In a recent interview with Reuters, former Democratic congressman Barney Frank argued that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have fueled negativity about government and politicians. “The effect is to tell people it doesn’t make any difference who they vote for,” Frank said. “You come away from Stewart and especially…Colbert, and say, ‘Oh, they’re all assholes.’”
On Monday, Salon’s Elias Isquith defended Colbert but asserted that “Frank’s got a point” about Stewart, who according to Isquith has a “weakness for the superficial” and a “tendency to fall prey to the trap of blaming 'both sides.'”
“If liberals want to see more of the kind of direct action that’s characterized the Occupy Wall Street and #blacklivesmatter movements,” wrote Isquith, “if they really want to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable…they’re going to have to embrace a political vision that has grown beyond the idiosyncratic limitations of Jon Stewart.”
From Isquith’s piece (emphasis added):
[The] section of the interview that seemed the most distinctly Barney Frank-esque [was] when the former congressman takes aim…at two liberal heroes: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. “The press is very different today,” Frank told Reuters, comparing the current media landscape to the one of 20 years ago. Calling it “a major contributing factor to pro-right-wing, anti-government feeling,” Frank argued that the media had anything but a liberal bias. “[E]ven the liberal press is anti-government,” Frank complained. “Ever watched Jon Stewart say anything good about government?”
According to Frank, Stewart and Colbert go wrong by letting a general weariness of the corruption and plasticity of American politics blind them to recognizing the difference between the left and the right…Both sides are terrible, in other words, so why bother?
…[A]t least as far as Stewart and “The Daily Show” goes, I believe Frank’s got a point…
…“The Daily Show’s” reliance on Jon Stewart, Media Personality, is to leave its audience with an understanding of politics that suffers from Stewart’s weakness for the superficial. Sen. John McCain, for example, may support myriad policies that Stewart finds objectionable — most especially those involving the killing and maiming of other people — but because McCain is witty, personable and seemingly forthright, he’ll always have a spot in “The Daily Show’s” heart…
It’s the shallowness of Stewart’s politics that leads to his other notable weakness as a political pundit (which, “just a comedian” protestations aside, he clearly is); namely, his tendency to fall prey to the trap of blaming “both sides”…Stewart can be so worried about sounding partisan, and thus losing his straight-shooter credibility, that he can make arguments and jokes that are insincere on their face. Predictably, this tic has been more obvious in the Obama years — like when he tried to give the conservative (and thinly veiled) Obama-needs-a-teleprompter meme a “Daily Show” spin…
…If liberals want to see more of the kind of direct action that’s characterized the Occupy Wall Street and #blacklivesmatter movements — if they really want to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable — they’re going to have to embrace a political vision that has grown beyond the idiosyncratic limitations of Jon Stewart.