Why I Can't Watch Stewart/Colbert Any More
A reader writes:
I can't bear to watch them anymore, but this has nothing at all to do with either gent, or their humor they're both incredibly talented, and their shows are consistently excellent. But in the end, I think they've become part of the problem, and not part of the solution.
The problem lies in the role they play in the overall mediasphere, especially among Gen X and Gen Y; namely, the fact that for many of these viewers, Stewart/Colbert have become a surrogate for actually engaging with politics and current events more deeply, or treating it all as anything other than an ongoing joke.
I know this makes me sound like a fuddy-duddy -- I'm only 40 -- but still... I can't tell you how many people I know who get their political news exclusively from Stewart/Colbert, and that's pathetic.
It's news commentary, after all, not the news itself. Worse, because Stewart and Colbert are so clever, they make their viewers feel clever -- or at least smug -- as well. But that smugness breeds a kind of complacent cynicism, with the take-away message being something like, "Politicians are just liars and clowns, and politics itself is just a form of kabuki, so let's just treat it as the joke that it is and leave it at that."
That's not an irrational conclusion. But it's also no substitute for taking the time to develop a deeper engagement with politics and public policy, because, like, you know, if there's one lesson we all should have learned while watching the follies of the Bush Administration, it is this: Politics really matters. And while politics is a topic that naturally breeds cynicism, our political process won't be improved by treating it cynically.