The Persistent 'Both Sides' Mediocrity Of Jon Stewart

@FromaHarrop
The Persistent 'Both Sides' Mediocrity Of Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart

Photo by Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

Thank you, Mary Trump, for plumbing the shallow waters of Jon Stewart's wit. A psychologist and sharp critic of her uncle Donald, Mary Trump accused the Daily Show host of long suppressing the liberal vote by telling his fan base that the candidates stink equally. She cites political research showing that his what's-the-difference jabbering helped elect Donald Trump in 2016.

But Stewart's recent resurfacing with a nuance-free view of the current presidential choices was truly the last straw to drift off the bale. After reciting some antique jokes about AARP cards, Stewart shifted into his old brand of analysis, holding that Donald Trump and Joe Biden were basically the same.

"We're not suggesting neither man is vibrant, productive or even capable," Stewart said with his don't-you-love-me grin. "But they are both stretching the limits of being able to handle the toughest job in the world."

To which Mary Trump wrote in response: "In what universe is Donald vibrant, productive or capable?? And this statement wasn't even tongue-in-cheek. Stewart was making a straight-up comparison."

It would seem that a president who has successfully managed two global conflicts, resurrected U.S. manufacturing, slashed the price of insulin and overseen the strongest economy in decades would be called "capable." Biden did it, and he didn't grow younger in the process.

Stewart clearly wants everyone to love him, so he uses his both-sides arguments to ingratiate himself with the right, marketing it as truth-telling. Ten years ago, I was sucked into that vortex.

Back then, when bloggers at respectable publications could still get away with junior-high misogyny, a troll at The Wall Street Journal became obsessed with me. He kept calling me a "Baroness Catherine Ashton look-alike," a reference to a British parliamentarian whom he deemed ugly. About that, I could not care less.

Then he accused me of hypocritically trying to censure honest conservative speech, which this once-upon-a-time Republican doesn't do. (I sometimes even agree with it.) He had no idea of what my position was, but that didn't matter.

Anyhow, Jon Stewart swallowed his attacks whole.

The Daily Show treated the powerful New York media with fluffy gloves. But being identified as a lefty in the howling wilderness of Rhode Island, I was regarded as easy game for both-sideism.

And so John Oliver was shipped out to "interview" me. The segment that aired had Oliver repeatedly hollering a bleep-out F word, followed by a spliced-in photo of me allegedly looking shocked, followed by canned laughter. It was on that level.

Stewart's favorite theme was to broadly condemn the mainstream press as hopelessly lazy and incompetent. And then Stewart pinned on me beliefs I never had based on what some blogging bro said they were. He had done zero research.

Stewart opened by hissing "Journalists! Journalists!" After the segment aired, the blogging pest praised it as "comedy gold."

When Oliver had his own show years later, many of the greatest traditional news sources had fallen into deep trouble. The ever-earnest Oliver looked into the camera with doggy eyes and beseeched the audience to subscribe to their local newspapers.

Just a few weeks ago, lo and behold, Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn was recycling one of his raps on liberals when he took yours truly to task for those beliefs I never had. And what was his impeccable source? The Daily Show of 10 years ago. I mean, my real beliefs are all over Google.

As Mary Trump notes, the stakes are too high for guys like Jon Stewart to get away with neutralizing the toxicity of Donald Trump with comparisons totally lacking in substance. It's a creepy kind of brand-building. And it comes at the expense of our fragile democracy.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

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