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Maddow and Stewart Talk Satire, Sanity

Posted on Nov 12, 2010

Jon Stewart sat down for a lengthy talk with MSNBC power host Rachel Maddow on her eponymous show Thursday night to talk about politics, punditry and, once again, his recent “Rally to Restore Sanity.”

Lest anyone have the wrong idea as to what his event on the Washington Mall was all about, he spells it out in this (uncut) clip. He also admits, “I love the voices that I hear on MSNBC,” but gives Fox News a compliment of sorts while he’s at it.  —KA



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By Eliza, April 27, 2011 at 11:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

That’s really thiinkng out of the box. Thanks!

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By denvercougars, April 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm Link to this comment

Interesting! Crazy how satire news is seen as a main news source by so many. Just watched an interesting interview on it,

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fearnotruth's avatar

By fearnotruth, November 16, 2010 at 4:36 am Link to this comment

RE: (Coburn is the greatest (american) journalist of this day and age)


Coburn, for no good reason, wrote gratuitous hit pieces on the the 911 Truth
Movement - the only faction of the anti-war movement that had a chance of
really stopping the wars

to stop these wars before they expand beyond all capacity to support them and
simply burn out while burning up another million or so lives, the 911 Myth
must be dismantled

Coburn threw half-truths and ad hominem slurs in his ca. 2006 articles -
there’s a curious side to this man, one that suggests shadowy affiliations
- he’s not to be trusted

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By elemental jim, November 15, 2010 at 9:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This interview was painful to watch.
Stewart seemed like he struggled with desperation and Maddow was too nice. Both failed to make the discussion interesting. Maybe Stewart’s excuse was that he was ill and perhaps under the influence of a mind altering substance because at times I didn’t understand his point and wasn’t even convinced that he had one. And Maddow was too nice.
Stewart’s rally was a disappointment as well. It’s difficult to understand how you could organize an event that drew such a huge crowd only to squander a great opportunity to air out all the dirty laundry in Washington. There is so much that needs to be addressed. You can bet your ass the repugs and the tea baggers wouldn’t have wasted an opportunity in front of a crowd like that.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, November 15, 2010 at 12:38 pm Link to this comment

As far as the left is concerned, Stewart is done.

The following is from William Blum at Counterpoint. It fairly sums up what the
left thinks of him now:

<<Stewart in fact appears to dislike the left, perhaps strongly. In the lead-up
to the rally he criticized the left for various things, including calling George W.
Bush a “war criminal”. Wow! How immoderate of us. Do I have to list here the
500 war crimes committed by George W. Bush? If I did so, would that make me
one of what Stewart calls the “crazies”? In his talk at the rally, Stewart spoke of
our “real fears” — “of terrorists, racists, Stalinists, and theocrats”. Stalinists?
Where did that come from, Glenn Beck? What decade is Stewart living in? What
about capitalists or the corporations? Is there no reason to fear them? Is it
Stalinists who are responsible for the collapse of our jobs and homes, our

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By ElkoJohn, November 15, 2010 at 10:54 am Link to this comment

Stewart threw a party on the mall, a lot of people showed up,
I didn’t go.
Cindy Sheehan threw a party on the mall, I went
—only a hand full of people showed up.
The hopey-changey folks voted for Obama,
I voted for Ron Paul and then Ralph Nader.
Life goes on.

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By Thomas Dooley, November 15, 2010 at 9:00 am Link to this comment

Steward’s point that the core basis for understanding political discourse should be whether it is “corrupt” or “honest” is meaningless.

Discussions about corruption is not political discourse at all. In China you can read long impassioned newspaper rants condemning the corruption in the system. What you don’t read are impassioned rants condemning the system which is a ruthless, unfree, one-party dictatorship.

Steward’s view of politics seems to favor those of China or those same sorts of politics found in corporations where harmony is the goal and is forced upon everyone by rooting out corruption and other unwanted disruptions that harm the system. It makes the assumption that we are all in it together and we all basically want the same things.

Of course that’s nonsense. We are most certainly not all in it together and we do not all want the same things. The essence of a healthy politics is a heartfelt contentiousness meant to sort out those matters.

Steward has become a wealthy multimillionaire and he now thinks there should be an end to the fussing and quarreling. We must bring sanity and harmony to our politics—-like they have in China.

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By Michael, November 15, 2010 at 4:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Another thing that struck me about Jon Stewart is his focus on individuals as targets for his, and his talented team’s, satire/humour.

This is fine, as far as it goes, but is it art, or merely wonderful entertainment, watching a superb craftsman at work, a standup with real talent?

Essentially, a “artist” in any field of culture, takes it by the scruff of the neck and imposes his/her will on it, often with a frightening ferocity, that forces us to look at the world and ourselves through new eyes, their eyes, and see things differently. Art shouldn’t, and at its best, cannot be comfortable and reassuring, nice, and full of compromise, and reaching out to everyone. Art should force us to take choices, hard choices.

Essentially Stewart is afraid of having to choose. Even is campaign to step back and calm down and take a breath; is a kind of cop out.

He wants people to get along and stop shouting, to have a civilized conversation, which is a perfectly rational attitude to take. But, but… people are frickin’ dying out there, man! Telling people who are sinking beneath a tidal wave of debt to calm down is rich, coming from Jon Stewart who is a millionaire. He hasn’t lost his dreamhome. He isn’t living the American nightmare in some tent city, and standing in a line for a bowl of soup to keep out the cold. He’s not someone whose been forced back into their old room at their parents house.

Jon Stewart has failed. He, and his team, are not capable of taken the next step up to the level of art, from the world of cosy entertainment for the Liberal class. How long do they think that irony and humour is going to cut it, especially when the axe comes for them? Will they still be laughing at the world when it starts to open up under their feet too?

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By Dar, November 15, 2010 at 12:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Skinny Dog:
“Stewart is a gadfly, like Twain and Carlin, and that’s perfectly fine. We need gadflies.”

That’s just the problem, he’s NOT a gadfly. He’s not Twain, he’s not MAD Magazine, and he’s not “Spitting Image”.

He had politicians and Think Tank mouth-pieces on his show and had them spew their lies. How many times has he had Bill Kristol on his show now?

Stewart wants it both ways, he wants to play a role but then have the right to hide behind his status as a “satirist” whenever he’s called out on his actions.

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By Skinny Dog, November 14, 2010 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment

I love Jon Stewart, but he blew it.

He drew 200K people to the mall, and delivered 3 hours of lame jokes, lame
skits, lame music, and then wrapped it all up with a 15-minute halfway decent

200K people come to the National Mall to stand up and show up and be counted and be inspired… and they discovered that there was no there there.

If Stewart felt he had to go on Rachel Maddow to explain his rally (and he called
her show to ask to come on; they didn’t call him,) then he knows he blew it.

Any comedian knows that if he has to explain a joke, he blew the damn joke.
(The fundamental things apply…)

Stewart is a gadfly, like Twain and Carlin, and that’s perfectly fine. We need
gadflies. And if he doesn’t want to be in the game, or think of himself as being
in the game, then that’s perfectly fine, too.

But if you build it and they come, you had better give them a game to watch if you’re not in the game yourself.

Knowing that he was drawing so many people for a 3-hour event (and he knew
in the final weeks approximately how big the crowd would be) and knowing by
and large what their political persuasions were, and knowing by and large that
they were coming to show their support for liberal and moderate causes, he
should have told them, in effect:

“Look, I’m just a gadfly. Don’t hang on my every word. But here’s someone you
really should pay attention to. This person has something to say. Ladies and
gentlemen - Bernie Sanders…” Or Al Gore. Or Ted Koppel. Or Rachel Maddow.
Or Bill Clinton. Michael Moore. Or Thom Hartmann. For THREE HOURS!

The rally could have been a live Ted Talks of liberal politics and sanity that
could have moved the nation and changed history.

For skits, he could have revived his Glenn Beck impersonation with a giant
blackboard and showed us how the Tea Party is really the Fox Party, controlled
by the Koch Brothers and the Illuminati, who are really under the thumbs of the
Raelians. Then as Glenn Beck, he could have interviewed Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.
And he could have had his “bullshit” choir do a spoof of the choir that Glenn
Beck had at HIS rally…

But you get the point.

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By Peter Fernando, November 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sad to see that Jon Stewart is devoid to genuine
ethical sensitivity. Very sad indeed.

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By Aramaki Gonzo, November 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What’s Alexander Cockburn take on this? What would he write? (Coburn is the greatest (american) journalist of this day and age): “What will the martians think? The last thing the earthlings agreed on was a TV comedian — his throbbing-satire was the hot-shit of the streets, his genius laid in the satire of tabloids (Fox news formats) AND chit-chat.”
Not very ‘coburnish’ at all, but what about this: “A credible satire of the American-media would ridicule ‘The New York Time’, ‘The Wall Street Journal’, ‘Time magazine’ etc NOT Fox news.”
Rachel Maddow is smart, cute, adorable and honest but she doesn’t mediate the urgency, tragedy and pumping-madness of this time.

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By Penny Frederick, November 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This review of Maddow and Stewart interview is merely FLUFF. Without
substance, I think the person who talked you into this interview was dead
wrong. You could have done a lot better with a more interesting subject
even about this particular subject.

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By mark frazer, November 14, 2010 at 10:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i don’t know…bill maher nailed stewart and stewart is wiggling.  more libertarian
crap is what i hear from stewart’s mouth trying to wipe distinction.  i still think
stewart is slightly off trying to adjust.  there is a right and wrong.  this is more
david frum crap.

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By Michael, November 14, 2010 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jon Stewart clearly thinks that anyone who thinks that US Presidents are, or can be, classified as war criminals, are nuts or extremists. This attitude, or reflex, gives a lot of cover and leeway for Presidents. It’s close to a dogma.

He makes fun of the idea that Bush… is evil. Whereas Saddam is clearly, evil. But is it about the evil inside a person, or the evil that they commit outside. Which is more important? Do actions speak louder than words?

Stewart clearly sees those who brand Obama a war criminal as nuts and very, very, extreme indeed, people who are destroying sensible, rational, discourse, as undermining democracy.

But… Obama orders a dramatic escalation of flying robot attacks in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, withoug specific Congressional approval, actions which in themselves, as acts of war, are aguably impeachable offenses… these attacks cost the lives of around 2,000 civilians, close to 9/11 casualities, they result in, literally, a mere handful of hits on terrorists. Would Stewart accept these attacks? Are they act of war? Are they terrorist attacks, like 9/11? Are they even war crimes? Does the scale of the civilian casualities, compared to the tiny number of terrorists killed, have any or no significance, or value, and who is still laughing? Does the intent, the good motive, always outweigh the evilness of the result, and excuse and justify it, if the order is given by an American President?

Is it funny or satire when the Obama administration argues, as it is arguing now in the US courts, that the President has a powr and right, in his role as commander in chief, to order the assassination of foreign and even American citizens, if they are deemed a threat to American national security or interests? Is this a laughing matter?

The President, turning into Judge Dread, and arguing that “I am the Law!” Think about it. The President acting as judge, jury, and exicutioner! And without any judicial review or trial of the accused, because the grounds for ordering the assassinations are classified under concept of states secrets.

So, it’s not enough that Habeus Corpus has been trashed, not the President can order people killed and the reasons are kept secret. Wow, I’m bursting my sides with laughter. How isn’t this parody of democracy and respect for the Constitution, how can this satire of the rule of law, not be thought funny?

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By Michael, November 14, 2010 at 6:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Methinks, the gentleman, doth protest too much!

Maddow doesn’t really get a word in edgeways. Stewart is very articulate and charming, and funny, but he does allow him to avoid awkward questions.

I like John Stewart’s show. I think it’s funny… as far as it goes, which is manybe not far enough.

He is very defensive and accutely aware of the criticism aimed at him.

I wonder if he has considered, carefully, and analysed the role of the Court Jester? With the emphasis on “Court” and not “Jester”?

Also there’s the point about not wishing to take sides, not being partisan, or ideological; but that stance or attitude is a “stance” too. What happens if one has a duty to take sides, that one cannot and does not have the luxury of neutrality?

What is George Bush is Evil, what if he really is, a war criminal? Can one laugh at that, his actions, not just his use of language? What Bush “thought” about Saddam is not really relevant. It’s what he did based on his thoughts that’s important.

Whilst ordering a man to be subjected to the water tortured (waterboarding) 183 is an evil act, the attack on Iraq was a far, far, bigger crime. The massive level of destruction caused in Iraq, the, probably close to two million casualities, the three million refugees, these are not minor acts, one can ignore or laugh at, unless one chooses to. If virtuous people commit “evil” acts, these acts are still “evil” regardless of their intention or motives.

There’s also the question of legality. It’s not just that ordering torture is “evil”, whatever that means. The central question is that the ordering of torture is against American and internaitional law, and in a democracy no man should be above the law. Nixon was virtually impeached for far less than ordering a man to be tortured 183 times. There’s also the question of whether torture even works. Surely, before ordering torture the President asked for expert opinions about the this. Forget the legality, forget even the law, does torture work or not?

Attacking Iraq and causing so much destruction and loss of life, because of what the Iraqi leadership might do at some unspecified point in the future, is close to the definition of preventive war, which is blatantly illegal, and Stewart seems to say that he understands what motivated Bush. That Bush made an “honest” mistake, and didn’t commit a crime. That Bush isn’t a criminal like Saddam was.

Again the defence of good intentions absolving one from responsibility for criminal acts. Like, I believed she was a witch and that burning her was the right thing to do, I’m sorry now and apologize, she was, after all, only an old crone with a black cat. That’s not actually much of a defence, compared to the level of the crime.

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By WarrenMetzler, November 13, 2010 at 10:54 pm Link to this comment

I am sure glad that I watched what I watched.  Because Jon Stewart’s
unwillingness to admit that Bush is an evil man who knew water boarding was
an unequivocal act of torture, who knowingly lied to get us to go to Iraq to
serve his own personal reasons, informs me that Jon has totally abandoned
whatever moral principles he ever had. Bush is a criminal, who has obviously
done more than we know about for most people currently in jail. To not be
willing to call a spade a spade is despicable.

It is not the number of people you have killed, maimed, or done some form of
damage to, that makes you a war criminal, it is that you had one of those
things deliberately done to at least one person.

Guilty by numbers instead of by acts is “moral relativity”, which is taught in
many a seminary; but is a despicable act of intellectual manipulation. Which is
rampant today, and one of the main reasons this country is currently in the
crisis it is experiencing.

Further, the idea that you can’t use satire to inform people, which is very much
“building something”, is nonsense. Remember Dick Gregory and Lenny Bruce,
(throw in Mort Sahl as well)???? That Stewart doesn’t recognize this, and is fine
believing he accomplishes nothing of value as a satirist, clearly indicates he is
pure ego, and lives in a world of total self-centeredness.

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By blogdog, November 13, 2010 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment

both are “part of prime time” - neither dare suggest that water-boarding (for
example) is theatre to reconfirm the urgency of the Global War Of Terror - e.g.
KSM is dead as was reported in Asian media at the time - the KSM trial and
everything around it is theatre - a psyop - these lot would never touch this story
so long as their careers are determined by those who issue their contracts

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By de profundis clamavi, November 13, 2010 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment

Maddow’s conversation with Stewart was the most boring, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, egocentric mutual massage by two members of the chattering class that I’ve ever seen her do. I hope she doesn’t repeat it. Stewart is a comedian. His views don’t matter. Maddow calls herself a journalist. Her hurt feelings about what Stewart said about her shouldn’t matter either, certainly not enough for her to devote at least 1/2 hour of prime time to what should have been a private conversation between her and Stewart. What matters about Maddow is that she is in a position to put news stories and points of view on the air on prime time that other networks won’t touch. She should watch Amy Goodman on Democracy Now to pick up some pointers on how real journalism is done. Rachel could bring that to a mass audience. Instead, she gave us pillow talk inside the elitist media bubble.

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By Dar, November 13, 2010 at 5:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So basically Stewart’s arguments are:
1-Bush isn’t a war criminal because Pol Pot was a bigger war criminal.

2-To the extent that Bush is a war criminal, we shouldn’t say it because some brainless flag-waver may get offended and end the conversation.

3-If Bush’s intentions were good (to protect the American people), then he deserves a free pass.

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By kobe8lal, November 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Having written for many comedians it is my experience that they all eventually decide to become ‘serious’. Jon Stewart is a clown and a very good one. His job is not to opine on the differences between Fox and MSNBC it is to make fun of both of them.
His thoughts on Bush, torture, the media, the left and the right were at best banal.

Maddow was very gentle and patient with him.  And Stewart once again proved how a staff of highly paid professional writers can make a comedian look very smart.

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By chip, November 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment

Hey Jon, Remember Donahue?
He was a guy that was on MSNBC before the Iraq war and well before Olbermann.

I see you think water-boarding is just fine.
How about locking Iraq’s citizens in the same prison Saddam did and sodomizing them with a night stick while asking “where are the weapons of mass destruction” (Abu Ghraib, August 2003)

Just because Bush is stupid does not forgive these acts. He had smart folks all around him.

Bush told the nation on Oct. 7 2002 that Saddam WAS an imminent threat to this country after being told by the CIA on Oct. 1 2002 that Saddam WAS NOT an imminent threat. They then put out to congress and the American public on Oct. 4 2002 (before the Iraq war vote) a paper with the those CIA facts deleted.

Obama is complicit in this crime for allowing Bush and his cronies to remain free and therefore is also guilty.     

Hows that for being neutral?

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on and do nothing.

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By Robespierre115, November 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment

Stewart came across as someone with few valuable points and just hollow arguments. He equated Code Pink with the Tea Party. His philosophy seemed to be just watered down “centrism” which basically offers nothing to the table because it’s such a fantasy. You don’t fight fascism by just staying the middle and arguing for basically nothing.

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By ardee, November 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

I find the comments of Peter Knopfler, November 13 at 6:03 am to be more weighty than the interview itself or, for that matter, the kerfuffle surrounding that “demonstration”.

We seem to have degenerated into a backbiting group who crucify over political purity. Those who are critical of the Stewart/Colbert rally might have seemingly preferred another Glenn Beck gathering…...all so silly, really.

There are degrees of political involvement, there are layers of political intent and there are alliances to be found among those who do not completely agree on every damn point. If you limit your political activism to posting from the comfort of your living room your view might be seen as limited. If you await those who completely agree with you prior to forming alliances you will be waiting a rather long time. This nation needs help, not childishness.

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By Peter Knopfler, November 13, 2010 at 1:03 am Link to this comment

How can you not agree with Generalities.
Jon made a point of explaining the difference between satire and reporting and news and comedy, that Jon is happy as a spectator making comments from the bleachers. Hey, you do what you do best, as for Maddow news, different form of responsibility. Accuracy unbias we hope, honesty used to be, the news, not marketing, puffing spinning, enhancing, how do you feel, instead of what has happened. Mkting gets in the way of good reporting news. Global communication makes 24 hr news easy, there is always something happening some where. Intention, who said the road to hell is paved by good intentions, maybe, but does the initial intention have anything to do with the final outcome, you bet it does, Jon the final outcome, Maddow the intention, Amen!

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