Home / General / “The Press is Our Immune System.” “If We Amplify Everything, We Hear Nothing.”

“The Press is Our Immune System.” “If We Amplify Everything, We Hear Nothing.”


Jon Stewart does not consider himself to be doing “politics,” but I believe his closing remarks at the rally today (beginning at the 2:15 mark) will one day be considered among the greatest political speeches of our country’s history.

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  • Davis X. Machina

    It may be a great speech, but he made it to 250,000 too-cool-for-school Nader voters who just know that it’s all a shuck, and acting as though any of this actually matters is not fashion-forward.

    Irony, not tyranny, is what will finish off this Republic.

    • Cosigned, to an extent. I don’t know if irony will kill us, but it will continue to make it hard to make progress.

      Stewart had me until he dropped the line about determining the difference between “real racists” and “teabaggers.” Sure, not every teabagger is racist. But, like so many things this faux-centrism ignores, there’s an active denialism about the racist heart of the tea party movement that Stewart is enabling.

      Some movements are racist. Some public figures are bigoted. Even if unintentionally, Stewart is helping feed the impression that the bar is far higher than it should be.

      • James E. Powell

        Agree that Stewart is an enabler, both by his geniality and by making comedy out of things that ought to horrify decent people everywhere.

        The only thing more common than racist messaging in politics is people denying that their messaging is racist.

        I can’t fault Stewart. He is, after all, an entertainer not a political leader.

        What is killing the political system is the way successive generations have been taught that even if they vote, their vote has no impact on policy choices. It is just a form of self-expression. So, many people do not take their votes, or policy, that seriously.

      • And some movements just use the code and ill-defined resentment to strike chords with what really are regular people. I have to listen to the worst political ads on the planet. Really racist shit, but are my neighbors who are all voting for these *ssholes racist? I can’t say that I think they are. There is this primal fear that the politicians stroke about people coming to take away your stuff- your way of life- just horrible horrible reactionary conservatism at its finest. The people working the message are terrible, and the people who respond to it make me sick, but I can’t say they are all racist, even if you draw them to the logical conclusions of their words and policies. They jsut don’t think about it to that extent. They are emotionally like children.

      • Meh, saying the Tea Party is essentially racist is probably stupid and almost certainly wrong.

    • rcobeen

      Condescend much?

      • rcobeen

        That was a reply toward Machina.

      • Davis X. Machina

        I’m just condescending right back at ’em.

    • DocAmazing
      • Anonymous

        Oh, good, another Mark Ames special: Here’s way, way, way more words than I needed a bunch of crap I that pisses me off all fits together perfectly to explain everything that’s wrong with the world.

        Give that man an ego 1/8 the size of his current one and a small army of copy editors and he might produce something readable someday.

        • DocAmazing

          Call us back when you’ve written something a fraction as good as Going Postal.

      • larryb33

        Pretty damn near perfect piece, in my opinion.

    • ralphdibny

      Let’s not be too dismissive of irony. A knowledge of irony allows me to understand when someone is saying one thing but meaning the opposite, or when someone’s statements have a larger meaning that they don’t understand. In other words, it is an understanding of irony that allows me to understand the dog-whistles and the underlying racist attitudes of the Tea Party that I think they honestly don’t see (because of their completely lack of irony).

      • James E. Powell

        Right, right. But the ironic frame of mind promotes disengagement. Or at least the two are found together so often that I am inferring that the first causes the second. It may be that something else is causing them both. If so, I wish I knew what it was.

        This is anecdotal, I know, but here it is. I know many, many people whose inclinations and opinions would put them on the political left who often declare their intention not to participate in political activities. Every one is a variation of “It’s all [bullshit, or corrupt, or pointless, or a joke, or whatever], so what’s the point of participating?”

        I don’t know a single right-winger who uses his or her dissatisfaction with the way things are as a justification or explanation for non-participation.

    • DrDick

      Frankly, I am not sure Nader has that many supporters (Given that it seems primarily to be Nader’s vanity project, I refuse to take the Green Party seriously until he is gone).

      • Warren Terra

        There are many, many reasons not to take the Green Party seriously (indeed, I doubt there are reasons to take it seriously), but waiting “until Nader is gone” isn’t one of them. He claims never to have joined the Green Party as a member (just to have accepted their ballot spot in 1996 and 2000), he never turned over his campaigns’ direct-mail and supporter lists to the party, and although he ran for President again in ’04 and ’08 he did not have the Green nomination; other psychotic narcissists had that distinction, most recently the noted whackjob Cynthia McKinney.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          I agree with much of this, but 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb, who ran explicitly on a “safe state” strategy, cannot fairly be described as a psychotic or a narcissist.

          • this. only time I voted for a Green Party candidate, actually, was for Cobb

      • DocAmazing

        In California, the Greens have done a lot of footwork for the Dems–phone banking, precinct walking and so on. If you want us to stop doing your work for you, just say the word.

        • DrDick

          Here in Montana and many, perhaps most, states by contrast, the Green Party does not even exist. Unless and until they can organize effectively outside of a few states, mostly with large urban populations, they are not serious. I agree that we need a new viable progressive party in this country (I do not think that the Democrats are redeemable at this point), but the Greens have not made it, despite decades in which to lay the groundwork.

          • DocAmazing

            Well, when you’ve got an alternative, give us Greens a call. Until then, you’ll see us busy doing jobs for the Dems that they can’t seem to get registered party members to do.

            • Warren Terra

              I thank you for your efforts, and I hope that more Green activists are organizing voters and ideally moving the Democratic party to the left. And I’d love to have runoff voting (I’m not a fan of proportional representation, because it requires multi-representative districts, and probably too large a legislature). But surely you can see the irony here, in that your best effort as a Green to get the best (or least worst) legislation is to try to help the Democratic nominee. Under those circumstances – which are seemingly constant – what’s the point of the Green party, as opposed to Green activists within the Democratic party?

              • DrDick

                Indeed. Pretty much my point as well.

              • DocAmazing

                Gee, what’s the point of allowing Democrats in safe districts who veer rightward to run unopposed (looking your way, Nancy, Pelosi!). Change from within is really neat, sweet & petitie, but you have to get outside the party and pull or nothing gets done.

                Greens are also players on the local circuit–until the national Dems come in and screw us. But this is a conversation we’ve had before…

              • DrDick

                Doc –

                My main point is that the Greens are not and have not really made any sustained effort to be a national party. In consequence, there is little or no Green presence in exactly those districts where this is most likely to happen. I applaud efforts in those areas where they are relevant, but they have yet to even elect anyone to statewide, let alone national, office.

    • And another person who totally does not get it. People did not travel so far for this even simply because it was cool, nor was it filled with faux-ironic hipsters. Not caring is not cool to the Stewart-Colbert generation. You’re poo-pooing people as “too-cool-for-school” because we’re the ones smart enough to recognize that only the comedians like Stewart are the ones with news programs obsessed with getting the fact right, cutting through the bullshit, and so forth?

      I – and at least 95% of the people at the rally, I’d bed, at least those who drove more than four hours to get there – don’t give a crap about fashion-forward politics. That’s kind of the point. Which you obviously missed.

    • old

      “There you go. And you claim you want to be a writer, too. You’re only a newspaper man. An expatriated newspaper man. You ought to be ironical the minute you get out of bed. You ought to wake up with your mouth full of pity.”

  • cpinva

    overall, ok, though he gave too easy a pass to the tea party, which may have not started out intentionally racist, but has clearly evolved into a huge, hot, steamin’ pile o racist magnetism.

    also, someone needs to tell mr. stewart that, indeed, americans do live in DC, it isn’t actually a foreign country. they live, work, play and raise families there, always have.

    • Joe Kopena

      From other reports, when he said something along the lines of “The only place people don’t work together is *here*” he wasn’t referring to DC generally. Instead, he was quite specifically pointing at the Capital Building and referring to Congress, but the CSPAN live feed was showing the crowd then so that context was lost.

      • Oscar Leroy

        “The only place people don’t work together is *here*”

        And that’s just what we need–Democrats working with Republicans! Thank goodness the ruling party didn’t just ram through single-payer using budget reconciliation, or pass a stimulus lacking in ineffective tax cuts! We have to give Republicans some of what they want, because they are so reasonable and have such good ideas!

        “he gave too easy a pass to the tea party, which may have not started out intentionally racist”

        The Tea Party is a Republican effort, and we should assume *everything* the Republican party does is racist until clearly proven otherwise–Southern Strategy, anyone?

        • cpinva

          i was trying to be kind.

          The Tea Party is a Republican effort, and we should assume *everything* the Republican party does is racist until clearly proven otherwise–Southern Strategy, anyone?

          as far as i’m concerned, republican and racist are synonyms. they have been since reagan. the tea party is simply their even more whacked out aunt, on steroids.

        • Ed

          I look forward to Republicans and Democrats working together to kill Social Security by inches, bomb Iran, and gut the New Deal. Let’s all be nice, now.

        • larryb33

          Seriously. Don’t we already have David Broder to trumpet this partisan bickering theme?

  • Spokane Moderate

    Did geese fly over? It’s only meaningful if a few geese happen to fly by.

  • DrDick

    If the press is indeed the nation’s immune system, our country has AIDS.

    • elm

      Stewart is making a somewhat similar (and somewhat polar opposite) point: our country regularly experiences cytokine storms.

      • DrDick

        True. We seem to have a bizarre malaise where our immune system relentlessly attacks healthy tissues while totally ignoring pathogens and malignancies.

  • James E. Powell

    When considering the question of whether the tea party is motivated by racist beliefs and feelings, or the extent to which it is so motivated, we should recall that the ‘tea party’ stuff started in January and February of 2009. This was before Obama and the Democrats had had the chance to do very much, and before anyone knew how the economy would be nearly two years later.

    If, as some argue, the tea party was mainly motivated by opposition to the bank bailouts, then their members would be angry at Bush, who allowed the financial situation to deteriorate to such a point that the bailouts were necessary to prevent a total collapse.

    But that’s not how it was. The ‘tea party’ was always anti-Obama, anti-Democrats. It was and remains a protest against the fact of Obama’s presidency. Examine the tea party opposition to HCR. Not focused on any particular provision, but opposed to anything and everything proposed. It was a protest against doing anything.

    • DrDick

      This is the same group which the GOP has been targeting with their “Southern Strategy” since Nixon. They are outraged that their taxes might go to help those lazy shiftless people (mostly of color) who are unwilling to work and lift themselves up. That is what the Republicans have been telling them for 40 years anyway.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        On the other hand for many leading conservatives, getting racist votes is just the most politically expedient path to the tax cuts and deregulation that they are much more concerned with.

        People like the Koch brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife are not primarily motivated by racism (though I’m perfectly willing to accept that they may in fact be racists).

        • James E. Powell

          On the other hand for many leading conservatives, getting racist votes is just the most politically expedient path to the tax cuts and deregulation that they are much more concerned with.

          Bingo! The question is, how can Democrats, or more specifically anyone who opposes the corporate ruling class’s agenda, counter the appeals to racist beliefs (conscious) and tendencies (unconscious)?

        • DrDick

          Exactly. These rubes are being used and abused by the money boys to accomplish what they could never do openly.

  • charles pierce

    Yeah. Lincoln’s 2d inaugural and Gettysburg Address, FDR’s first inaugural, King at the Lincoln Memorial, LBJ on the Voting Rights Act and…Jon Stewart telling us all to play nice.
    I believe that, one day, you will regret this post.

    • mark f

      Yeah. I caught the second half of the rally on rerun Saturday night. The first thing I saw was the Yusuf Islam/Ozzy Osbourne collaboration, which wasn’t bad. The rest was boring, and Stewart’s lecture was offensive.

  • Western Dave

    OK, so I know one guy who is a tea partier up in Nassau County, NY. He’s a disaffected Republican activist. He’s a hard-core Catholic and his parents were East European refugees He’s in like 10 different tea party groups up in NY. He is also, one hundred percent as not racist as any white guy can be. He lives in the middle-class black neighborhood between white enclaves. He spent months excoriating the Democrats up there fro raising the fees and cutting the hours of the public pools, primarily used by the poor folks in the county, while doing self-dealing land deals that cost the county millions. He went bat shit crazy on the Wall Street bail-outs under Bush and started organizing what became a tea party group then. Some of the tea party groups he’s in are fronts for other groups and he fights that and tries to poach members for other groups. As he recently posted on FB, the tea party ain’t one thing. Groups form and fold so fast (often when money groups try to take over) that it’s hard to track.

    That said, Pat Toomey is a homophobic and probably racist jerk.

    That said, if Mayor Nutter can’t get some help from his own party or the Republicans in Philly who aren’t completely drunk on Parking Authority funds, there’s going to be a new branch of the Tea Party opening up in Philly, filled with desperate, disaffected Democrats. And don’t tell me about the Greens in Philly who lead there campaigns, not with rationalizing PGW, towing (a hugely corrupt problem here), reorganizing fire stations, city council perks, land reform, or tax reform but reparations. Pity us.

  • MikeN

    On a related topic, what the hell was Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens doing on stage? The man who called for the murder of Salman Rushdie (and yes he did, and all his subsequent attempts to deny it, not apologize for it, are so much B.S.)

    • wengler

      Because he has a song called “Peace Train” and it fit well into the sketch Stewart and Colbert were performing.

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t know much about the fellow. But at least in principle, that a guy was a militant hothead loudmouth a quarter century ago, and said some appalling things, shouldn’t disqualify them from joining a deliberately inclusionary rally and singing about the need for everyone to join together in pursuit of Peace. If anything, it’s good to see such former radicals professing tolerance.

      Now, maybe Yusuf Islam hasn’t actually embraced tolerance, which would deny the symbolism I chose to see in his presence. As I said, I don’t know much about him. And part of recovering from being a nutjob would be to really grapple with, and at least acknowledge, you past words and actions; I don’t know if he’s done so. But I’m hardly opposed in principle to his inclusion.

      It’s also worth noting that however reprehensible some of his views may have been (and the one you cite would surely qualify), I rather doubt there was ever good reason to suspect he was a terrorist – and yet he was on the no-fly list for years and years; may still be. So he’s also a symbol of fear, and its exploitation to persecute the Other.

      • DrDick

        My understanding is that he has worked toward greater tolerance and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain in the last several years. Very much in keeping with the theme of the rally.

    • Joe

      He later said that he was expressing the Islamic punishment for blasphemy but did not support “murder” and overall later basically stepped back from each that.

      He also at one point was against music, seeing it as anti-Islam, something he again pulled back from upon reflection.

      I guess ‘sanity’ includes not damning someone forever for a comment made a few decades ago.

    • Right. Because nobody ever changes. At all. Or realizes they make mistakes (which he, by the way, *has* said he did, using the excuse of the zeal of the convert).

  • wengler

    I think these sort of rallies can have a positive impact, but it isn’t really indicative of all that much. In some ways it is just a parody of the rally as a tool of political organizing. The message was a good one, but it also the one they serve every Monday through Thursday.

    In fact, despite the uptick in political marches and rallies in the past decade, it appears that the effect they have had on elite decisionmaking has gone remarkably down. The only one that really seems to have had any sort of consequence was the largely Hispanic multiple city walkout/rally against the Sessenbrenner “help an immigrant, you’re a felon” bill.

  • I think that this was not a good speech. He had no particular points, apart from asking people not to discriminate against people (or worse fight for what they believe in), and he tried to fit in some really weak jokes in amongst it. I think he was right in the beginning – he is much better as a wry commenter on the news rather than creating it.

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