Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jon Stewart and the left

Jon Stewart and the left
William Blum
Online Journal Guest Writer
Nov 4, 2010

The left in America is desperate; desperate for someone who can inspire them, if not lead them to a better world; or at least make them laugh. TV star Jon Stewart is sometimes funny, especially when he doesn’t try too hard to be funny, which is not often enough. But as a political leader, or simply political educator for the left, forget it. He’s not even what I would call a genuine, committed leftist. What does he have to teach the left? He himself would certainly not want you to entertain the thought that Jon Stewart is in any way a man of the left.

He billed his October 30 rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, as the Million Moderate March. Would a person with a real desire for important progressive social and political change, i.e, a “leftist,” so ostentatiously brand himself a “moderate”? Even if by “moderate” he refers mainly to tone of voice or choice of words why is that so important? If a politician strongly supports things which you are passionate about, why should it bother you if the politician is vehement in his arguments, even angry? And if the politician is strongly against what you’re passionate about does it make you feel any better about the guy if he never raises his voice or sharply criticizes those on the other side? What kind of cause is that to commit yourself to?

Stewart, in fact, appears to dislike the left, perhaps strongly. In the lead-up to the rally he criticized the left for various things, including calling George W. Bush a “war criminal.” Wow! How immoderate of us. Do I have to list here the 500 war crimes committed by George W. Bush? If I did so, would that make me one of what Stewart calls the “crazies”?

In his talk at the rally, Stewart spoke of our “real fears” -- “of terrorists, racists, Stalinists, and theocrats.” Stalinists? Where did that come from, Glenn Beck? What decade is Stewart living in? What about capitalists or the corporations? Is there no reason to fear them? Is it Stalinists who are responsible for the collapse of our jobs and homes, our economy?

Writer Chris Hedges says, “Being nice and moderate will not help. These are corporate forces that are intent on reconfiguring the United States into a system of neofeudalism. These corporate forces will not be halted by funny signs, comics dressed up like Captain America or nice words.”

Stewart also grouped together “Marxists actively subverting our constitution, racists and homophobes.” Welcome to the Jon Stewart Tea Party. In his long interview last week of President Obama on his TV show, Stewart did not mention any of America’s wars. That would have been impolite and divisive; maybe even not nice.

He billed his rally as being “for people who are politically dissatisfied but who are not ideological.” (Democracy Now, November 1, 2010) Really, Jon? You have no ideology? To those who like to tell themselves and others that they don’t have any particular ideology I say this: If you have thoughts about why the world is the way it is, why society is the way it is, why people are the way they are, what a better way would look like, and if your thoughts are fairly well organized, then that’s your ideology, even if it’s not wholly conscious as such. Better to organize those thoughts as best you can, become very conscious of them, and then consciously avoid getting involved with individuals or political movements who have an incompatible ideology. It’s like a very bad marriage.

William Blum is the author of “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2,” “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower,” “West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir” and “Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire” He can be reached at:

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