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JON STEWART – THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA

Jon Stewart is truly remarkable.  He appears to be: a man of passion whose political beliefs are unashamedly worn on his sleeve for all to see; intelligent with a heightened sense of the absurd, which is just as well given that he earns his living as a comedian, and, after this week’s performance, having an inordinate amount of integrity.

The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

He is the most trusted man in America. How do I know?  The New York Times told me so – along with the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post and just about every other print media of substance.

Why stop at America?

I’m sure that there are many worthy academic articles that have banged on about why a comic doing a faux news television programme shown on Comedy Central has serious street cred. Why have old news hungry farts, such as myself, for the past 6-7 years, in my case, have chosen to get my day’s news first from the Daily Show before venturing out to read or view “proper” media outlets?

There will be, no doubt, historical references to the concept of the court jester – the one person in the King’s court who was given permission to tell the truth and not lose his head. Alas poor Yorrick, or his like, was the one who announced to all and sundry that the Emperor wore no clothes

Jon Stewart isn’t the first political satirist. I cut my eye-teeth with the BBC’s ‘The Frost Report”. It was a brilliant satirical variety show, despite David Frost’s involvement, comprising of skits in which we were first introduced to the talents of John Cleese, and the two Ronnies, Barker and Corbett, and with biting, piss funny musical interludes provided by Tom Lehrer of ‘The Vatican Rag’ fame

Of course, the Frost Report was broadcast once a week so it had time, the most valuable part of the creative process, to hone the final show into something akin to satirical ambrosia. The Daily Show’s consistency in tight, pertinent, yet still funny, writing; spot on performances by the comedic troupe, and what must be a production nightmare resulting in four shows a week, is testimony to the creative team that is the heart of this show.

But it was in the past week that Jon Stewart again rose to the fore.

Sarah Palin was, and always will be, easy to make merry with, satirically speaking.  Her heady mixture of ignorance and arrogance will always provide fodder for comedians, especially satirists such as Stewart.

It was the coverage of Anthony Weiner’s political demise where Stewart shone.  It must have been so very difficult for him to pursue Weiner as he did, and needed to do. Unlike Fox News who, with their usual bias, spent the week trying to cover for, yet again, another one of Palin’s idiotic gaffes, Stewart, in a series of brilliant pieces of humour tinged with pathos, did what court jesters do. He told the world the Emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes.

That episode, tight from start to finish, is worthy of another Emmy – sorry Stephen!

PALIN, WEINER – OOOPS! WHAT A WEEK!

Photograph by David Shankbone

For we mere mortals it is usually fun and always compellingly fascinating when we see the high and mighty slip on a banana skin. In the last week it is two American politicians, Sarah Palin and Anthony Weiner, who have provided us with the humour and pathos of seeing how far the mighty can fall, and laugh at their discomfiture along the way.

Sarah Palin is currently engaged in criss-crossing the United States, meeting and greeting ‘the people’ on a ‘one nation’ promotion. (Where have I heard that expression before?)

Despite her denial that she is running for president in 2012, this latest exercise is nothing more than the Clayton’s presidential campaign; i.e., the campaign you have when you’re not having a campaign.

Sarah Palin has many things going for her – she is extremely attractive, she has a gutter-rat shrewdness for knowing what buttons to push to get the response she seeks, and she is never stuck for a word. She knows what resonates with her core audience, never missing an opportunity, even when one doesn’t exist, of trying to make a political point.

The problem with Palin is that she is neither bright nor knowledgeable which you have to be if you wish to follow this folksy, worldly-wise kind of political approach. She is, however, arrogant. Ignorance and arrogance do not sit well together. They combine to make a cocktail with potentially disastrous consequences.

At the moment she is in no real position of political power so we can look forward to her gaffes with much amusement. The latest, the ride of Paul Revere, came from a no brainer, really innocuous question. Palin couldn’t help herself – the buzz words that resonate: “arms”, “freedom”, “gun”, “liberty” were all inarticulately wrapped up in Palinspeak, requiring the mainstream media to supply subtitles for the benefit of those of us who went “what?” and then fell about laughing.

Two aspects of this blunder I find interesting. The first is Palin’s inability to …fess up to making a boo boo.  Even I, not an American, know about the ride of Paul Revere. How is it that she doesn’t? What are they teaching, or not teaching, within the American education system?  Was she ever paying attention? Who knows – she doesn’t!

There would be more respect for Palin if she had the balls to be able to say ‘well I stuffed that up’, and have fun with acknowledging the stuff up. But she can’t, and that is the arrogance coming to the surface.  She must always be right, or more accurately, she can never be wrong! Palin reminds me of Pauline Hanson when she was at her political prime. It will be interesting to see if she suffers the same fate.

The other Palin-blunder repercussion which I find to be the most disturbing aspect of this debacle was the attempts by Palin supporters to re-write Wikipedia’s historical entry on Paul Revere. Palin can’t be wrong, therefore history must be – so let’s change it. It is plaudits and bouquets to the Wiki people that these attacks of historical vandalism were corrected so promptly and further ones prevented.  Wiki’s credibility has certainly increased as a result.

For Palin the show goes on and her inability to speak off the cuff will continue to supply the water fountain joke moments.

Anthony Weiner introduces the moment of pathos to this week’s political sit-com.  The real issue is not Weiner tweeting photographs of private bits and pieces to the world at large. Ultimately this is an issue for Weiner and his wife and no one else. However, it is the subsequent action of lying about it that is the real cause for outrage, and the serious lack of political judgement, the real cause for concern.  His about-face, when he finally acknowledged that he had erred after a week of panic and obfuscation, made it sadder and more pathetic. One hates to see the death of talent. He would have been in hot water if he had been honest at the outset, but hot water only not necessarily boiling. He certainly would have got brownie points for honesty – a commodity fast disappearing into total obscurity when it comes to politics and politicians.

Official Congressional Photograph, Anthony Weiner 2011

Being a politician in USA is no easy task. In the current political environment, political participants as well as the mainstream media are driven by a conservative and rabid pack of bicycle seat sniffers. This should suggest that imprudent behavior is bound to have professional consequences. Weiner’s lack of political judgement, as well as his attempts at covering up his indiscretions, renders his short and mid-range political future to a place between bleak and non-existant.

And so we end the week with two politicians telling whoppers! Not a good example to set the rest of us.

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