(Friday 10/15/04) And he's not going to take it any more!"* Jon Stewart's exchange on Friday with CNN Crossfire Hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson could fairly be described as an intellectual, moral, and political pundit smackdown. Actually, these words don't do justice to Jon Stewart's brutal but accurate critique. You must see it to believe it. Although I think the extended rant is a little odd in its one-sided relentlessness and hostility, Stewart delivers an important indictment of what passes for political communication today.
As Charles Taylor notes on slate.com, these are just a few of the highlights:
"I think you're a lot more fun on your show,' said Tucker Carlson to 'Crossfire' guest Jon Stewart this afternoon. 'And I think you're as much of a dick on your show as on any other,' Stewart shot back. It wasn't the faux avuncularity we've come to expect from Stewart on 'The Daily Show' but there, of course, he's playing a role. Here he was himself -- and he wasn't buying any of it. "
He told Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala that their show is "bad," that they are lowering public discourse, and that they are "partisan hacks". Stewart said that Carlson was a 35 year old man with a bowtie, and that he is a joke.
*Apologies to screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky for the blatant appropriation, but Stewart's righteous (and well-deserved) tirade echoes fictional television anchor Howard Beale's in Network. Unnlike Beale's disparate litany of societal woes, however, Stewart's is laserlike in focus. It's the pundits and spin doctors, stupid. Check out the original speech.