By Nick BeJeaux
Jon Stewart has announced that he is leaving The Daily Show, much to the audible chagrin of his audience and, more relevantly, myself.
Ask anyone of my generation with a working head on their shoulders and they will probably tell you that programs like The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, and The Colbert Report offer better news analysis than CNN, NBC, and especially the ghastly FOX News. Still, even among the previously mentioned satirists, Stewart stood above not because of his wit or his humor, but because of his unflinching and consistent skepticism and criticism of the media.
The media in America likes to portray itself as a watchdog; always on the lookout for what may cause harm and doing it’s absolute best to inform the public. Stewart took on the role of the watchdog’s watchdog, though he did so humbly and out of obligation. I had once taken Stewart as a comedian just looking to poke fun at the first politician or world leader that farts during a press conference, until his appearance on a 2004 episode of CNN’s Crossfire. If you haven’t seen this circus on YouTube, go watch it — after you’re done reading this, that is. While the discussion he had with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson quickly derailed, the points he brought up was enough to get the show cancelled before 2005.
His criticisms seem obvious in hindsight, and it’s remarkable that the great CNN never considered to bring actual experts on topics like social security, the environment, and war and instead focused on the politics of these issues. Stewart was adamant that such discussions were ruining political cooperation in America, and he was right.
Stewart is a liberal Democrat, but, likely in part due to proximity to faux-Republican Stephen Colbert (who is also a Democrat), I’ve always felt the he’s an equal-opportunity satirist. Though I do enjoy Bill O’Reilly’s description of him as FOX’s “Uber Liberal Pal.” Still, he showed us every day on his show that no one is beyond reproach, even the people who you generally agree with.
Because of his irreverence and commitment to presenting facts, Stewart’s 15-year career has left an indelible mark on American journalism and politics for the better. To be fair, the partisan pandering to extremist views in media and congress that he fought against is still there, but Stewart and his fellow satirists have given the American people a way out from that jungle. For that, Mr. Stewart, we thank you.