Cultural Psychology

The Irony of Jon Stewart’s Diatribes Against Wall Street

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The Irony of Jon Stewart’s Diatribes Against Wall Street

Lately Jon Stewart, dean of cable television comedy and host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, has been sanctimoniously criticizing Wall Street for their role in the economic meltdown. Technically, he’s right: greedy financial speculators supported a climate of easy mortgage lending, made loans, sold the loans for profit, then walked away to leave everybody else holding the bag (or in this case, a lot of defaulted loans.)

But he’s really missing the point. He’s not delving deeply enough into the collective psyche of the American public — and that’s where the root problem is to be found. This is a topic about which much still needs to be said, but the point at present is to note the irony in Jon Stewart’s being so self-righteous.

The ultimate problem with American society, which has led to the current economic problems, is an erosion of traditional values and common sense. And the milieu of false values, materialism and moral confusion actively promoted by the media — and television in particular — is a large contributor.

Jon Stewart has never severed his ties with MTV, where he got his start. On the one hand, you get the impression that Jon is a nice, conventional Jewish guy, with traditional values and views about God, morality, and so on. Yet he still actively promotes MTV, with personal appearances, among other things, seemingly oblivious to the tremendous negative impact that channel has had on the minds of the young. I say “young,” but in fact those young in the 1980’s, when MTV got started, are now middle aged adults.

It would be difficult to enumerate all the ways that MTV exerts a negative cultural influence. At the very least we can say it promotes a philosophy of: atheism, relativism, sensualism, anti-intellectualism, and condescension towards traditional religion and values.

Now keep in mind that I am scarcely a fundamentalist, right-wing reactionary saying these things. I am a pretty open-minded person. I write essays on things like the Egyptian Book of the Dead — not exactly the kind of thing you find in the “Christian right.”

No, I am simply someone who still has at least half a brain, and am able to see the shabby MTV brainwashing for what it is: a crass attempt of commercial industries, including television and the music industry, to dumb down the public, to appeal to base appetites, and to shape thinking — for the sake of profit.

And Jon Stewart is there in the middle of the whole thing. He’s potentially doing more harm than good. Yes, he’s drawing some attention to Wall Street’s role in the economic crisis. But he’s also presenting the Comedy Channel, where Stewart’s show appears, as place people should be looking to get the straight story. They shouldn’t. Remember, folks at the Comedy Channel are the same nice people who’ve brought America (and the rest of the world), that wretched show, South Park.

So look, I’m not going to pull my punches here, or be afraid to call a spade a spade. If you want to know what’s really wrong with America, look at the show South Park. The fact that such trash is on television at all is sad testimony to the lack of values of the entertainment industry. It’s partly because Americans are dumbed down that they bought into (literally) the easy lending scam that produced the economic crash. Obviously the entertainment industry is not the whole problem here, but (1) it is a large part of it, and (2) it’s more than ironic that Jon Stewart, as spokesman of the industry, is now acting like a moral watchdog.

So Jon, if you want to help Americans, tell them this: turn off South Park, turn off MTV, turn off Stephen Colbert, and, yes, even turn off The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; stop buying into entertainment industry propoganda; and get back in touch with the true, enduring values. Dust off that old concept, “virtue” and start thinking about what it means.


Written by John Uebersax

March 13, 2009 at 11:48 am

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