Monday, April 23, 2007

Stockholm Syndrome

Watching The Daily Show earlier this evening, as Jon Stewart tried to penetrate the carapace of Matt Cooper's self-serving defenses, I kept thinking how the Plame case -- and Cooper's own involvement in it -- encapsulates so thoroughly how we got into this mess. It's been gone over before, obviously, ad nauseam, but it bears reiteration from time to time.

Just as an observation, it occurs to me that while Stewart has become a sharper, more well-rounded interviewer over the years, his one weakness is his strength as a host -- he seems like a genuinely nice guy. He doesn't want to attack his guests and get all Falafel Factor on them, even when they richly deserve it, as Cooper does. And when you have a smug prick like Cooper for a guest, posturing as a First Amendment hero for all he's worth, perhaps a modicum of pointed (if polite) aggression is called for.

Instead, Stewart tried to leaven his initial pursuit of Cooper's own (and the media's overall) enabling of anonymous douchebags habitually using the corporate media as their personal stenographers to transcribe talking points for them -- instead of, say, reporting -- by lamely using the recent mau-mauing of Don Imus as some sort of analogy. The two are not analogous, not at all. Imus was simply the meat thrown in the tank for a periodic feeding frenzy, something to give the veneer of absolution, so that we can tell ourselves how we Did The Right Thing, and then turn right around and find another discount Archie Bunker on the radio or TV.

A much more appropriate comparison would be the WHCD, the boozy, schmoozy circle-jerk over the weekend, featuring a disastrous performance from a puling Rich Little. Jesus, Little even took pains to preface his set by pre-emptively declaring himself not a political satirist, and damned if he wasn't understating the case. This is an increasingly irrelevant ritual involving increasingly irrelevant entities -- co-opted stenographers playing grab-ass with the people they are supposed to be covering aggressively and objectively.

But they hardly bother with the pretense of such things anymore, and the WHCD exemplifies that much more than it symbolizes two worthy adversaries taking a day off to play nice together. It's pathetic; the highlight was Karl Rove -- a guest of the New York Times table, mind you -- getting into it with Sheryl Crow and Laurie David. Does anyone from the Times bother to report anything that Rove might have said at the table afterward, since they apparently beat off at the prospect of printing anonymously sourced quotes? Of course not, but they're more than happy to transcribe an anonymous (naturally) Rove defender, as well as the requisite official talking point from a White House spokesperson. As with Colbert's gaucherie, the Crow-Rove hoo-ha was deemed in bad form, as if one of these fucktards had dropped his cucumber-and-watercress sandwich onto his Edith Wharton novel.

Hell, it wouldn't surprise me at all if Cooper was there as well, pretending to laugh at Rich Little's pathetic trip in the wayback machine and soaking the remaindered strips of his own compromised soul at the open bar. You fool no one, pal, least of all yourself.


Trogdor said...

Funniest thing about Sheryl Crow's environmental tour is that her song currently scores a TV ad for (wait for it) Subaru SUV's. Oh, the irony. Does the Forrester run on biodiesel too, baby?

john lenin said...

Yeah, I love Jon Stewart in a Jesus's General-approved sort of way, but he does make me pull my hair in frustration sometimes with his even-handed bullshit.

The worst I remember was when he had that Party of Death shitbag, Ponnoru or whatever the fuck his name is, on to pimp his book, and Jon threw out some bullshit about how the abortion fight has...wait for it..."extremists on both sides".

Since fucking when is arguing to uphold the law as it stands a radical position? Unless people are getting pregnant on purpose just to have an abortion on demand, laughing all the while and taking pictures, shut the fuck up with that shit. There is nothing to compare with the Randall Terry/ Eric Rudolph/Paul Hill crowd on the pro-choice side.

But then again, the reason that bothers me so much is because I actually expect better of Jon, unlike all the "serious" media figures.

Heywood J. said...


As SUVs go, the Forester is relatively benign, with mileage in the mid-20s, and a modest size. It's not exactly a Hummer or an Excursion.

Still, you make a decent point. There is something a bit off-putting about people lecturing everyone on changing the world, being part of the solution, blah blah blah, and then not walking the entire talk. Could Sheryl have not sold that song to Prius? Could Al Gore live in a somewhat smaller, less consumptive house? Those questions deserve to be asked and answered, just not by Rush Limbaugh.

Heywood J. said...


I'll give Stewart some small benefit of the doubt that his even-handedness is largely a calculated move, so as not to come off as too shrill. But yeah, he can be frustrating about it. Wait till the McCain interview in a couple hours.

I recall the Pornmumu interview, as well as the lame caveat. He's factually correct -- it is a sharply contentious issue, obviously, and one of those things that even its defenders abhor in principle.

But he also tore Pornmumu a new one, just by letting him try to defend his assertions, with some of the most inept responses this side of Alberto Gonzales. For me, that was where I really started to notice Stewart's growing skill set as an interviewer, that he could just lob the questions, and sit back and allow a clearly incompetent thinker hang himself.

But yeah, I also get pretty tired of the incessant attempts to equate pro-choice activism with pro-life fanaticism. The distinction does need to be made clearer, for the sake of at least the pretense of honest debate.

But that's how we roll on every issue anymore -- let the fringes define the narrative, and pinball the arguments between the two, rather than explore the more moderate aspects. It's all they can do anymore is to gin up these contrived cage matches for our -- well, someone's, apparently -- amusement.