The Washington Post’s Eric Wemple reminds us that after Jon Stewart announced his upcoming retirement from “The Daily Show,” the on-air talent at Fox “News” wasn’t exactly sad about it:
Most notably, prime-time host Megyn Kelly riffed as follows: “I can tell you my own feeling on Jon Stewart, while I enjoy consuming his news product — this fake news product, you know at home and laughing at it,” said Kelly. “I don’t think overall he’s been a force for good. Because I think especially in his later years he got a little nasty. I think he got a little burnt-out. And I can speak personally to a lot of the attacks that were levied on me, had no foothold in the facts.”
It is beyond ironic that a Fox “News” host claims to sit at home and laugh at a “fake news product,” especially when so many people get a kick out of watching the Sultans of Fake on Fox do their best Colbert imitation day after day and night after night, as they pretend they are presenting the news.
I, however, don’t have much fun watching Fox and its stable of propagandists and, in some cases, liars (hello, Billo!) for the conservative movement. Rather than make me laugh, it depresses me to know that so many of my fellow citizens embrace the hate and misinformation that makes up so much of Fox’s programming day. It is obvious to me now, as a former conservative and “dittohead,” that America became a dumber and meaner place after right-wing zealots took over talk radio in the late 1980s (thanks to Ronald Reagan).
But since it’s appearance on the media scene, the Fox “News” Channel has taken dumber and meaner to new heights, or, more accurately, new lows. And some people have a hard time understanding why it is that so many Americans embrace, with a jihadist’s enthusiasm, such mind-dumbing and heart-numbing programming. But Jon Stewart pretty much gets it.
On Wednesday night, Stewart once again directly took on Fox by, first, playing a loop of “50 Fox lies in 6 seconds.” He noted that there were “plenty more” lies but his time was limited to 22 minutes. The entire 10-minute bit was the best stuff Stewart has done in a long time. It was hilarious. But it was more than that. The segment was insightful.
After playing a clip of Rush Limbaugh claiming that “Jon Stewart had helped to polarize the country by poisoning the Republican brand,” Stewart then played clips of Limbaugh saying a series of stupid and hateful things and followed those with the following observation:
How do you poison a cyanide factory? But see the little game that they play here is, “The only reason the right looks bad is that these guys are unfair liars to us”…My point is that we don’t lie. We don’t distort…The point is that on the right they’re pretending that our truthfulness is what’s really important to them, which ironically is not true. What matters to the right is discrediting anything that they believe harms their side. That’s their prime directive…
Look, this mission drives their attack on all the institutions that form the foundation of the country they purport to love so dearly. And what, pray tell, is wrong with these institutions? [He plays clips of Fox personalities or guests decrying “liberal bias and anti-Americanism” and “the cancer of liberalism” and the like.] …Each institution suffering from the same malady of liberalism and what can be done?
This is their genius. They purport to want to fix things, but conservatives are not looking to make education more rigorous and informative, or science more empirical or verifiable, or voting more representative, or the government more efficient or effective. They just want all those things to reinforce their partisan ideological conservative viewpoints. Because in their minds, the opposite of bad isn’t good; the opposite of bad is “conservative.” The opposite of wrong isn’t right…it’s “right-wing.” They judge solely on the level of conservative content in everything. It’s their only litmus test…
He then played clips of Fox personalities blaming liberal Hollywood bias against Clint Eastwood for the fact that Eastwood’s film “American Sniper” did not win “Best Picture” at the Oscars. Stewart took on that “stupid shit” and then began his criticism of those who try to appease the right-wing lying machine:
You know the saddest part of all this? Republicans, conservatives, are so fucking relentless in their drive for ideological purity, that those institutions they complain about continue to cave for the same reason, I guess, that you always seem to end up going to the same restaurant the four-year-old wants to go to: “Fine! We’re going to get Fribbles again! Just stop crying!”
Stewart went on to mention that “15 states have approved voter ID laws in the absence of any meaningful evidence of voter fraud.” He noted that in Oklahoma a “House committee voted to ban A.P. History for not sugar coating slavery enough” and that “Abstinence is approved sex education, and scientific fact isn’t reported now, it’s debated.” Then he says to all those who should know better but who are tempted to cave in to the demands of the ideologues:
So, let’s just stop. Let’s stop pretending that these concessions to the right will at any point sate the beast…So let’s just stop giving in to them. Guys, take it from someone who’s been watching what they do for a blessedly-almost-over 16 years or so. Their chronically angry war for ideological purity, where every aspect of life becomes a two-dimensional battle for America’s soul, it ages you…
As a former conservative, as a former fan of right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh, as someone who spent much more time than Jon Stewart listening to and watching this stuff—as a true believer and a repentant critic—I can say that he’s right about the “chronically angry war for ideological purity” and the “two-dimensional battle for America’s soul.” There are no fifty shades of gray with these people. There is no gray at all. It’s black and white. You are either with them or against them. Thus, as Stewart says, there is no point in making tactical concessions to them.
You simply cannot satisfy the beast.