“He’s a annoying, whiny, smug, patronizing, pedantic little git. So why will I miss Jon Stewart so much?”
—Piers Morgan, the London Daily Mail today.
But then, as Seth Mandel writes at Commentary, “The real challenge in writing about Jon Stewart’s announcement that he’s leaving the Daily Show is the fact that every time you think you’ve seen the perfect hysterical reaction from the left, someone else tops it.” Read on for more examples of the MSM making Stewart out to be across between Mencken and the Beatles.
For a more grown-up take, Jim Geraghty explores “What Really Ails The Daily Show:”
In Obama’s second term, Stewart’s late segment pivot from “can you believe what the Obama administration did?” to “can you believe what the hosts on Fox News said about this?” was predictable and a bit of a comforting dodge for his audience. It was the comedic equivalent of the “but aren’t Republicans in danger of overreaching?” narrative-shift that pops up with irritating frequency during Democratic scandals or embarrassments.
Secondly, for a program that allegedly was one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful and important satirical voice in America today, it sure as heck had no problem punching down. God help you if you’re some no-name Tucson school board member taking a stance the producers of the show find laughable. If you’re an Idaho pastor claiming evangelical Christians are bullied by the culture at large, don’t worry, a Daily Show correspondent will fly out to Boise to showcase you to the world. Washington Redskins fans who wanted to keep their team’s name were asked, without warning, to justify the name to angry Native Americans on camera. Are these the Americans most deserving of on-camera rebuke and humiliation?
In the first half of the 20th century, the founders of the newly-emerged mass media did everything they could to entice middle America. Then came the revolution of the 1960s, in which the new left began its “long march” through the culture, as my colleague Roger Kimball would say. In the 1920s, Republican Henry Luce wooed middle America into subscribing to his new weekly magazine, Time. Two years after his death in 1967, his successors openly wondered, just who are these strange people out in the hinterlands who voted for Republican President Richard Nixon? Three years later after Nixon’s reelection, Pauline Kael of the New Yorker famously said, “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” And now that those people outside of the ken of the media elite have a presence on social media, and can push back, even a little bit, again the lies of dinosaur media, they (we) are even more despised by the dinosaur media, as we’ve all seen over the past few days.
One of the most fascinating trends of the last several decades is a media that openly loathes its potential customers, and then wonders how a trend-line such as this occur:
Yes, some of it’s technology.
But some of it isn’t.
Update: At Big Journalism today, Ben Shapiro writes, “The mainstream media still wield outsized power, and when they decide on a narrative, they have the ability to drive it into the minds of hundreds of millions of Americans. But nobody trusts the mainstream media to fact-check themselves any longer. And that, in and of itself, is a massive, narrative-shaping change in American politics.”
As the late Kenneth Minogue wrote in the New Criterion in the summer of 2010:
My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.
And by extension, so are their operatives with bylines.