Jon Stewart's funny, powerful Mark Twain Prize acceptance speech

Originally published at: Jon Stewart's funny, powerful Mark Twain Prize acceptance speech | Boing Boing


Stewart is generous in this speech … eventually to a fault by pulling his punch(line). Yes, there are terrible authoritarian leaders everywhere. But in the U.S., in any country that’s widely considered to be a liberal democracy*, those leaders only attain power due to the active support of a malicious base along with the aparthy or complacency of a large portion of the electorate. That, as much as political leaders, is what makes democracy so fragile.

I like Stewart a lot. He’s genuinely funny and deserves this honour and he’s on the side of justice and equity. I think he has honourable intentions. But he’s still not quite ready to admit that there are fascists in our midst that we can’t “come together” with.

[* contrast with Egypt, essentially a military junta, or the KSA, an absolute monarchy]



What a great unplugged version of his rock anthem. A lot of his Broadway show was just like that.


Stewart has always had a weird “both sides” mentality: if the reasonable side can just be overwhelmingly reasonable, the other side will capitulate in the face of this overwhelming reasonableness. Somewhat like Obama. (And we know how that story ends.)

Plus, I still feel snake-bit both by Stewart’s weird, baseless Wuhan-biolab accusations and the fact he suffered no fallout from his weird, baseless Wuhan-biolab accusations.


If we think it’s weird and baseless, why would we want to bring it up again?

What’s more likely, Stewart gets canceled over that (of all things) or the theory gets another 15 minutes of oxygen?

So, just ignore it, and it will go away? That always works. Somehow Stewart got a pass, and it’s still bizarre why he got that pass.

Calling out a weird, baseless conspiracy theory as weird, baseless, and a conspiracy theory is somewhat different from mindlessly “bringing it up again” as a rational topic.

Is the Washington Post “ersatz Facebook” now?

That’ll keep us on the right side of the “conspiracy theory” line for sure

Equally unworkable is the proposition that if the other side sees how ridiculous they look in those street interview segments they’ll change. While Stewart was hosting the show and airing those segments, Prince Bush got a second term largely on the basis that a significant part of the electorate was assumed by the GOP not to be part of the “reality-based community”.

When Stewart left the show in 2015, he went out with the DC “Rally to Restore Sanity”. The event was predicated again on the idea that reason and reality would win the day. We know how that turned out.

I’m reminded of the Jan 6 hearings. They’re necessary and important, I’m glad they’re happening, but if they’re not followed up by real reform of the system and by real prosecution of the ringleaders and instigators (not just schmoes like Tarrio or the shaman) then it will just be more preaching to the choir, something for future historians to look back at as they once again ask “how could this have happened?”


Isn’t it also due to the support of anyone with enough money to buy a politician? It certainly seems that way from this side of the pond.

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That is part of it, but you don’t get to that place of corruption without the kind of electorate I described.

There was an almost 65-year period, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, where popular reformists pushed back against the ability of corporations and the tra-wealthy to buy politicians. There was a general understanding amongst the electorate that this was a good thing, and they kept electing people who kept the refors coming. It took Reagan, and then 40 years of neoliberal propaganda, to convince voters to accept propositions like “money is protected speech” (assuming they bother to think about such matters at all).

I’m not sure you can blame the electorate wholly. After all, a majority of them voted against Trump, a majority support gun restrictions and abortion access and so on. The government structure seems to be set up to fulfil the desires of moneyed interests while ignoring the actual voters.
Any changes that voters have been able to affect have been deliberately small and easy to not notice, eg ‘redrawing the electoral boundaries to reflect a change in population’ sounds pretty reasonable, and it’s only a few years later that people realise that the boundaries have been gerrymandered so that most voters can’t affect the outcome of polls. This is a system that has been put into place in lots of small ways over the last few decades, it’s only now it’s obvious that the US’s democracy has been watered down so much that even the most committed electorate can’t cause any unwanted change.

Which is why I acknowledged that the system itself is part of it. In the end, though, this is also supposed to be some form of democracy. So yes, I blame the approx. 40% of the electorate that rarely or never shows up to vote for the President, I blame the members of the Know-Nothing 27% who do show up, and the smaller group of cynical greedpigs for making sure the system stays broken.

Aaron Sorkin has his issues, but he’s right on hen he writes (for one of his Presidential fantasies for liberals like myself):

America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, 'cause it’s gonna put up a fight.

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