Jon Stewart is now gone from The Daily Show and I lament his departure. I could (and may) write an entire blog post about his tenure and the vacuum that he created by leaving, but that is for another time. At the moment, I want to take a comment he made and share my thoughts. As much as I respect and honestly revere him, he said something in the following article with which I disagree (at least in part).
NPR wrote about him leaving The Daily Show and in the article was this quote:
“I feel like politicians, there’s a certain inherent — the way I always explain it is when you go to the zoo and a monkey throws its feces, it’s a monkey. But when the zookeeper is standing right there and he doesn’t say, ‘Bad monkey!’ — somebody’s got to be the zookeeper. I tend to feel much more strongly about the abdication of responsibility by the media than by political advocates.”
I find no issue with his critique of the media. It’s been quite some time that America (or much of the world) has enjoyed a relatively unbiased examination of national and world news. Major “news” networks (and the quotation marks is intended as sarcasm for those that missed it) are really nothing more than propaganda machines for political and industrial powerhouses. I’m not just singling out Fox News here either.
I do take issue though, with his quick dismissal of politicians as he almost absolves them of their sins by comparing them to monkeys and suggesting that all of the slimy, selfish, hypocritcal things we catch them doing (and the vast amount of things they actually get away with while no one of any power is watching) is to be expected and they are “just being themselves”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our elected officials should be the gold standard of mankind. Those who serve in public office should be the best, brightest and wisest of us all. They should be well educated, worldly, level-headed and rational. They should possess and practice leadership skills, critical thinking and should have, if not moral purity, at least enough integrity as to make them somewhat impervious to greed and corruption.
The description of the ideal elected official I gave may have sounded humorous. Some of you may have thought I was using sarcastic humor to illustrate a point when I talked of what our public servants should be, but I wasn’t. Sadly, I was being sincere.
The politicians we actually have today fall so far short of that mark that they have become a joke. Year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation we have allowed our politicians to run amok, virtually unchecked. Sure, they get a slap on the wrist here and there and once in a while someone gets the book thrown at them as a way to pretend that the public is still in charge and still watching, but we know we’re not.
The great illusion that still blinds us is that we live in a democracy. We don’t. Our country has become a plutocracy. The general public no longer drives the bus. That responsibility and power was given to the banks and petroleum industry and pharmaceutical industry and automotive industry and defense contractors and other large corporations. Citizens United was just one of many steps that corporations have taken along the way to gaining control. The rich are the new bus drivers and we handed them the keys. We patted the drivers seat, welcomed them aboard and let them know that the bus is in pretty good shape but tends to pull to the right occasionally and when that happens we tend to go to war and fall in recession, but a corrective pull to the left and back to center usually fixes that problem.
Yes, we should hold the media to higher standards, but they are not the zookeepers. The American public is. It should be us saying “Bad monkey” to the politicians. We should be looking for ways to regain the driver’s seat on our great big bus and when our elected officials start flinging their feces, we should pull over and toss them to the curb.
See Jon, it is possible for me to disagree with you. Imagine that. The padwan has challenged his master. May the Force be with you, Master Stewart.
[Author’s note: As I am but an unknown voice in a vast sea of opinions, it was nice to see that a bigger fish echoed many of my sentiments in a much more extensive, well researched way. Akbar Ganji wrote an opinion piece in The Huffington Post titled The Transformation of American Democracy to Oligarchy which illuminates my point with greater detail and examples. It’s a good read.]