13 October 2010

Jon Stewart and liberalism's original sin

I have the greatest respect for Jon Stewart as a man and as a comic. And his Rally to Restore Sanity is brilliant — and long overdue. But Stewart is, nonetheless, a liberal guilty of that philosophy's original sin.

I refer of course to the obsession with balance. In the pursuit of tolerance, liberals have a tendency to insist that each side in an argument is equally worthy, or equally unworthy, as the case may be. Listening fairly to all sides is important, of course, but that doesn't mean all sides have an argument of equal merit. Often they don't, and it may be both unfair and dangerous to act as if they did.

For example, when Stewart talks about the toxic atmosphere in American politics today, he suggests that both sides, liberals and conservatives, are equally to blame. But this is not true. The great part of the toxicity in American politics comes from the hard right.

When that icon of the hard right, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, has guests on his show with which he disagrees, he has been known to bully them, shout them down, even threaten to throw them off the show. By contrast that icon of liberalism, Jon Stewart, consistently treats his guests with respect, whether he agrees with them or not. And he invites many guests he disagrees with. It is not only unfair to say progressives are equally responsible for the toxicity, it is dangerous. Dealing with a problem is difficult if you refuse to recognize the cause.

Another example is Stewart's approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict. He seems to take the position there are two equal sides — Arabs and Jews — equally responsible for the disagreement over land. But there aren't two equal sides. There is a conqueror and a conquered, victors and victims, and the victims are the Palestinian people. To blame the victims equally with the victimizers is grossly unjust and makes it almost impossible to bring justice to those victims.

Jon Stewart is a wise, thoroughly decent, and very funny man. His intrinsically liberal desire to take a balanced approach is admirable, even noble. But pretending there is balance where there isn't is wrong. Even sinful.

1 comment:

  1. Abosutely! There comes a point where it's a fake fairness. Should a geographer debate with a flat-earther? Does that mean the truth is somewhere in between? lol