The destroyer goeth: Jon Stewart's shtick reflects the state of contemporary progressivism

One of the strange things I’ve encountered in writing about Jon Stewart et al. is that when I criticize progressives for getting their news from a comedy program, the usual answer is “Why isn’t there a conservative version of The Daily Show? Huh? Huh?” As though that erased the stupidity of relying on a comedy show for news and insight. It is true that conservatives have tried — and failed, utterly — to do what Stewart does. There are funny conservatives and funny liberals, but they tend to be amusing in different ways, which is why liberal efforts to replicate Rush Limbaugh’s success have failed in the same way as conservative efforts to replicate Jon Stewart’s. It takes a left-wing sensibility to have Lenny Bruce’s career; it takes a right-wing sensibility to have Evelyn Waugh’s.

And it takes a bottomless well of stupidity to rely on either mode of humor for a meaningful map of the world.

But ignorance is the default position, which is one of the reasons why conservatives are at a perennial disadvantage when it comes to taking policy ideas to the general public. To understand the conservative view, you have to know a little something about supply and demand, about what prices do in a modern economy, about unintended consequences, etc. “But if you don’t want to raise the minimum wage you hate poor people and love Wall Street greedheads you racist sexist homophobe!” is, by way of comparison, pretty persuasive among the sort of people inclined to take instruction from Jon Stewart. And that sort of discourse is, unfortunately, not restricted to comedy shows. It is the reason that people like Jamelle Bouie and Amanda Marcotte have prominent media platforms, their respective professional obligations being 1) call something/someone racist and 2) call something/someone sexist, i.e., narrowly focused discrediting campaigns substituted for argument — Jon Stewart minus the laughs. That Bouie, among others, is so completely blind to that fact is a source of some humor in its own right.