I watched the entire Maddow/Stewart interview but this was the only segment worth commenting on.
[Before I dig in I want the readers to know exactly how I view John Stewart and his humor so you can see where I am coming from.
John Stewart is not as well-informed on some issues as I would like him to be. I am not saying that he is ignorant, indeed he is better informed than most people, but my main critique on him has always been that some of his humor is not based on reality, often it is based on a spun assumption or talking point that strays away from directional accuracy. Sometimes he does this on purpose for a good line or gag, but sometimes he just takes things so far out of context that the humor becomes either too unfair or to unbelievable to be funny. The reason that this bothers be is because some young people really take what he says as fact and sometimes that does damage or causes confusion. As a resent college grad I saw this first hand.
When Stewart gets it wrong it is not because of self-delusion, but rather it is because of genuine ignorance of some issues that are not easy to study. For example when Stewart interviewed Governor Rick Perry he questioned the Governor about why the Founders abandoned the Articles of Confederation and adopted the Constitution, Stewart’s argument shows that he is unaware of just how powerful the states were until the adoption of the 17th Amendment. He seemed unaware how powerful the states were still intended to be under the Constitution and how limited the federal government was intended to be (most people have no idea how the Supreme Court kowtowed to FDR after the “court stacking” threat and as a result the idea of a limited central government started to go right out the window.]
This interview shows that Stewart is a person of serious introspection. It become clear in this interview that he is quite good at examining himself with a critical eye. He really understands himself and his humor. It takes substantial intellect and character to be able to do this to the degree that he does. This is exactly what most hard-core ideologues don’t do, and this includes most far left academics I have encountered.
Stewart does not do self-delusion, Maddow does (we have deconstructed some of her monologues here and taking her premises apart is not much of a challenge) and it becomes obvious that Stewart sees this as Maddow tries to draw some sense of equivalency and some validation from Stewart. Stewart’s analysis of how he sees himself and how he starts to critique Maddow’s view of him and herself began demonstrating just how much of an intellectual and critical thinking mismatch the interview was becoming.
Then Stewart does something that really impressed me, he realized that the conversation was really starting to demonstrate just how much of a mismatch this was and that if it continued she may end up being embarrassed, so he stops it right there, changes gears and says, “I like you.” That was a remarkable display of compassion and restraint which is not an easy thing to do when you have the advantage. Even at that moment Stewart was very aware of himself and aware of how Maddow might be viewed if he continued. It was very gracious.
Maddow is very articulate and knows show to appear likable for television, but it is important not to confuse facund with great intellect and/or critical thinking ability.
Some people have asked us why we do not engage in more fact checking and debunking of MSNBC silliness. The answer may sound like arrogance but truth often has a sting all its own. That truth is this: MSNBC is so small time that they are not much of a threat and their intellectual dishonesty will keep them this way. Another unpleasant truth is that Maddow/ Olberman/Schultz are much like Media Matters and Newsweek in that they are such easy targets that piling on with the fact checking and debunking would lose amusement and educational value pretty quickly; compassion and/or pity start to play a role when taking their statements apart is so easy. Last but not least ( know I am going to get it for saying this) this writer is not comfortable with piling onto “the girl”. It does not mean that I think any less of women, but rather that I love women and chivalry is not quite dead yet. I was not comfortable when they piled onto Hillary Clinton, I was not comfortable with it when it was done to Sarah Palin, Meg Whitman, Christine O’Donnell, Nikki Haley etc.