Jon Stewart and the 9/11 Health Care Bill: Comedy Isn't Always Funny:
Don't be stupid and don't act coy, New York Times. Of course, the 9/11 first responders health care bill passed because Jon Stewart made it his cause on The Daily Show. It was an epic assist to New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillenbrand (who get the points because they were in position to actually, you know, vote on the bill).
And, yes, it was advocacy, but it was borne not from partisan activism. No, it was part and parcel of what The Daily Show does in pointing out and, 999 times out of 1000, mocking the absurdity of contemporary politics and the media. This was that single time when mocking could not be the sole approach, so Stewart interviewed people who are directly impacted by the legislation.
Because, at the end of the day, it was too much to bear that, during a time of profligate spending on useless wars and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the nation couldn't afford what amounted to chump change in the scheme of things to help the men and women who sucked down poison, concrete, and human ash rescuing people and digging through the remains during the first act of the very wars that Congress and two Presidents have funded without pause. And that, for the most part, the national media was ignoring it. And that it took a guy who makes at least part of his living reading dirty puns to bring it to everyone's attention. That's absurdity. That's comedy of Chaplinesque tragic proportions.
It was the logical end for a year when Stewart and The Daily Show have used comedy to call for rationality, as in its Rally to Restore Sanity. For what could be more irrational than the Senate Republicans filibustering the Zadroga bill? And what could be more ridiculous than a news media more enamored of Sarah Palin's latest jackassery than with the Congress failing in what should have been a no-brainer? How do you satirize that? It's a living, breathing satire in itself. So Stewart zagged when everyone expected him to zig. He took advantage of the closing window of the lame duck Congress as surely as did the voracious tax-slashing Republicans, as surely as Harry Reid did. Good on him.
But the other message not to be lost here is that this is what journalism is supposed to do. On a basic level, it's supposed to hold the powerful to account. It's what Wikileaks is doing. It's the difference between the evening programming of Fox "news" and MSNBC: the former justifies the ways of the mighty for the masses, the latter says that the mighty need to justify themselves.
The New York Times asks whether this puts Stewart in the same league as Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. That's insane. Murrow fucked up the anti-American madness of a nutzoid Senator. Cronkite helped fuck up public opinion on a fucked-up war. These were great, nation-changing causes. Stewart said that firefighters, cops, and EMTs ought to have their medical bills paid for. If that's what passes for a crusade these days, then we are lost, lost, lost indeed.