WaPo Opinion Editor Pleads with Jon Stewart to Cancel His Rally: You'll Ruin Your Nonpartisan Jester Image

October 24th, 2010 8:54 AM

The editor of the Washington Post Sunday "Outlook" opinion section, Carlos Lozada, put himself on the front page Sundy with a plea to liberal comedian Jon Stewart: "Cancel the rally, Jon. For our sanity." He began: "Please, Jon. There's still time. Cancel the rally."

Lozada isn't upset with Stewart because the rally might drain liberal energy away from the grass roots on the last weekend before the election. He's upset because it will hurt Stewart's just-kidding image, just as he feared Stewart's "stop hurting America" lecture that killed CNN's "Crossfire" would hurt it -- it might "shatter the illusion" of Stewart's comedy as "hey, just cracking jokes and throwing spitballs, here." But what it really shatters is any illusion that Stewart isn't an angry leftist behind the smirk (as he demonstrated on NPR). Liberals want to pretend their comedians are nonpartisan, just like their journalists. Lozada pleaded:

I hate to write this, because I'm a fan. From those early I'm-taking-over-from-Craig-Kilborn ads with you posing as a terrified war correspondent to your Glenn Beck chalkboard takeoff, I've been a faithful and demographically predictable 18-to-49-year-old viewer of "The Daily Show" (and, since 2005, a citizen of Colbert Nation).

But this rally just doesn't feel right. When all is well with the universe, you're the guy mercilessly mocking people who hold political rallies, not the guy organizing them. This "Rally to Restore Sanity" feels just a little too . . . what's the word . . . earnest for you.

Lozada's serious. His headline inside Outlook was "Don't go earnest on us, Jon. We'll go insane." As a typical liberal, Lozada really hopes the rally comes off as some sort of nonpartisan comedy event despite its clear sound of an anti-Fox News, anti-Tea Party hootenanny, but he's worried:

If satire is the art of saying something fake and pretending it's real in order to make a point, you seem to be doing the opposite with this rally: Doing something real and pretending it's fake in order to make your point.

We don't need you to hold a rally to restore America's sanity. We go to that rally every Monday through Thursday night, when we tune in to your show. We keep watching because you call out the enduring ridiculousness of politics and, for half an hour, you make us laugh about it rather than despair over it. We don't expect you to end it or fix it; no one can, and your naming it is enough. As you told the "Crossfire" guys, you thrive on the theater of politics: "The absurdity of the system provides us the most material."

We already have a formerly hilarious satirist turned sober politician. America doesn't need another Al Franken. We need Jon Stewart.

He's saying the liberals need a hip humorist as part of their cultural weaponry. Franken had to submerge his questionable Jesus Christ, the Supply-Side Savior wackiness to get elected. Lozada doesn't think the rally can stop the conservative wave right now, but it does threaten to change the "perception" of The Daily Show -- as merely entertainment for liberal Democrats:

I'm fairly certain that your rally won't change the face of American politics or alter the fate of the republic. But I worry that it will change you -- or our perceptions of you. You've always been able to deflect those Meaning of Stewart debates by saying, not entirely convincingly, that hey, it's just fake news. After this rally, though, you won't be able to say that with a straight face. Now it's real news. Some news organizations have even prohibited their staffers from participating in your rally, just like any old political event....

Keep throwing spitballs from the back. Don't try to move to the front of the country. You and Colbert are America's Statler and Waldorf come to life, mocking the proceedings as they unfold. Don't risk that by entering the political fray so overtly. By all means, Colbert should hold his "March to Keep Fear Alive." If right-wing television hosts are having rallies and upending "The View" these days, Colbert's character should absolutely follow suit.

You should show up at the Mall on Oct. 30, have a cameo and walk off the stage. And keep our Moment of Zen going.  

This rally, in a sense, demonstrates how the liberal media elite's deep reverence for Stewart's conservative-bashing irreverence may have gone to his head. You can't have real anchors like Tom Brokaw praising you as a sage of Athenian democracy in Time magazine without it going your head and getting a massive ego. The "sanity" that may be lost in this exercise is Stewart's. When he gets preachy, his arrogance is very off-putting.