Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, and the society of the spectacle

All photos by your humble
blog keeper/spectacle
maker, Peter Rozovsky
It is fitting that Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle should be available free of charge online; I would hardly expect such a text to adhere to the bourgeois concept of property rights.  I thought of Debord's work, and decided to consult it for the first time, because of the outpouring of social media agony over Jon Stewart's decision to leave The Daily Show. ("... sometimes it's more important to step back and reconfigure a conversation than continue the same conversation because you know how to do it," Stewart was quoted as saying. Reconfigure a conversation. Jesus. I prefer one commenter's speculation that Stewart might have been pissed he did not get David Letterman's job.)

The mourning for Stewart naturally included hosannas and lamentations for Stephen Colbert as not just a satirist, but an essential alternative voice, a position not easy to reconcile with his having left Comedy Central to take what I suspect is an eight-figure job with a vast media conglomerate. And then there's that other entertainer, Brian Williams, whose garbled recollections of Iraq, whether deliberate or not, gave rise to predictable public airings of ethical concern and inquiries into the workings of human memory — serious stuff.

I don't know if I'll be able to accept Debord's explanation for the weird ritual/spectacle aspect of so much public life; phrases like modern conditions of production make my cheek muscles go slack and my eyelids get heavy. But Debord was surely right that in a society where those conditions prevail, "life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles."
=====
There is no contradiction in being attracted to the spectacle aspect of Debord's Situationist thought even if one is dubious of his Marxist rhetoric. At least there was no such contradiction for Jean-Patrick Manchette.

Over at Dietrich Kalteis' Off the Cuff, Dietrich, Martin J. Frankson, and David Swinson make spectacles of themselves talking about good guys and keeping them just bad enough to hold a reader's interest. Once again, Dietrich illustrates the chat with one of my photos, this time of the noose-like apparition you'll see here at top right. Shadows play weird tricks where I live.

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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43 Comments:

Blogger R.T. said...

I guess I am atypical. I have no interest in Colbert, Williams, or Stewart. Weird, huh?

February 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Weird, perhaps, but reassuring.

February 11, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

I like Jon Stewart. His sensibility and mine are simpatico, I think. I am a bit more leery of Colbert for some reason, mainly because having people maniacly chanting your name must do something year after year.

But I have found it quite odd that the way the news commentators have eulogized him as though he was dead. Personally, I think it's great. I know how it feels to get locked into an identity in other people's minds and feeling the need to shake it off, no matter what they feel about it.

February 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Now that Colbert is taking over for Letterman, one can regret all the more that Harvey Pekar is no longer with us. He had Letterman's number.

As for Stewart, I know next to nothing about him, but I suspect that even if I knew more, I'd have trouble separating the man from what his deifiers and mourners say about him. Who knows? Perhaps he'll reconfigure some interesting conversations.

February 11, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

I think I liked the sense I got of him last night of how he realized that he would never have a job better suited to him, and yet, all the same, it was time to leave. It is hard to pull away from a successful identity, even if you're set for life. It's hard to pull away from anything, even if it's much more marginal.

As for the society of spectacle, I'm all ears. I have seen DeBord's book on the shelf many times but haven't gotten to it. I thought about spectacle quite recently, but can't quite remember in what context.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Debord's book is a series of short paragraphs organized into short chapter's. I'm not sure sustained discussion has been an abiding interest of French intellectuals since, I don't know, Camus. This is not always a bad things. I very much enjoyed the short essays in the Daniel Pennac book variously pubished in English translation as "Reads Like a Novel," "Better Than LIfe," and maybe other names as well. (The French title is "Comme un roman," which means "like a novel." I think I may have written about the book here at DBB.)

I'll probably wind up picking and choosing from the nuggets of Edbord's book that resonate with me, without trying to find some system to his thought.

You remark about Stewart reminds me of what someone, maybe Adrian, sais about Jerry Seinfeld, that he has never begun any major projects since "Seinfeld" because he could never do work that good again. Nice work if you can give it up, I guess.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

I think I read some of that Pennac book--at least I read some book by him that I liked pretty well.

I think in successful careers, even if they aren't defined as such by the world at large, moments come where you realize that the game is not worth the candle. I have certainly been through that moment and I am sure it is much harder when there are any sort of real stakes at play.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Peter, I think what you say of Debord, et al., may well be true of French PUBLIC intellectuals, though that breed in France, though odd, is nowhere near as odd as it is in the U.S. See Time's occasional lists of Most Influential Public Intellectuals. I think one regular is Ann Coulter. But one should not confuse public intellectuals with academic intellectuals. From France, I'm about to read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st. Century, a sustained discussion of 577 pages plus 76 pages of notes. I read a lot of that sort of thing, very French indeed.

Seana and I have a long record of agreement, so no surprise that she and I seem to be the dissenters here. Firstly, I don't think Stewart should be blamed for the hullaballoo over his leaving of the show. Second, I am a little surprised that people who themselves have intellectual pursuits should be seemingly proud of knowing nothing of Stewart. It is not that the Daily Show won a cornucopia of Emmy awards that is significant, but that it won TWO PEABODY awards. Those were for election coverage, but it reminds me, for one thing, that the venerable, putative political 'debate' show, Crossfire, on CNN (Bob Novak, Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson and other hacks) was cancelled after Stewart was a guest on it and instead, in his words, "of being your monkey" and making jokes, tore the show to shreds as a mockery of serious political debate. Stewart, as the President of CNN stated with startling frankness, was why they cancelled it. Ditto the show's exposure of CNBC for giving false investment advice. And what the show has inflicted on Fox News over the years I shouldn't need to mention.

In the U.S., the Daily Show is very in one sense very similar to the Daily Kos internet site and daily newsletter. Both 'Speak Truth to Power', both go for the jugulars of the falsifiers. I'll pick on one ms news source and say that I sure as hell know I'll get a lot closer to the truth of current affairs through those two sources than I will through the NY Times, which has disgraced itself of late.

Of course there is more, but the above, and I refer again to the Peabody awards, is why the Daily Show, which is very much Jon Stewart wonderfully abetted by Lewis Black and others, has changed the general face of 'news' in the U.S. Obviously it must incense the mainstream news sources, pundits, syndicated columnists, corporate lobbyists, and the political right-wing, now aka the Republican Party. But it remains true, as has been said by many and often, that you are more likely to get the truth of issues from the Daily Show than from network news or print newspapers.

I didn't know until tonight that people were supposed to stay in the same job for life. In these days, not easy for most of the workforce. But Stewart has been doing his job five nights a week since 1989, and he is not Johnny Carson, arriving an hour before airtime. The show depends upon intense research and writing and that means all day. And so he is tired and does not want the show to become stale. Nor do I. I much hope he reappears in some other format or guise, with questions reconfigured. I'm going to steal that phrase, for there are certain issues I refuse to discuss precisely because the questions have become distorted by a flood of misinformation or disinfromation -- I'll discuss them again if they are ever reconfigured. It should be borne in mind that there is an oddity common to many comedians: off stage, they have very serious interests. A.J. 'Freddie' Ayer, of all people, observed in his autobiography that two very famous British comics, John Cleese and Frankie Howerd, had a deep interest in and knowledge of Philosophy. Well, Ayer would know. Such is the nature of Stewart, who has a deep and serious interest in current events and only with the truth at the core of them. That was why, e.g., he destroyed Crossfire and thus reconfigured the question of what constitutes true political debate.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Dana King said...

I had a comment ready, but Philip beat me to it and said it better.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Now that's a lovely compliment, Dana! Thank you.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well said, Philip, but of course I would say that.

I think when I say I feel simpatico with Stewart, it's something about recognizing that inner seriousness, although of course I'm not claiming that I have it myself. I'm saying that when I see it, I know it.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, no doubt you're right, but public figures sell their right to that sort of sympathy in return for their fame and their money. Stewart could well be entirely noble and true to himself in his professed reasons for stepping aside, but even that sincerity becomes part of the image (or the spectacle). It enhances his future marketability as a thinking man.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, you are right, of course, about public intellectuals. They are indeed so rare in North America that I failed take the phenomenon into account. And Jon Stewart is certainly closer to being a public intellectual than Ann Coulter. Ann Coulter? My God.

I hope my comments here and elsewhere make it clear that I am dubious about the phenomenon of Stewart, and that of Stewart worship, than I am of Stewart himself. Well, his having hosted the Oscars didn't help.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

In re the Daily Kos, laugh, if you will, but I remember the time it stated that Hillary Clinton, having spent $30 million in a Senate campaign to Rick Lazio's $40 million, had been outspent by 25 percent. Despite gently worded notifications from me that, if those figures are accurate, she had been outspent by 33 percent and not 25, it never corrected its error. I find it hard to be impressed by so careless a publication.

I just found an old blog post in which I mentioned this and another problem with the Daily Kos that, of course, has much wider application. Seana took part in that discussion, though under a different name:

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2008
More new(ish)-media babble
I inched a bit closer to the 21st century this week, not only signing up with Twitter, but also taking my first careful read of one of those blogs that tell the truths you won't hear in the mainstream media. The discussion started deep in the comments to a post I made called "Welcome back, bloggers," and I'll reproduce it here, because I think it deserves a post of its own.
====================================
Peter Rozovsky said...
As it happens, I've found another example to cite in the content/context argument. I gave the Daily Kos a fairly thorough read last night for the first time. I found this stimulating but wearying.

The viewpoints were congenial, the strength of the opinions bracing, and the commenters by and large intelligent. But it was a gathering of the converted. Everyone agreed with everyone else, not a perfect recipe for the democracy these folks think they are championing, and fatiguing to read.

Newspapers may be bland and limited, but at least they pay lip service to the idea of offering a range of views. And what will the righteous Kosites kick around when the mainstream media die?

One of the Kos articles also made an extremely common mathematical error, the sort of thing good copy editors are trained to catch. But then, copy editors are so mainstream media. (I wrote to the Daily Kos about this error. I will let you know when I receive a reply. I will not hold my breath.)

seanag said...
I do think the problem of the sameness and general consensus of self-selected communities is a big unanswered problem of the current era. While newspapers and magazines do tend to hew to a certain predictable part of the political spectrum, a lot people who are not that close to that cast of mind may still read them, and send a pointed comment to the editorial page, which others are then quite likely to read and comment upon in turn. It's not the same with the niche market internet media. But I don't know what the solution is.

Peter Rozovsky said...
My sentiments exactly. I invoked the editorial page in a discussion today. An editorial might be lame, and letters disagreeing with it might be from whack jobs, but the forum creates something like a debate. Even such a fine Internet site as the Daily Kos, on the other hand, looks like a vigorous, eloquent debate with just one participant.

In this light, one might see niche media as an unfortunate reification of an instant-gratification, Me-decade mentality: I want to read only what I want to read, written only by people who agree with me. We will suffer if this media model becomes prevalent. How much and in what ways, I can't say.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I have tried and failed a few times to read Pennac's novels. But that short book of essays, about reading, is good fun. Thanks to their brevity, I was able to read them in French as well as English, which enhances my fondness for the

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

Peter, while I find value in the Daily Kos newsletter, I'm well-aware of the faults you mention. So are they, for self-corrections added to articles are common. I was the editor of an academic journal for some years, and such as we tend to miss nothing. Even now, I sometimes reach for a pencil when I see so much as a typo in a book, and fallacious arguments make me want to send a book back to the author. (--:

But my conclusion about this is that Daily Kos tries to keep on top of major stories and also ones that should be covered by the ms media but aren't, and this, obviously, daily. It also consists of contributions from many independent writers and from other blogs, and thus quality is variable, and there are no copy editors. But while one more 'per se' or 'if you will', never, ever used correctly, from an ms media pundit could make me homicidal, I'm tolerant of the writing in the DK. What I read is their daily email newsletter, simply a long compilation of significant items, and ones that are concerned with the truth of the issues in hand, not general opinion pieces. I don't look at the DK website itself, and I can understand that might get a bit tedious and incestuous. Articles essentially of opinion I look at only in 'intellectual' (I don't like that word, especially as I can't find a way round it and sometimes have to bite the bullet and admit to being an 'intellectual', knowing full well how pompous it sounds) and academic sites and journals.

Just a little more on 'intellectuals'. The problem is that this is now another term so much misunderstood and misused, as those Time lists I mentioned make so dismally clear. Were it not so, I wouldn't have such a problem confessing to being one. But I have on my shelves two works about the term and those to whom it may be applied that make for fine reading. One is Jacques Barzun's The House of Intellect -- wonderful, lively stuff and Barzun at his best when in somewhat polemical mood, which is saying something. The other is a collection of essays, On Intellectuals, edited by Philip Rieff, a mix of theoretical and case studies, all very enlightening, but written by such as Edward Shils, Isaiah Berlin, Talcott Parsons, J.P Nettl, et al., they would be. I recommend both to those interested, while noting that if one will suffice, go for the Barzun, for he always has the little grey cells bouncing around and the synapses sending signals every which way.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Philip, Adrian McKinty got me(and others) on to Barzun, so I will look for that one, as Barzun turns out to be very much my cup of tea.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect that the Time list implicitly defines an intellectual as a reporter who has moved on to pontificating and no longer reports. And thanks for the reading suggestions. I may look into them once I get my Debord and Walter Benjamin out of the way. It took only a bit of Benjamin to remind me of two or three experiences that taught me how worrisome and how little to be trusted television news is.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Blogger is eating comments again. If I remember correctly, Philip, I had written that I may be too prickly about sloppiness of the kind I cited in the Daily Kos. But then, every time I see a mistake like that, especially when the makers of the mistake refuse to correct their errors, I realize that what I do for a living simply does not matter.

The French intellectual stars, even Foucault, are sometimes bearable. I have stood before Las Meninas, for example, and I can understand what that painting can do to a viewer's mind. I would have found his insights about leprosy and madness more persuasive, however, had he provided more historical evidence for them.

February 12, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Good blogpost.

I've never liked The Daily Show or found it funny (just as I never found that other media darling Saturday Night Live funny). When I've watched the Daily Show I've always been amazed that they have a writing staff of 16 - 20 full time writers. "20 full time fucking writers and this shit is what they've come up with?" I always say to my long suffering spouse.

The Daily Show in particular has served the current and previous administrations as a sort of escape valve giving us the illusion of dissent but not really doing anything at all to challenge the essential power structures. Jon Stewart is/was a snarky lad selling advertising and making money for Viacom. Nothing more, nothing less. He probably fooled himself into thinking he was "doing good" but he wasn't, he was just a shill. And that much admired ironic stance of his? As David Foster Wallace said "irony is the song of the bird who has learned to love its cage."

Brian Williams is more interesting to me. As the days have gone by it seems increasingly obvious that Williams is a serial liar who made shit up about meeting the Pope, being in a Seal helicopter flying into Baghdad, being on the Berlin Wall as it came down, being shot down in another chopper, being in a hotel in New Orleans overrun with gangs, etc. He seems to be a rather fascinating Walter Mittyish fantasist who either has a pathological contempt for the truth or who is so delusional he no longer knows what the truth is. I used to just think he was a big dummy like the character William Hurt played on Broadcast News but apparently he's much more interesting than that...

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Philip Amos said...

My last comment on this is that the last comment of all should really come from Jon Stewart. The comment I have in mind he has made not a few times, and it is re precisely what the Daily Show is, what it is intended to be, and what it is not nor pretends to be. In one riposte to Tucker Carlson in the course of that famous appearance that finished Crossfire, he makes the point again, and that appearance can be seen on YT.

I say this because what has been bothering me from my reading of the post and on through this thread is the constant, lurking presence of a straw man. But when Adrian attacks the Daily Show for failing "...to challenge the essential power structures", we finally have the Straw Man Fallacy writ large. Whoever said they were supposed to do THAT? Did Stewart ever claim to be doing that? Has anyone ever mentioned it before February 13, 2015?? No, of course not. This has been the essence of the problem here from the start. I'm a retired historian, a specialist in the History of Ideas, and as such I have occasionally broadcast on the radio. Much of what has been said here about the Daily Show and Jon Stewart is exactly equivalent to my speaking on, say, Philosophical Idealism, and the next morning finding myself roundly attacked on a women's fashion blog for my radio broadcast performance of Beethoven's Piano Sonata, Op. 106. That wasn't what I was doing, now was it??? (Though these days, an attempt on my part to play that work in private would be truly shitty, I happily admit.) And challenging the essential power structures is not within a country mile of anything Stewart has claimed to be doing. I've already stated my own view of the DS and JS, and one thing I won't do is combine an argument grounded in the straw man fallacy with an argumentum ad nauseam.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...


Adrian, I know marginally more about the Colbert Report (pronounce that "Col-BEAR Re-PORT, please) and even Bill Maher than I do about Jon Stewart so, as I think I mentioned several times above, this post's target is more the esteem in which Stewart is held than it is Stewart himself.

In re Brian WIlliams, I expect the network's highly public ritual self-examination has started already, though perhaps even NBC has grown embarrassed of that particular rite of self-flagellation and just hopes Williams will go away with a hefty buyout.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philip, the suggestion that the last word on Jon Stewart should come from Jon Stewart is curious, considering that he has for so long injected himself into debate on public issues and in so doing has made himself a public figure, or at least a celebrity.

I also think reasonable grounds exist for questioning the proposition that Adrian attacks a straw man. In fact, I don't know if Stewart regarded it as his responsibility to challenge essential power structures. But "Whoever said they were supposed to do THAT?" Lots of people, as a quick search for his name will reveal. Did nobody really say this before Feb. 13, 2015?

February 13, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Philip

You're quite wrong. You and almost everyone else have been taken in by that famous Crossfire moment "we're just a comedy show!" A brilliant example of Jon Stewart having his cake and eating it too. Stewart critiques the traditional media for being too supine and then goes after his usual soft targets and when anyone dares to criticise him he bleats "no, no, you misunderstand we're just a comedy show! We do irony and jokes." Its an excellent strategy and has covered him well for nearly two decades. But its utter bullshit. Its special pleading and a get out clause for his safe journalism. Stewart serves the elites by pretending to skewer them and when things get heavy he'll just say "aw shucks, we're just a comedy show, leave us alone." You've fallen beautifully into his rhetorical trap. But dont worry you're not alone.

This has nothing to do with straw men. As a retired historian you're probably aware of the
argumentum ad temperantiam. Thats the category we're discussing here not straw men. "Well, he's not as bad as the hacks on Fox News..." Maybe not but he's still a hack.

February 13, 2015  
Anonymous Mary Beth said...

One of my most loved French writers is La Rochefoucauld. He is brief, to-the-point, and, God help him, an intellectual with a sense of humor.

As for Brian Williams, perhaps he is seriously mentally ill. The original Munchausen syndrome was defined by WebMD as: "Munchausen syndrome, named for Baron von Munchausen, an 18th century German officer who was known for embellishing the stories of his life and experiences, is the most severe type of factitious disorder." [I practice without a license;-)].

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Cary Watson said...

I did a piece on the phenomenon of comedians doing news a while back, and I guess I'd echo what Adrian's saying. Stewart's always preaching to the choir, and, more problematically, he and Colbert create the illusion that there are voices in the mainstream media that effectively counter the prevailing rightist drift of US politics. Mockery, satire and sarcasm isn't opposition or analysis, it's just intellectual catcalling.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

There is some use in preaching to the choir, though. My earlier comment seems to have been eaten, but basically I think building an audience with even this degree of political interest is not nothing in America. Among the young, I mean. I don't know about the rightward drift of America. I would think that on social issues the actual populace is tending toward the liberal side.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mary Beth, I have a book of La Rochefoucauld's maxims lying around that I mentioned in a post here a couple of years ago. Maybe it's time to pick it up again. I wonder if the French traditions of brevity and wit originated with him. I know that in next century, Voltaire and Montesquieu wrote short, entertaining works, because they were probably among the first generation of writers to write for the public.

I don't know anything about whatever mental disorder Brian WIlliams might have. In the first place, though, one ought to be cautious about chalking up moral or legal lapses to illness, and thereby absolving the person committed them of blams. In the second, even if he did suffer from a disorder of some kind, one needs to ask to what extent social, professional, and political pressures influenced the disorder. If, for example, some condition predisposed him to exaggeration, and if his high salary and competition for ratings activated that tendency, does he deserve the pity we might orfinarily extend to the the sick?

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Cary, I just glanced at your piece; Stewart's announcement make it ripe for reposting. I will say that Colbert's and Stewart's careers after and parallel to the shows that made them stars does nothing to disprove your thesis. Real alternative voices don't get to host the Oscars or take over for David Letterman. And yes, whether or not Colbert and Stewart claimed the alternative/subversive/satirical mantle others have bestowed on them, they have nothing to reject it, either, as far as I know.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, but should they be as lionized as they have been for inspiring "even this degree of political interest"? Well before Colbert and Stewart announced their departures, I told someone that it's just too bad we have to turn to late-night talk show entertainers for our political wisdom, What they do bothers me far, far less than that they are taken so seriously for doing it.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Its fascinating too that no one ever mentions his early cowardly self deracination to fit in. HIs real name Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz is not the name of a late night talk show host, a class traditionally drawn from WASPs from the mid-west.(Pekar mentions that in one of his Letterman appearances I believe.) "Jon Stewart" however is the sort of person who cd host a late night talk show. Its a name that makes you think of Martha Stewart and other comforting, safe, anodyne WASPy types.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

On the other hand, in the clip they keep showing which supposedly made him and he was the speaker at a big political gig simply because he was the only one who could make it, the first thing he said was "This is the best seder I've ever been to."

Which is not exactly the sign of someone trying to conceal his roots.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

No he's never concealed his roots. But he has deracinated himself. "I'm a Jew, but don't worry, America, I'm not too Jewy. I'm called Jon Stewart after all!" He's the nice Jewish boy you can bring home to mother, not one of the shouty scary ones like Noam Chomsky or Harvey Pekar, neither of whom I believe were ever on the show.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Google sure does not like criticism of Big Television. It keeps eating comments, so let's try this again.

Funny, Stewart doesn't look-- Well, he does, actually, but that had never occurred to me. Would have been nice to see Pekar on Stewart's show, but I suspect the network's programmers learned their lessons from Letterman's experience.

This reminds me of the time I waited in line overnight to attend a taping of The Tonight Show in 1978. (Carson was off that night, so we saw Steve Martin with guests Richard Pryor, Glen Campbell, Bernadette Peters, and an animal trainer who could be made safe fun of.) As much as I knew about such things, I was still startled by the red signs that flashed on telling we audience members when to applaud.

February 13, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

I take your point, Adrian.

Still, I like the guy.

February 14, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Seana

He's on the side of the angels, but the media has overpraised everything about him and his career.

February 14, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's precisely what I mean when I remark that my target is less Stewart than it is his lionization. I came across an article that connected the rise of political comedy to a decline in belief that people can effect political change. When people are powerless, the thesis went, they crack jokes. That might account for some of the desperate mourning that greeted Stewart's announcement that he had decided to look for a new job.

February 14, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

the powerless and their joke cracking brings to mind two slightly contradictory quotations about irony:

1. irony is the revenge of slaves

2. irony is the song of the bird who has learned to love its cage

February 14, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Humor is stereotypically a refuge of the powerless, or at least Jewish humor is. Jonathan Stewart Leibowitz has an interesting relationship to that dynamic.

February 14, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

I agree that the media has lionized him beyond proportion, though I happen to see that more with Colbert than Stewart. I disagree that it is just the bird that loves its cage theory, though. Plenty of people try to change the status quo all the time. I live in a community of such high minded types. I think it would take something bigger than either activism or comedy to change the power structures as they are, but both things at least do help to remind people of problems that are a little peripheral to their own circumstance. Most of us in my world aren't in the position of the caged bird that sings, we're in the position of the caged bird that hasn't even figured out it's in a cage.

February 14, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You notice that no one talks about Bill Maher anymore?

February 14, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Sorry, Peter, but Bill Maher just came to Santa Cruz to a sold out audience. He's not my particular cup of tea, but perhaps I quibble.

February 14, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, they talk about him in Santa Cruz. What kind of a show does he put on? Stand-up comedy, of a topical or political nature, perhaps? Does he take "Politically Incorrect" on the road? He was, I think, a small-time comic actor before he got his own television show.

You'll realize, I hope, that I know little about him or Colbert or Stewart, and I could be nothing but an embittered old man. Nonetheless.I remember some magazine, maybe The New Republic (R.I.P.), zinging for saying that U.S. military pilots were cowards because they dropped bombs from on high. "That's not commentary, that's cocktail patter," TNR said and, sure enough (if I recall correctly), he offered some typical pro-forma American apology, perhaps even claiming that he supported the truth.

Maybe his road show is a nostalgia show, like Sha Na Na's in the old days. Maybe that's what everything is these days.

February 14, 2015  

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