Still whinging that his Big Important Rally was misunderstood, Jon Stewart took a seat beside Rachel Maddow and, in the first segment of their interview (the remaining pieces of which, as well as the raw, unedited interview in its entirety, can be found here), explained what the rally was REALLY all about to us stupidfuck critics who are too daft to get hip to his jive:
These are the relevant bits that I want to address:
The intention [of the rally] is to say that we've all bought into [the idea that] the conflict in this country is left and right, liberal and conservative, red and blue. All the news networks have bought into that. CNN sort of started it. They have this idea that, you know, the fight in Washington is Republicans and Democrats, so, why don't we isolate that and we'll stand back here, and…Democrats and Republicans will go at it. Red and blue staters will go at it. And what it does is amplify a division that I actually don't think is the right fight.Wow. I mean, it must be nice to be so privileged that you can argue, with a straight fucking face, that progressive-conservative isn't "the right fight," that it's just a made-up conflict started by CNN (!) and wildly blown out of proportion for ratings or fun or whatever.
…Both sides have their way of shutting down debate. …You've said Bush is a war criminal. Now, that may be technical true. In my world, war criminal is Pol Pot or the Nuremburg trials. …I think that's such an incendiary charge that when you put it in the conversation as—well, technically he is. That may be right. But it feels like a conversation stopper, not a conversation starter. …We were talking about tone, not content necessarily.
…My problem is it's become tribal. And if you have 24-hour networks that focus—their job is to highlight the conflict between the two sides—where I don't think that's the main conflict in our society. That was the point of the reality, was to deflate that idea that that's a real conflict—red/blue, Democrat/ Republican. I feel like there's a bigger difference between people with kids and people who don't have kids than red state/blue state.
It must be nice to be so privileged that the most vast difference you see among people hinges on whether they're parents.
I mean, yes, this rally was, from the get-go, evidence that Jon Stewart is a privileged wanker with his head firmly stuck up his ass, but HOLY SHIT. "In my world, Pol Pot is a war criminal, not George Bush." Okay, but YOUR world isn't THE world.
In THE world, the one in which Jon Stewart and the Great Parental Chasm aren't the center of the universe, the "technical" truth of George Bush being a war criminal and Stewart's distaste for the "tone" of shouting that fact in public doesn't fucking matter to the millions of displaced people, the countless dead, the survivors of the dead, the wounded, the tortured, the indefinitely detained, people whose lives were ended or will never be the same all because George W. Bush started two wars of choice on lies with no strategic longterm plans for success, for rebuilding, for caring for our soldiers when they came home, and then threw out the Geneva Conventions and the rule of law, which doesn't even begin to examine what his folly has cost USians in treasure, in safety, and in support from their government as social services will be decimated to pay for his mess.
The biggest distinction between Pol Pot and George Bush is that the latter did his damage while wearing white gloves.
It's not the content, it's the tone. Right, Jon?
And I don't know how many different ways I can say that imagining there is no legitimate progressive-conservative grievance in this country is bullshit. Look, I get that Stewart is pissed that corporate rule is irrevocably corrupting our system, and that the media plays a big part in that, and that people on the left and the right need to find some way to work together to stop the fire sale of the entire nation to corporate vampires who haven't a shred of patriotism or any interest in protecting the long-term security of the US economy, because they'll just move onto China once we've been bled dry.
But suggesting that it's exclusively a false conflict trumped up by the media which divides left and right, and that there are no genuine barriers, beyond ideology and media narratives, stopping some grand cohesion of progressives and conservatives, is unmitigated horseshit.
I guess it probably does just feel like a game to someone whose humanity, basic rights, bodily autonomy, and dignity aren't at fucking stake. But Stewart needs to get it through his goddamn impenetrably thick exoskeleton of privilege that IT ISN'T A GAME TO MARGINALIZED PEOPLE.
In HIS world, where there are "real" war criminals and "technical" war criminals, elite conservatism is populated by people who are only anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-affirmative action for political reasons, but personally want access to abortion, don't give a fuck about gay marriage, and hire people of color without having to be required.
But in THE world, James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, and Dr. George Tiller are dead.
"My problem is it's become tribal." Yeah? Well, fuck you, Stewart. And fuck your smug contempt for the hoi polloi and its primitive tribalism. (I'm not even going to get into the implicit racism in that bullshit. Suffice it to say: Congratulations for being as enlightened as a 17th century ethnographer.) Not all tribes are formed in pursuit of conflict. Some tribes are formed as refuge from attack.
A reality which, I acknowledge, is decidedly inconvenient in its fundamental subversion of the "imaginary conflict" narrative.
I am deeply, deeply sympathetic to the idea that the media distorts and exacerbates conflict, but not the idea that the media creates it. The ideological divide is meaningful beyond having different ideas about how things should be done; it is also, because of ancient bigotry, about who we are as people. Pretending otherwise doesn't help in any way at all the people targeted for who we are. Especially when that dangerous pretense is accompanied by insufferable concern trolling about our "tone."
Stewart says, in order to justify his rally and the philosophy he's embraced which underlined it, and without seemingly any worry that he might be wrong, "I actually don't think [left-right division] is the right fight."
"Right fight" implies a choice. "Right fight" implies that marginalized people could spend their time discussing Very Serious Things, but instead they're fighting the Culture Wars with hysterical tones.
It's not about the "right fight." I don't know any feminist/womanist who wouldn't give anything to never have to worry about rollbacks of Roe ever again. I don't know any LGBTQI activist who wouldn't give anything to never have to spend another moment advocating for rights LGBTQI people don't have ever again. I don't know any anti-racist activist who wouldn't give anything to never have to be concerned with a person of color being denied access or opportunity ever again. I don't know any advocate for people with physical disabilities, people with neurological disabilities, undocumented immigrants, the poor, the uninsured, the unemployed, fat people, non-Christians, abuse survivors, veterans, and/or other marginalized people who wouldn't give anything to never have to fight for equality denied or be obliged to teaspoon oceans of bigotry ever again.
It's not about the "right fight." It's about the necessary fight. It's about the fights we can't avoid, no matter how much we want them to not exist at all.
And, yeah, there was a time when this fight didn't exist, not in the way it does now. And part of that is attributable to cable news. But mostly it's because marginalized people started asserting their rights. We don't want to live in a country where black and white folks are at separate water fountains, gays are in closets, people with disabilities are tucked away in institutions, and women are dying in back alleys anymore. We don't want to live in a country with internment camps and reservations and housing projects, of separate but equal and 75 cents on the dollar and Don't Ask Don't Tell anymore. We don't want to be marginalized for the sake of maintaining civil peace for the privileged anymore.
And if there's a fight about that, it's because the people holding the power to grant our equality are treating we the people as an exclusive country club and liberty and justice for all as a suggestion.
The media didn't create this fight. The media is only responsible for treating both sides as equal, for pretending two women getting married to each other is "shoving their sexuality in people's faces" but the Quiverfull movement isn't, for pretending that "choice" and "my way" are equally valid arguments, for pretending that "because God says so" is a legitimate political position.
And that's the same damn rap that Stewart's running, by pretending the fight isn't real.
It's real. And its genesis is a nation that promises its people equality, then endeavors to deny it to them.
Stewart is right that it's not strictly about left vs. right; it's more about marginalized vs. privileged (which is a lot more left vs. right than it's not). The irony, of course, is that it's his unexamined privilege which renders him unable to see that he's getting it wrong, to understand that his "solution" is just another part of the problem.
Urging moderation, suggesting there can be compromise with oppressors, is just a big silencing tactic, the same one that's been used to discredit marginalized people angling for what their nation promised them, since the nation's inception. History tells us that the only compromise acceptable to privileged oppressors is our surrender. We fight loud and hard because that's all there can be.
We don't need another concern troll, Jon Stewart. We need allies.
And if you're not going to lead or follow, then get the hell out of the way.