In the clip below Jon Stewart rails the hosts of the television show Crossfire (no longer on the air) claiming they don’t ask the “tough” questions, and that because of this their show is “hurting America”. Jon is certainly correct in his point, but when the hosts try to turn those same questions back to him (at minute 4:00) Jon claims he is just a comedian on a comedy show and that it isn’t his job.
Any respectable comedian knows that the jester was the only person who could speak truth in the Kings court and that speaking truth to power is a fundamental characteristic of a good political comedian.
The jester was the only person permitted to tell the king the plain, unupholstered truth about things as he saw them, even about royalty itself and the most intimate matters pertaining to royalty; and he was not only permitted but expected to do this. The jester criticized State policies in a full-mouthed way that would have insured anybody else a life sojourn in the Bastille; and he got praise and favor for it. He could tell the king that his favorite mistress was a mercenary old rip who should be thrown to the sharks and, as our phrase goes, he could get away with it, and be applauded for it, which no one else could do, either in the court or in the kingdom at large.
The truth is Jon Stewart has a very important job to do but he never wants to hold himself to his task and that is what is “hurting America”.
Tom McKay of PolicyMic.com points to a perfect example of Jon shirking his comedic responsibilities during a recent interview with a ‘drone expert’.
Wednesday, Jon Stewart welcomed Mary “Missy” Cummings, an MIT associate professor of aeronautics to the Daily Show to help promote a PBS documentary called Rise of the Drones.
Cummings appears as a technical expert in Rise of the Drones, and Stewart questioned her on drone technology, its commercial applications and their purpose. Unfortunately, the entire segment focused mainly on the non-combat and non-assassination use of drones, including theoretical commercial applications, rather than a discussion of the ethical quandaries posed by their use in warfare and targeted killings. Throughout the program, both host and guest vaguely joked about the dystopian nature of drone strikes and surveillance but failed to critique it as such.
Stewart let some curious answers slip through the cracks. When he did come close to asking about civilian deaths concerning drones, asking “is it easier to lose sight of its killing power, given the distance that you have from it?” Cummings responded:
“We have been backing up warfare for many, many years — from the high-altitude bombing to Tomahawk missiles, ballistic missiles — so flying drones is getting us further from the target, but that has been a long, existing trend.”
No question from Stewart on whether that is a trend worth continuing, or whether the depersonalization of warfare is a problem, given the asymmetries of power involved and 2,600-3,400 deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan alone. Cummings went on to point out that drones make warfare easier and safer:
What could have been an honest and insightful discussion about a very serious issue was instead a PR piece for the governments murderous drone program.
I personally just love all the giggly feel good jokes Jon provides to help me laugh at the death of small children. </sarcasm>
Jon Stewart’s softball drone interview: