*giggles* Where to begin? ...Say one was able to distill the American "left" and pour it into a glass ball. If you shook that ball and looked inside, you'd be watching an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. *gazes in direction of a closed door... a closet? a bathroom?* When Stewart took over The Daily Show helm from Craig Kilborn, he was inheriting a vehicle for topical jokes, but the show didn't extend far beyond that level. Stewart not only shrugged off the show's prevailing frat boy humor and replaced it with his own brand, he also injected TDS with archetypical Jewish liberalism. The Daily Show quickly gained respect among fans and critics alike. Behind all the laughs, people believed, TDS was now saying something. It was mocking the absurdities perpetuated by the American political and media systems. It was hailed as important, seen to serve as a popular yet informative watchdog. *runs hand through hair*
*glances toward the bathroom (?) door again* I'm sorry, do you mind? Just one second. *pulls door open, a nearly empty liquor bottle rolls out from behind it, then curls back inward, I follow it into the heavy darkness of the bathroom* But while the show dishes out condescending mockery (cloaked in trademark sheepishness), it fails to recognize the underlying mechanisms that drive the forces it mocks. There are simply absurd things that happen, and the show dutifully points them out for some knowing yukks. Sometimes, Comedy Jon doesn't even need a joke: simply mugging for the camera says it all. The viewer is already in on the joke. TDS, like the American liberal, relishes in its own superiority and intelligence, but this intelligence exists only in relation to the other. The viewer takes in the show's sneers and thinks, "Thank God someone is talking truth to power!" In this way, TDS ultimately is taken like a sedative. *turns back to you and pulls off shirt... my back is narrow and covered with an enormous adhesive-type padded bandage, with pinkened skin peeking out from behind it... I reach down and pluck a shirt from the shadows and pull it over my head*
*a small dog appears from behind the toilet and scampers out of the room* This isn't cruel, by the way. Cruelty to animals or whatever? If that's what you're thinking. I can't leave him loose, he'll get into trouble and eat things. And the bathroom is way bigger than the types of crates most people leave their dogs in. *dog jumps up onto you, putting his front legs on your legs* He won't hurt you of course. He's a friendly fella. His name? It's Chairman Meow. *grins... a truly beaming smile*
Did you know, I actually prepared for this conversation? I've got some notes here. *grabs a wet stack of papers from the edge of the sink, shuffles through them* The pinnacle of Jon Stewart's rise came on October 15, 2004, when he appeared on the show Crossfire. *picks up uncapped tube of toothpaste, squeezes out a line on a finger, then pauses and finally transfers most of the toothpaste from finger onto a brush and moves the brush to mouth* It was a watershed moment for Jom Stewarb as he boldly confromted Tucker Carlsom aboub the program. "It's hurting America. Here is what I wamted to tell you guys: Stop, stop hurtib America," Stewart proclaimeb. *spits* Crossfire was canceled just months later, and the show's demise is often attributed to Stewart's takedown. The video on youtube will cross the 6,000,000 view mark any day now, and Stewart in no uncertain terms demolishes a flailing and awkward Tucker Carlson. But what exactly was Stewart's complaint?
*still speaking from the darkened bathroom, a silhouette staring down at wrinkled notes* "Why do we have to fight?" Stewart asks the Crossfire hosts to begin his appearance. "Why do you argue?" He's asking the questions pleadingly, in a sad, babyish voice, but he is deadly serious. He goes on to state: "You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably." This is Jon Stewart's true ethos. No cause charts as highly for him as does civil and honest debate. He goes on to describe Crossfire as hackery, he accuses it and the media of serving the politicians. He even name-checks "corporations" and decries the system, but never in his career has he gone deeper than that. He doesn't confront the system, he confronts Tucker Carlson on Crossfire. He naively yearns for the fictional world of Aaron Sorkin's West Wing or The Newsroom where one man's noble stand can change the debate in the face of the entire machine. *runs hand through hair*
*glances at watch* But let's go downstairs. I've got some work to do in the kitchen. *you follow me out the bedroom, down a set of stairs, and around a corner into a kitchen... I reach into the sink, pull out a carton of eggs and a carton of milk* Go ahead and sit down. *indicates a table with a few chairs* Jon Stewart is a coward. Again this places him alongside the American liberal. *cracks egg* It's old hat with you to trot out Mao's "Combat Liberalism," almost reaching the level of parody, so I do so only because its descriptions fit Stewart like a glove. *cracks a second egg into a bowl, pours in a little bit of milk and begins whisking* The Crossfire appearance actually opens with a clip of The Daily Show, showing its own clips of presidential candidate John Kerry appearing on a morning show, where he is peppered with softball questions. Cut back to Stewart, unable to hold back his giggles. *refers to notes again, now somehow stained with egg yolk* Carlson has an attack ready: Stewart hosted Kerry on The Daily Show, and asked him such questions as: "How are you holding up?" "Is it hard not to take the attacks personally?" He is guilty of the very same thing he mocks. Stewart as always takes the ready cop-out response that TDS is a comedy show. In actuality, we find that far from speaking truth to power, Stewart obsequiously scrapes and grovels before it. And now, to quote Mao, "To indulge in irresponsible criticism in private instead of actively putting forward one's suggestions to the organization. To say nothing to people to their faces but to gossip behind their backs, or to say nothing at a meeting but to gossip afterwards." *picks up a dirty frying pan from the stove, inspects it, then pours scrambled eggs onto it... sets it on the stove and turns on the heat*
*shimmers* We can't talk about Stewart and his impact without calling to mind his next great moment, the peerlessly depressing Rally to Restore Sanity. Stewart declared this rally non-partisan, designed for those who don't take the extreme political views he claims are espoused by a noisy fringe. In what world are the "left" and right found within the mainstream media "fringe" positions? He unveiled a motto for the rally: "Take it down a notch for America." Another slogan for the event read, "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler." It becomes clear that by "fringe," Stewart means not the positions themselves but the tone of the debate. He calls out racism against Obama, and then to keep it all-inclusive, rejects those on the left who would call Bush a "war criminal." It all shuts down debate, according to Stewart. Impassioned language is not welcome here, rather, it's more important to make nice. Never were Mao's words more apt: "To let things slide for the sake of peace and friendship when a person has clearly gone wrong, and refrain from principled argument because he is an old acquaintance, a fellow townsman, a schoolmate, a close friend, a loved one, an old colleague or old subordinate. Or to touch on the matter lightly instead of going into it thoroughly, so as to keep on good terms. The result is that both the organization and the individual are harmed." *shimmers again*
*appears to be only half present, or to be some sort of holographic projection rather than an actual physical presence... reaches into a cupboard under the sink and withdraws a small vial of cyanide... but why do you think it's cyanide? It isn't labeled...* Over 200,000 people turned out to an event with no cause. *I sprinkle the substance over the cooking eggs and stir* The meaningless of the event made it safe, the semi-ironic attendees needn't put themselves out on a limb or possess the zeal of those who demand real change. "To be among the masses and fail to conduct propaganda and agitation or speak at meetings or conduct investigations and inquiries among them, and instead to be indifferent to them and show no concern for their well-being" is another example of liberalism described by Mao. Stewart is checking off all the boxes. This liberal wet dream of discourse raising itself up is more than just a fantasy for Stewart, it is actually a demand. By singling out and rejecting "divisive" speech, Stewart is by default excluding impassioned people and all those who reject existing politics, which would doubtlessly "shut down debate." Despite paying lip service to America's systemic flaws, by urging "both sides" to put down their weapons and form cordial working relationships, Stewart is endorsing these two sides and the compromises they might make. Perhaps he believes the answer is in the middle? *runs hand through hair, laughs nervously*
What could be a more perfect segue to discussion about South Park? South Park functions as a Bizarro rHizzonE, or tHE rHizzonE is Bizarro South Park. Both are the product of educated white male joke-guys who see everything as fodder for humor and nearly nothing as sacred. The two also share a mutual scorn of liberals. "I hate conservatives, but I really fucking hate liberals," Matt Stone says. *the eggs are finished, and I take the pan over to a table covered with dirty dishes... I shake them out onto a more or less clean plate... they look both runny and brown*
Hatred of liberals informs many of South Park's "message" episodes. One thirteenth season episode, The F-Word, serves as a 20 minute defense of the word "faggot." But Trey Parker and Matt Stone have an especial loathing for environmentalism. I have secret suspicions that a season ten episode revolving around Al Gore's paranoid fear of a non-existent evil known as ManBearPig was ghostwritten by IWC. A season three episode, Rainforest Schmainforest, sees the boys rescued from the perils of the rainforest by loggers on bulldozers. The episode closes with a song urging the destruction of the rainforest. The tenth season episode Smug Alert! stands out as an example of liberal resentment; in this episode hybrid cars are in South Park's crosshairs for the explicit reason that they make liberals feel smug about themselves. rHizzonE posters would probably agree. Hang on just a second... *darts out of the room... a few minutes pass... finally I return, without my notes. You notice my eyes look slightly red*
At a certain point, however, tHE rHizzonE and Bizzaro rHizzonE (South Park) diverge. Perhaps this is because rHizzonE posters are poor and unsuccessful, while Trey and Matt have hit it big. Perhaps it is because rHizzonE posters suffer from mental illness. Or maybe rHizzonE posters have achieved a level of consciousness and egalitarianism that eludes Parker and Stone. *bats eyes at you* Whatever the reason, tHE rHizzonE adheres to a Marxist line of thought while Parker and Stone take the more typical route to libertarianism-fascism. The ultimate representation of the South Park-rHizzonE mirror can be found by examining the character Eric Cartman. Cartman is the ur-Tom. An aspiring alpha male, he is relentlessly mocked by his peers for his horrific obesity. Parker says in the rainforest episode commentary that everything the character Eric Cartman says about the rainforest is how he, Trey, personally felt after a trip to Costa Rica. The Cartman character is often used as an avatar to say the unspeakable things that lurk in the heart of the libertarian-fascist. While rHizzonE-Tom embraced the light of Islam, his fascist twin Cartman is relentlessly anti-semitic. *twitches, runs hand through hair*
"Both sides are bad, perhaps the answer is in the middle," has long been seen as South Park's mantra. Here, check out this quote. *reaches into pocket where a sharp rectangular protrusion resides and pulls out a smartphone... begins reading* "What we're sick of — and it's getting even worse — is: you either like Michael Moore or you wanna fuckin' go overseas and shoot Iraqis. There can't be a middle ground. Basically, if you think Michael Moore's full of shit, then you are a super-Christian right-wing whatever. And we're both just pretty middle-ground guys. We find just as many things to rip on on the left as we do on the right. People on the far left and the far right are the same exact person to us." That's what one of those fuckers said. You can see what's going on here, right? Both sides are bad, didn't Stewart say that?
*hangs head on counter and begins mumbling directly into it* Team America: World Police and South Park's 100th episode, the two of these really sum it up here. Team America ends with a speech about dicks, pussies, and assholes. I haven't seen the movie in forever, and I apologize but I didn't get far enough in my preparations last night to look this part up. *looks up with a guilty expression* But I think the thing is that they say there are pussies in the world, and the dicks will fuck them, and that's why you need the assholes. To fuck up those dicks once in awhile and keep the pussies safe. Now, the first 90% of Team America was lampooning the "world police" concept, showing them causing more harm than good, but this seems like a hell of a justification of US international policy to me. It's as if in theory they oppose imperialist meddling, but in practice, they support whatever it is the US happens to do. And the 100th South Park episode makes that pretty clear, I think. In this episode, people are protesting against the Iraq war. Cartman manages to travel back in time to the colonial era, where he witnesses a debate over whether to rebel against England. Ben Franklin doesn't want the country to seem war-hungry but also doesn't want to appear too weak, so he proposes going to war, but allowing protests. Someone else agrees: "That way, we can have our cake and eat it too!" In other words, Parker and Stone are using Franklin and the Founding Fathers to speak on their behalf in support of the Iraq war, but as a "compromise," people still get to protest the war, and protests are okay (but the war still happens). Just as in Team America, they are using their pulpit to ultimately, under a seductive smokescreen of jokes, support existing US policy. *doorbell rings*
*I straighten myself up and go answer it, an androgynous-looking woman walks in briskly... Chairman Meow runs up to her, leaping and beside himself in excitement* Hey babe, what's up? *we hug as if pushed together and I give her a quick peck on the cheek... the gesture is automatic, the words sound rehearsed and without feeling... this is a routine with a long history, but any feelings it held have long since been lost* Listen, I know the last check bounced. I'm sorry. I've got it all straightened out now though. Just, can you hang on a second though, I have a guest. Look, there's some extra eggs there on the table, why don't you help yourself while we wrap things up? *gestures toward eggs, then conspirationally puts an arm around you and begins to lead you out of the room... she sits down in front of the eggs, Chairman Meow sitting beside her begging for a handout* Babe, don't you dare feed the dog from the table. Don't feed him human food, I'm trying to crack down on this begging thing. No human food. *looks at her sternly as we leave the room*
So, unlike Stewart, Parker and Stone are not cowards. They pushed Comedy Central hard to allow them to portray Muhammed in cartoon form on their show despite the potential danger for themselves, and when refused, made an entire episode about the controversy. What Matt and Trey actually value above all else is free speech. Their South Park movie was one long treatise on free speech, and in the film the nation runs amok trying to ban the filthy-mouthed Terrance and Phillip. Their free speech fetishization is obviously a libertarian manifestation, in contrast to Stewart's liberal entreaties for everyone to get along. But ignoring the many possible criticisms of free speech dogma as it applies to depicting Muhammed, we can at least say the open market approach to speech allows the powerful to buy the airwaves, allows the rich to fund political campaigns, and does nothing more than support the status quo. Capitalism careens onward with their support, fortifying itself under the guise of free speech. Once again, their apparently strident political opinions amount to nothing: no change in our country's direction, no change to anything at all.
The South Park guys declare the answer is in the middle, and they mock people on either side who challenge the mainstream. That brings to mind, of course, Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity. Parker and Stone may claim to hate liberals, and they may seem to be more similar to 'zzoners at first glance, but in the end, despite all such claims, they end up much closer to the politics of Jon Stewart. The philosophies of both Stewart and Parker & Stone tend toward the same result: a complete and total surrender to inertia. They use their TV shows to make political arguments, perhaps in total earnestness. They truly seem to care about the direction of the country. And yet America as it exists will continue to exist, even if all their greatest wishes were to come true. Without realizing it, neither of them actually want to change anything, and wish for nothing more than America to continue to exist as it does, and for Americans to get along.
*turns away from you and takes shirt off again* I think this bandage is ready to come off, actually. Do you mind? *I pull my hair to the side... you reach up near my shoulders where the bandage starts, and begin to pull it down. As you remove it, you begin to uncover a tattoo... you see first what looks like someone's hair. You continue to draw the bandage back and now you see eyebrows, and now blazing and strangely live eyes gazing out at you... my back seems to extend, enlarge itself as you pull the wrap away, the bandage continues as you reveal a nose, and you begin to make out the face as your suspicions are now confirmed: you unveil a strong, fatherly moustache: Stalin's moustache. The bandage continues, and you continue to pull it away as Stalin gazes back at you. A chin, and now a collar with Soviet markings. Still, the bandage doesn't end, still my back goes on. As you prepare to pull back the adhesive further, from somewhere a booming voice announces: "All new episodes of The Boondocks, returning late 2013!" A crashing sound rings out from the kitchen*