How anti-establishment, really, is Jon Stewart? He sounds independent. He seems to be authentic. He sounds like he thinks he is saying exactly what he thinks we think he thinks.
Then why the hell is there bleeping?
No, I don’t believe Jon Stewart is being naughty. Genuinely naughty people do not appear on Oprah, or host the Oscars. Genuinely naughty people don’t get tv shows, with the enormous costs underwritten by Time Warner, one of the most “established” media companies there is.
He is not exploding with righteous indignation, so overwhelmed that he must use the strongest word he can think of to express his outrage. No, he isn’t. If he was, there would be no bleep, because the bleep is not what most people think it is– it is not a network censor alertly snuffing an obscenity while monitoring a live broadcast. The bleep is done by an employee of Time Warner.
So you have to ask yourself, why doesn’t Time Warner simply tell Jon Stewart to stop using words that it has decided should not be allowed on television? Why not? Come on– think seriously about it. Forget the drama that plays every night on “The Daily Show” and consider the reality instead: why not? And why, if Jon Stewart has such high personal standards for honesty and integrity, does he allow them to do it? And since he allows them to do it and they keep doing it and he keeps doing it — isn’t what we have here actually a little “drama”? A shtick?
The idea Stewart wants to believe is that Stewart authentically wants to be himself but the deep, dark forces of repression prevent him.
I don’t believe he wants us to hear anything quite so much as the bleep itself, to imply that he is so naughty, so out-of-control free-spirited and independent, that he just says whatever he thinks, even if some weird authority– who is not stopping him from criticizing politicians– has to bleep it out. So, are we to believe that these authorities who are protecting our delicate moral fiber from being sullied by foul language, don’t care when he criticizes the government?
Or is the bleeping intended to give us an illusion? We are so cool because we listen to a guy who is so toxic to the government, that they have to bleep him? It doesn’t make any sense. The network (HBO, which is owned by Times Warner) pays Jon Stewart a lot of money to be on their tv show so they show him to as many people as possible and make lots of money selling advertiser dollars. If Stewart was really subversive or dangerous in any way, the government would express its displeasure to Times Warner’s Board of Directors (rich, anonymous bastards, who have dinners with politicians) and the Board of Directors would call in the producers and the producers would tell Jon Stewart not to go there.
If Stewart, like Bill Maher before him, decided to “take a stand”, don’t think for one second that Times Warner would hesitate to fire him. You think Jon Stewart’s too popular for them to do that? He’s not too popular to be bleeped. He’s not too popular to sit in that same seat night after night knowing full well he will get bleeped again and again. He’s not too popular to consent to the bleep.
It makes me wonder what a real rebel would sound like. Probably something like Pete Seeger.
We know that. A real rebel says things like this: you can say what you want about the terrorists who crashed their planes into the twin towers but one thing you can’t call them is “cowardly”. A real rebel says that and the real rebel gets fired from a show that claimed to be “politically incorrect” .
It was a magical moment of transparency for television that nobody seemed to even notice. A television program billing itself as “politically incorrect” and ostensibly containing the free, independent expressions of opinion and ideas, was obviously a charade, a hoax, a fraud. The first time someone on the program expressed an opinion that was really at odds with the powers-that-be, the establishment shut him down. And barely anyone complained. They were too busy protesting Janet Jackson’s nipple.
So what’s the point of the show? Why did they bother to let it on the air if they were only going to shut it down if it ever actually was “politically incorrect”? Obviously, the point is to give the illusion to everyone that we have freedom of speech. We are free country. Nobody is telling you what to think.
So the fact that Jon Stewart is still on the air is somewhat distressing to me. It makes me suspect that Jon Stewart is on the air to convince the American public that they have been regularly exposed to the full range of intelligent opinion about serious matters social, economic, and political. All they have to do to exercise their freedom now is choose between, for example, John McCain, who wants to continue to use rendition to deal with suspected terrorists, continue to abridge the civil rights of all Americans, continue to use torture on the illegal prisoners, keep health care in the hands of private, for-profit insurers, and continue the war in Afghanistan, and Barack Obama, who wants to continue to use rendition to deal with suspected terrorists, continue to abridge the civil rights of all Americans, continue to use torture on the illegal prisoners, keep health care in the hands of private, for-profit insurers, and continue the war in Afghanistan.
I think most Americans don’t think the idea of consuming less, for example, is a serious opinion. Or the idea of self-restraint. Or putting part of your wages aside into a savings account. Or waiting until you have a legitimate down payment before buying a house. These are opinions even Jon Stewart will not express. It is one thing to attack them– the big banks, the Bush Administration– because everyone can still feel innocent. Attack the real cause of the economic meltdown– the utter credulousness of the American consumer along with his passionate greed– and you will be regarded, decisively, as politically incorrect.
In “Ladies and Gentleman, Mr. Leonard Cohen”, Cohen is shown about to do a recording in a studio. A producer reminds him, just before they start, not to use any “dirty” words. Cohen, who is normally the most sanguine of poets, is briefly visibly annoyed, and says: There are no dirty words, ever.
Years later, Cohen bleeped himself in performances of “The Future” substituting “careless” for the word “anal” in this line:
Give me crack and anal sex
Take the only tree that’s left
And stuff it up the hole in your culture