Thursday, January 14, 2010
Jon Stewart Demonstrates the Limitations of an Ivy League Edeucation
John Yoo was a lawyer at the DOJ. Since he had some expertise in international relations he was chosen to write the brief that laid out the limits of executive power in the area of interrogation. His brief OKed the water boarding al-Quada detainees. John Stewart recently had him on the Daily Show as a guest and spent about twenty minutes delving into what he had done and why. John Yoo comes across as intelligent and skilled at putting legalese into uncomplicated easy to understand English. Yoo makes it pretty clear what he said and why. But the interview says more about Stewart than about Yoo. Stewart comes across as not intellectually up to absorbing the few briefly and well stated ideas that Yoo gives him. And I do not think that Stewart is stupid. But the ideological stance that he has defined himself by renders him incapable of the intellectual openness that he needs to make the small leap to understanding Yoo.
Most basically Yoo and Stewart have different basic assumptions about the world. I do not know what Yoo’s assumptions are because he sticks closely to his legal brief and gives us history, precedents and legal distinctions. We do not see Yoo’s personal world or beliefs. Stewart wants us to know how much the whole thing horrifies him. He feels that torture was done, wrongs were committed and that he is on the side of suffering humanity and goodness. But thankfully Stewart does not over do it. He might give us too many peeks at the bloody flag of his feelings but he doesn’t become so obsessed that the discussion cannot move along.
We know everything is moving along because Yoo covers a fair amount of territory. Stewart remains stuck on acting theatrically horrified and stunned by the barbarity of it all. Stewart seems to have heard nothing of what Yoo has to say. At the end of the interview he still thinks and feels exactly the same as at the beginning. I got something out of all the fine distinctions Yoo makes but everything he says seems to go right by Stewart and his studio audience with there never having been the least danger of even one new idea being taken seriously.
Stewart and his audience remain stuck where they started because of a lack of willingness to be intellectually adventuresome. Stewart seems incapable of performing the simple cerebral trick of accepting Yoo’s distinctions and definitions hypothetically so that he can take the exciting journey of looking at someone else’s world. And this incapacity leaves Stewart mired in the rather small world created by Stewart and his teachers.
It is often said of lefties that they are tolerant of anything except another point of view. And you can see that passively in play here. I do not think Stewart is being dishonest. He seems truly incapable of loosening his own ideas and assumptions enough to make it possible to hear what Yoo has to say. Which is too bad for Stewart since there are so many more things in heaven and earth than he has dreamed of. And so progressives are doomed to a narrow little world, no bigger than can be provided by their small, materialistic and seldom exercised imaginations. Intellectually progressives tend to be as adventuresome as your average Amish. They’ll be just fine without all that consarned electricity and those devil spawned zippers. I find two themes defining the leftie cult: control and a need to feel morally superior.
I’m not going to explore the issue of control here. Let’s just look at Jon Stewart’s need for moral superiority. Jon Stewart is infinitely better than John Yoo because Yoo is a torturer, in the pay of the master torturers and misusing his gifts to give support to torturers. Torture is not just normal bad. Torture is BAD beyond belief. But do not worry Jon Stewart is here and he will save you. Not only will he not torture you but he will make jokes about anyone one who would torture you and, if necessary, he will act confused and perplexed when talking to them. But, you say water boarding is not torture? Well you must be a torturer and more important than anything a torturer might say is the shinning example of those who sneer and laugh at torturers. This is a cosmic battle between good and evil. It is the great battle between big comedy and everyone evil enough to work for George Bush. And Stewart’s great talent is seeing all the lines drawn in this battle and always taking the side of good. Why does Stewart need to see so much in terms of a battle between good and evil? I think that men are born with a religious bent. And if that religious bent is not exercised in the normal Presbyterian, Catholic, Buddhist or whatever way it will come out in spades in how you look at what is happening in Washington, D.C. I see Harry Reid as very, very wrong and even criminal. But he is not evil. He is loved as much by God as I am (and that’s a lot). Even Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler are children of God. But so many progressives have a sense that they are not just unbelievably good and far above ever doing wrong but they are endowed with an ability to perceive pure evil in men and women such as Bush, Palin, Limbaugh and Bachman. But they do themselves the favor of setting a very low bar: torturing is evil, warmongering is evil and not believing in global warming is evil. But how many chances is Jon Stewart going to have to torture someone or start a war? And they also seem to feel that they have been given a divine mission of pointing out and punishing evil. But I think this ease in identifying evil the need to be so loud about the judgments is a pathological trait that is caused by denying the soul its healthy and normal outlets
I feel compelled to compliment Stewart for bringing diverse opinions on his show and being civil to those he disagrees with. There has been more diversity of thought and opinion on the Daily Show in the past five years than on CBS and NBC for the past fifteen years. I applaud Stewart for that and hope he keeps it up.