation of big business as the left would preach or big government as the right preaches, but a collusion of both. This collusion of classes –political and financial– in the protection of a noble class in Washington must be stopped but not at the expense of creating a strong executive with wide powers over the state’s monopoly over violence. There are indeed admirable qualities that Ms. Bachmann possesses outside the hyperbolic religious fervor she espouses in Taliban-like rhetoric.

Many societies have stood on the doorstep of totalitarianism before a charismatic leader, Rome before Caesar, Germany before Hitler, and the intergalactic senate before Darth Sidious’s alter ego Senator Palpatine. I’ve never recommended the Star War prequels to anyone before, but to my Tea Party brothers and sisters I suggest a movie marathon… I’ll bring the popcorn.

The Book of Mormon or Mein Kampf

The following is a post written by Sphere of Influence’s newest contributor Jonathan Smith, who has been so kind as to take time during his vacation — where WordPress is being rather stingy with its access — to share his thoughts on The Book of Mormon and the GOP-er’s who follow the religion.

The Book of Mormon or Mein Kampf
By Jonathan W. Smith

I’m not one to watch award ceremonies, least of all the Tony’s. This year however, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon and it’s 14 nominations intrigued me enough to occasionally tune in during commercial breaks of the Bones marathon I was watching. As a fan of South Park I was already familiar with Parker and Stone’s (creators of South Park) take on Mormonism as a religion. An episode from season 7 titled “All about Mormons”, takes the position that though the religion is based on some pretty wild and idiotic theories (what religion isn’t?) those practicing the faith now are generally good, kind hearted people who love their family and are dedicated to the general welfare of their fellow man regardless of faith.

I have not had the pleasure of personally knowing any Mormons but the above description describes the Mormons in The Book of Mormon, HBO’s Big Love, and the most high profile Mormons in America, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. As a committed agnostic myself I never really think about the religion of the candidates running for high office. As noted before, all religions have unsubstantiated beliefs. The idea of thetons is just as preposterous as drinking the blood of Christ and eating his body. If making cannibalism a regular part of my diet is a prerequisite for being saved I think I’ll wait for the next Rabbi claiming to be the son of God. Hopefully he’d let me substitute his body for Chinese food.

However, the title song in The Book of Mormon, has a line in which the lead character explains that the Mormon church considered black people to be undeserving of God’s love until 1978 because of their, our, decision to side with Lucifer before being born. As punishment, God made our skin black. By this logic, great civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela lack the necessary qualities to enter into God’s kingdom. While other religions, particularly in the Christian faith, have had a legacy of racism they have for the most part apologized for their past. Not Mormons, in 1978 God decided to inform the Mormon prophet that blacks had repaid their debt and could become full pledge Mormons. The legacy of racism was deserved.

Both Mormons currently running for the republican nomination grew up in a church environment where from a young age they were taught that blacks were evil and soulless. I don’t know how these ideas inform their actions now (Jon Huntsman was President Obama’s ambassador to China) but I have yet to hear Mitt Romney talk about civil rights or how multiculturalism has added to American Exceptionalism. The only video I’ve ever seen of Romney, the front runner, talking to a group of African Americans was in Florida when he took a picture with a group of young black girls and started to sing “Who let the dogs out”.

In a country that is still reeling from a racist past but building upon a new growing black middle and upper class I don’t think the best way forward is vote for a man who equates African Americans with the devil or Disney stereotypes. Until both adequately answer how this backward and racist belief on the origins of black people has informed them on civil rights, I’m just a bigot who will never vote for a Mormon.