On Monday, Jon Stewart ditched the wisecracking for a sober monologue on the Tucson shootings. "It's hard to know what to say" he began. "I can give you a typical compilation of the day's news excesses, but it doesn't really seem appropriate." Disturbed at how pundits and politicians were blaming others for the tragic event, he argued that humans experience a "complex ecosystem of influences" and that blaming "our political rhetoric" was disingenuous.
In many ways, the monologue was seen as a defense of Sarah Palin against those blaming her for Jared Loughner's killing spree. The Wall Street Journal called the speech "moving" while Good magazine dubbed it "cathartic." However, Mediaite's Andrew Potter had a stridently different reaction:
Stewart didn't bother trying to bring the power of political satire to bear on the issue. Instead he went full-emo, taking "a meaningful, measured and earnest approach to the current political finger pointing over the incident." Which is to say, instead of taking sides, placing blame, and ultimately doing the satirist's crucial job of holding a mirror up to power, he took the safest route imaginable and blamed the media.
Potter then points to Stewart's observation that "It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV." That rubbed Potter the wrong way:
Blaming the media is the last refuge of the failed satirist, the TV-host equivalent to a dying stand-up comedian picking on the fat guy in the front row. After all, everyone hates the media. So while we can all agree that Acorn was as bad as the Tea Party, and that Keith Olbermann is as over the top as Bill O’Reilly, treating the media as the essence of the problem has the ultimately conservative effect of encouraging acceptance of the political status quo.
Suggesting that Stewart should instead rally against the National Rifle Association, Potter cries "You know what would be nice? If Republicans weren't hell-bent on gutting every serious attempt at legislation that would keep semi-automatic pistols with 30-round clips out of the hands of lunatics." Did Potter miss Stewart's message or is his criticism valid?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.