Environment

Jon Stewart's Ethic

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorNov 12, 2010 9:30 PM

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There's a decency to Jon Stewart that seems to be in his fiber and which has manifested itself as a kind of professional ethic. This was driven home to me in a fascinating interview he did last night with Rachel Maddow, when, at one point, he said:

There's no honor in what I do, but I try to do it as honorably as I can.

I'm with Nick Baumann, who writes that the interview was

lengthy, contentious, and thought-provoking, but (as is always the case with Maddow's interviews) remarkably civil.

For me, much of what Stewart said is relevant to the larger public discourse on political and policy issues (especially the climate debate), not just the hyperbolic talkfest on cable television, which Stewart adroitly skewers on a nightly basis. So I thought I'd share some notable soundbites that I took away from the Stewart-Maddow interview. Here's Stewart on the dynamic of political partisanship being artificially "amplified" by the likes of Fox News and MSNBC: "What I do believe is that both sides [right wing/left wing] have their way of shutting down debate and the news networks have allowed these two sides to become the fight in the country." Stewart on political tribalism: "We have a tendency to grant amnesty to people that we agree with and to overly demonize people we don't. I do the same thing. I think everybody does...I'm saying, let's just stop defending teammates, your guy." Stewart on the news industry as it is practiced in two parallel worlds: "Here's a great exercise: look at the top story on cable news and the top story in newspapers." Rachel Maddow: "I think there's a difference between having a point of view and being partisan." Maddow: "I think we both [referring to her and Stewart] have a commitment to tell the truth..." Stewart: "...as we see it." In the interview, Stewart's sense of decency and fairness repeatedly shined through--at one point he talked about how he sought to separate people's intentions from their arguments/actions. The discourse gets poisoned all too often, he argued, when people try to divine the "intentions" of their opponents. There's some really interesting back and forth on this relating to George W. Bush. If you have time this weekend, watch the whole (uncut) interview. As Nick Baumann says,

There's a lot in there to think about.

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