Hey, FNC: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Of all the commentators on the broadcast spectrum, of all the newsmen and talk show hosts who blubbered it up afterward, it was Jon Stewart who finally got to me about September Eleventh.

“The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. And now it’s gone. And they attacked it,” Stewart said during a weepy monlogue on The Daily Show in 2001. “This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce, and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.”

I didn’t cry about September Eleventh until I saw this. His words were uncharacteristically stammered and punctuated with fidgets, poking his desktop with a pencil, that sort of thing. It was perfect and powerful, and it was what allowed me to cry. It’s no wonder someone who can move me like that over that can offer me a full-on belly laugh every night.

I’m reviewing Stewart’s monologue today to try to remember and explain why “The Daily Show” is good, because I’m trying to figure out why Fox Noise Channel’s (thanks, Keith) “Half Hour News Hour” is so frightfully bad. Disclaimer: I have only seen the Interweb clip, and that is probably all of it that I shall see. Viewing more of it might require me to seek medical attention.

The success of “The Daily Show” and its spinoff, “The Colbert Report,” was summed up nicely in a recent Rolling Stone article, a feature piece on Stewart and Colbert. Quoth: “Ben Karlin, Stewart’s thirty-five-year-old production partner who oversees both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, says that ‘the biggest mistake people make is thinking that Jon and Stephen sit down before every show and say, ‘OK, how are we going to change the world?’ or any bullshit like that. They both really just want to get a laugh.”

Compare that point of view to that of “1/2 Hour News Hour” creator Joel Surnow, who has also given us the mind-numbing it-will-happen-here propaganda program, “24”: “One of the things that’s definitely not out there is a satirical voice that skews to the right as opposed to the left. You can turn on any comedy satire show on TV and you’re going to hear 10 Bush jokes, 10 Cheney jokes, but you’ll never hear a Hillary Clinton joke or a global-warming send-up.”

Leave it to a guy working for FNC not to even be able to get even the most basic facts correct:

  • Sept. 19, 2006, Jon Stewart puts President Bill Clinton on the “Hot Seat” and asks: “Mr. President, Hilary Clinton may be running for President. If so, what is the key to defeating her?” A Hillary Clinton joke.
  • Just this week: A piece runs by Dan Bakkedahl about how global warming affects the Coney Island Polar Bears. A global warming send-up.

Which is beside the point. It is among many reasons that the “1/2 Hour…Hour” and FNC, the beast what spawned it, are respectively  not-funny ha-ha and the not-funny strange. But it’s primarily because “The Daily Show” is produced by comic performers for a comedychannel with current events as its grist. The other is produced by propagandists for a propaganda channel that uses current events peppered with party talking points. One’s primary mission is to be funny, while the other’s is to obsfucate while wearing a funny hat. 

A Stewart quote from the 9/11 monologue shows that he has always understood his job, profoundly. He said: “A lot of folks have asked me, what are you going to do when you get back? What are you going to say? What a terrible thing. But I don’t see it as a burden. I see it as a privilege. I see it as a privilege, and everyone here does see it that way, and the show in general, we feel like is a privilege, even the idea that we can sit in the back of the country and make wisecracks, which is really what we do. We sit in the back and we throw spitballs, and never forgetting the fact that it is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that.”

Stewart understands that comedy comes from, among other places, freedom—from a drive toward it, from a lust for it, from an utter respect for it. The Fox Noise Channel’s mascot is a big bloated head constantly spitting “shut up!” at people. They don’t view Stewart’s wisecracks as a “luxury.” They think it’s a nuisance, and so they’ve hatched this pile of vomit in part of its broader effort to shout them down.

One can hope that the “Half Hour Comedy Hour” will be the Fox Noise Channel’s Last Big Mistake, that as incredibly unfunny as it is, it will expose its viewers to the truth about itself, and that they will tune out.

After all, it’s got the word “comedy” in the title. What else might they be lying to you about?

Watada, Blackwater

The developments re: Iraq become more interesting every day. Watada got a mistrial. It looks like just so much legal posturing and doesn’t mean Watada won’t face trial. I think it means the court didn’t want to recognize Watada’s assumptions. Here’s something for later reading

Also, an interesting development in the case of the Blackwater contractors killed and strung up burnt in Fallujah. It turns out that their supervisor was sounding the bells. “I have requested hard cars from the beginning and from my understanding, an order is still pending. Why, I ask?…It is my understanding that someone in Kuwait made a decision to go with Suburbans that are used…Bad idea!” Such developments are vital since the Blackwater slaughter was such a clear turning point for Americans in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in my lovely home state: An interesting point raised to me recently: The Virginia House recently passed HJ728 which expresses “profound regret for Virginia’s role in sanctioning slavery and other forms of discrimination.” The Senate’s version “acknowledges with contrition the involuntary servitude and calls for reconciliation among ALL Virginians.” This from the same state that recently sponosred and got passed a ballot issue against marriage rights for homosexuals. This is not to disparage the resolution apologizing for slavery, though it is noted that Virginia approved it kicking and screaming. But still. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy. 


Meatwad the Bomb Among Other Absurdities

:: This rant is for Molly Ivins, one on my short list of people I always wanted to be like when I grew up. Hell, I still do. God bless her. ::

As a sometimes fan of the Adult Swim television program called “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and as a never ever fan of the current administration and the “war” on “terror,” I adore the recent news from Boston.

That Lite-Brite-like frames portraying Ignignokt and Err flipping the bird could lead to such absurd depths, it has many tasty levels to it. It’s like when some conservatives took Stephen Colbert seriously. It’s like when Ashcroft erected the big curtain to cover up a boobie. What it’s like is, that only a narc would discover a graphic of the Mooninite Marauders and conclude that it’s terrorism.

The only reason it isn’t as absurd on its face as it could be is that it stands in comparison next to the larger effort that spawned it, the phrase that forces me to break out the scare quotes, the “war” on “terror.”

America, I think, was too quick to swallow this monstrous absurdity. We’ve declared war on poverty, on cancer, and on drugs, but each of those declarations comes with an implied understanding that these “wars” on inantimate objects and concepts are somewhat hyperbolic. The current president has actually declared “war” on a tactic, a war that’s unwinnable on its face since you lose so long as there’s a boy and a bomb and a dream anywhere in the world and since success can only be gauged by what doesn’t happen.

Nearly the whole of what makes George W. Bush such an intriguing character is that it is close to impossible to ascertain if he is merely stupid, or if he, in the immortal words of Homer J. Simpson, “sucks like a fox.” Was it mere incompetence and stupidity that led these people to fire all the Baathists and send them unemployed and poor into the economy we’d just wrecked, or was it planned chaos, established so masked men in three-piece suits could plunder the country? Was the current president just stupid and therefore asleep at the switch when the airbuses plowed into the towers, or, as some believe, was there some nefarious design to it?

The answer is that the current president is merely stupid.

When the Supreme Court gave him the office, the current president had come that far in part due to the profound superstition that, because Bill Clinton had allowed a woman to suck his penis, Bill Clinton was a bad president. The current president said he would “restore integrity” to the White House, the most ironic thing that has ever been said in the entire history of the universe. The current president decided that the way to accomplish that was to declare it to be Opposite Day in America. He withdrew from international treaties. He disengaged from the Israel peace process. He condemned by executive order clinics overseas that even said words that rhymed with “abortion.” In the spirit of Presidential Opposite Day, the current president and his administration directly flouted direct advice from his predecessors regarding a lanky idiot called Osama Bin Laden.

Actions such as the one we saw this week in Boston and the absurd declaration of a “war” on “terror” are simply hyper-super-duper-overcompensations for a president who was asleep at the switch on and before Sept. 11, 2001, that he rolled his eyes at the August PDB, that he found Richard Clarke to be an annoying loon, that he dismissed the credibility of his predecessors’ dire and sadly accurate warnings because of a weird national superstition about a president who let a woman suck his penis. From that, we get illegal wiretaps, Abu Ghraib, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the swift action of those sworn to protect and serve at cartoon characters run amok.

It does roll downhill. It really does.