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The iJamming! Weekly Download (of sorts): Jon Stewart


I got an e-mail this week from a close friend in Australia, who had just discovered American comedian/hero Jon Stewart, via his interview with Tony Blair last week. This could cue jokes about how long it takes popular culture to travel Down Under, but I love Australia, and particularly love the close friend in question, so let’s allow that it speaks much more to the insular nature of political satire. In the USA, Jon Stewart has been a cult institution (assuming that’s not an oxymoron) for a decade or more. His “Daily Show,” broadcast four nights a week on Comedy Central, was initially renowned for taking the soundbite fixation of our 24-hour cable news networks and re-presenting it with something of a straight face. “Fake news,” they called it, and to those of us who can’t bear to watch the real news for fear of throwing our televisions out the window and putting a shotgun to our head, it’s become a calming way to keep up with things. Stewart no longer presents the Daily Show with a straight face – he’s far too famous to keep pretending he’s an actual news anchor – but his team on-air so-called “experts” (of which the relatively new Brit, John Oliver, is perhaps the most popular) manage to do so on a nightly basis, and thanks to their collective talents and merciless political punches, we get to learn what’s going on in the world of political television theater AND laugh at it at the same time.

But of course, all politics is local. And though Jon Stewart is so renowned in the States that he presented the Oscars this year, as he did two years earlier, that’s not to say that the rest of the world need know about him, or have any desire to tune in to the Daily Show like we do for some comic relief at 11pm each day. Surely every democracy has its own satirical political tv shows, right?

So allow me to share a clip which demonstrates why Stewart remains so popular as the Daily Show host, almost ten years after taking over the helm. It’s from last night (Thursday Sep 26)’s show. Foreign iJamming! readers may have heard that there’s a Presidential Election going on here. They might also be aware that their savings are going the way of the dodo and that we’re all but a heartbeat away from a new Great Depression. We need leadership, right? Not cynical politicking from a Presidential Candidate who arbitrarily decides to suspend the first televised debate with his opponent because he’s so desperately need in Washington, right? Right. In this clip, Jon Stewart uses McCain’s own words and deeds to lay out the actual chronology of his desperate move, as you won’t have heard or read about in your mainstream media.

The Daily Show makes every clip from its shows available online. (John McCain has actually been a regular guest. So has Barack Obama. And Bill Clinton was back on Wednesday night. As per Tony Blair, politicians covet the show’s credibility.) I’m trusting that this is available to overseas computer users too, as opposed to the BBC’s blackout on all British football clips. If you live outside the States and can’t see the above clip, please let me know via the comments section.

Just in case you think that televised satire is all too easy, here are three editorial pieces on the same issue, what several news organizations are calling McCain’s “Hail Mary” pass. (Damn, more translations needed: the hail mary pass is American football’s version of the last-minute long ball down the field. I mean pitch.)

This one from John Dickerson in Slate, posted on Wednesday, after McCain announced the “suspension” of his campaigning so he could return to Washington.

It’s hard to believe that McCain’s actions would pass his own laugh test. In fact, he’s often snickered at his fellow senators who come in at the eleventh hour to lend a hand after McCain has done the hard work. But the McCain campaign is past caring about how journalists (or colleagues) view his moves. He hopes the rest of the country will see this as a leadership moment.

This one from Christopher Beam, also at Slate.com

First, it should be noted that he didn’t really suspend his campaign. His campaign asked TV networks to stop running ads, but some still aired. Sarah Palin still attended public events. Surrogates and campaign aides continued to boost McCain and ding Obama. And McCain himself still held an interview with Katie Couric (though he canceled on David Letterman, much to Dave’s chagrin). Then there’s the length of time it took him to get to the White House after his announcement—more than 24 hours. Then there’s what he did when he got there—upset a bipartisan agreement that appeared to be moving along well, remain mostly silent during the key meeting with Obama and President Bush, blame Democrats for the mess-up, and accuse Obama of “posturing.” His final act was to skip off to Mississippi for the debate.

And this one from E. J.Dionne Jr. in today (Friday’s) Washington Post.

If you doubt that McCain’s moves were about rescuing his candidacy rather than our economy, consider how his proposal to suspend the presidential campaign came about.

McCain had just finished a phone call with Obama on Wednesday in which they discussed a joint statement of principles and McCain broached the idea of suspending the campaign. Obama said he’d think about it, but McCain didn’t give him time. To Obama’s surprise, McCain appeared on television shortly after the conversation to announce his unilateral pause in campaigning and a call for postponing Friday’s debate. This is bipartisanship?

No, it’s politics as (un)usual. We have to trust enough members of the American public will see through it to vote for Obama. Because talking of being but a heartbeat away….

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