Friday, November 12, 2010

Civil Discourse

Though Jon Stewart rarely ventures outside of his Daily Show forum, whenever he does, whether appearing with Bill Moyers or Bill O'Reilly, I'm consistently impressed at how he approaches complex issues with a seriousness and sincerity that belies the "I'm just a comedian" line he deploys as a shield.  Case in point is his lengthy sit-down last night with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that saw him discussing the goals of and reaction to his ballyhooed "Rally to Restore Sanity" a few weeks back, the aftermath of which saw him taking some hits from seemingly all sides.

While some folks on the Right fell over themselves to write it all off as an insubstantial clown show, which maybe it was, some folks on the Left quickly took issue with what they felt was an unfair equivalence between the the tactics employed by both sides, which, in fairness, maybe it was.  However, what may have gotten lost in all of the talking head round-robins was the simple point behind the rally: The media has an investment in propagating a binary "us vs. them" narrative, regardless of who you paint as "us" and who you paint as "them."

Now, that doesn't mean, as Bill Maher seemed to infer last Friday, that there aren't times when one side is more right than the other.  However, it does mean that we have to figure out ways to get past those differences to actually get things done.  This was the sentiment articulated in Stewart's speech at the event, as well as every non-Daily interview he's ever done, going back to his famous Crossfire appearance in '04.  The Maddow chat -- all fifty minutes -- is worth watching in its entirety, as posted above. If time is at a premium, click past the jump for some clips...

On conversation stoppers:

On the business of news:

On George W. Bush:

On satire and news:

On whether he and Maddow are in the same game:

On partisanship vs. perspective:

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