Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Role Reversal

Salon had a mildly interesting article (linking very reluctantly because the site is a completely half-assed, over-embedded, non-loading box of turds anymore) about how The Daily Show has faded because Trevor Noah is not Jon Stewart. Well, no shit.

I've watched TDS since the very first episode, and like most longtime fans, I assumed the show would lose most of its bite without Stewart; in fact, it was starting to in his last couple years, as longtime writers, producers, and correspondents began leaving to work on other shows and projects. Stewart's departure was just the capstone to that dynamic.

Fifteen years as the political ombudsman to disaffected Gen Xers and millennials had clearly taken its toll on Stewart's psyche. Chronicling and curating the infinite hypocrisies and absurdities of American politics, and the sheer butt-fucking stupidity of those in power and those who put them there, wore him down as much as it did most of us out here in what's left of 'murka.

More than that was the sense -- no, the hardened realization -- that even as Stewart protested that he was "merely" a comedian, it turned out that he was really the last -- or at least the most intellectually honest -- person providing useful information to a common audience. In other words, a newsman. Stewart had a lot of authors on, particularly non-fiction, and clearly read more than the book jacket on 90% of them. This set him apart from practically every other host in the business, comedic or otherwise.

But it was really Stewart's savaging of Mad Money dancing monkey Jim Cramer that really illustrated not only Stewart's skill and dedication in doing his homework, but a personal investment in ripping off the curtain, the veneer of corporate media and general, and in that particular instance, the financial media in particular.

That was not about whether Cramer is good or evil; Cramer does not seem to be a terrible person per se. It was about Cramer's willing service as lead dog at a network that is clearly owned and operated by Wall Street, designed specifically to gull rubes into sinking their life savings into sinking ships and financial chicanery. He let himself be used as a willing accomplice to telecom, tech, and finance weasels who wanted to get their thumb on the scale and dupe one more fucking dollar out of people.

Cramer's not the only one, obviously; far from it. It's the honest media's job to expose all the weasels, but it took a "comedian" to expose the cynicism of Jim Cramer and CNBC. More specifically, it took someone of Jon Stewart's temperament. And while Noah is quick with the easy zinger, you're probably never going to get the combination of insightful research and raw anger that fueled many of Stewart's most noteworthy efforts. Craig Kilborn didn't have it either, when he hosted the show prior to Stewart.

To expect The Daily Show to carry on exactly in Stewart's path is foolish, a waste of time. They'll do what they can, but it's never going to be the same. It had its bite because of Stewart and his team, not the other way around. The good news is that TDS alumni Samantha Bee and John Oliver have harnessed much of Stewart's righteous fire for their respective shows.

And that's going to have to do, because true to Stewart's core conviction, the "serious" corporate media have never and apparently will never be shamed into reclaiming their proper roles to do their rightful jobs. Apparently Megyn Kelly, who spent much of the last several months being attacked and ridiculed by John Miller and his cult followers, "interviewed" Miller tonight as part of her Barbara Walters-style "interesting people" special.

Needless to say, there will nothing useful to be gained by watching such nonsense. Walters' decades of shameless, gauze-filmed video blowjobs pretty much killed the notion of investigative journalism, and ushered in the era of starfucking disguised as journalism. Somewhere along the line these fools realized that if they were deferential and polite, and asked no more than mildly probing or difficult questions, they would get invited to all the right parties with all the right people. It never occurred to any of them that you simply can't schmooze with them and cover them honestly or completely.

Hopefully Kelly at least got in on the Trump discount. See, an actual journalist interviewing one of the major-party presidential nominees in the heat of a contentious race would ask relevant questions about his volatile temperament and complete lack of knowledge about any sort of important policy. You don't bundle it in a hug-fest with actors and such. Kelly needs to take a good long look at the headline of the linked Time article, and make a decision as to whether she wants to be a "TV star" or an actual journalist, as opposed to a corporate lackey who is deathly afraid of spooking their sponsors and insect overlords. Because honey, you can't be both; if you think that's having it all, you can't really have it.

Or hell, maybe she has made that decision, and chose to be the former while pretending to be the latter. Maybe that's all any of them do any more. Maybe that's why Stewart left, because he understood that too many people, addled by two decades of Springer and Maury and People's Court morphing into Survivor and Bachelor and Real Housewives, can no longer discern what's "real" -- and worse, they no longer care. And the "legitimate" media tools, scrambling and sucking and clawing to maintain their remaining relevance, are in no position to clarify anything.

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