Jon Stewart’s feedback problem

Here’s Jim Treacher on Jon Stewart’s disappointment in the apparent unfolding of government with Obama in charge (via Instapundit). I primarily appreciated this:

…once I saw through his Clown Nose Off/Clown Nose On routine — “You should listen to me because what I’m saying is important, but I’ll brush off your rebuttal by insisting I’m just a comedian” — it was like the optical illusion with the cows. It might take you a minute to see it, but once you do, you can’t unsee it.

The ‘clown nose off/clown nose on’ is an apt description for Stewart. But, why should he engage? He makes enough money putting the clown nose on whenever faced with something that challenges his worldview.

That’s a feedback problem, which I think is why he still believes in government. I always tell my friends that I don’t trust politicians, not even the ones I think I like. It was a lesson I learned at a young age when I realized that it wasn’t worth defending folks I don’t know and hoping they could want to be politicians for noble reasons.

That’s one of the key reasons why I would like to keep the power of government limited. Politicians aren’t noble.

11 thoughts on “Jon Stewart’s feedback problem

  1. Is there a place for humor in politics?

    I watched the clip and it seems like Stewart acknowledges:

    A) He was hoping the Obama administration would be forthright about processes.
    B) They weren’t and are currently involved in some of the usual politically motivated nonsense that is a mainstay of national politics.
    C) That he is an idealist and wants government to work better than it currently does and that’s why he continues to do the job he does – make fun of politicians who are in his eyes and in his own words, “hurting America”.
    D) The fact that this poking fun includes the Obama administration means that in some ways, he’s eating his own words… and so turning his own wit on himself.

    Do you think that Stewart is avoiding feedback by continuing to be an idealist? Or by continuing to be a comedian? Or is it something else?

    • Sure, there’s a place for humor in politics. Humor, itself, is another important feedback in society. As I’ve mentioned before, ancient kings used jesters to get valuable feedback on their politics.

      I think Stewart avoids feedback, in the form of criticism of his views and careful consideration of opposing worldviews, by putting his clown nose on, yes. Most people have feedback defense mechanisms that kick in when they encounter evidence that challenges their worldview, his is that. Not only does it shield him from having to do any discomforting thinking, but it also is intended to make the challenger feel dumb for hoping that Stewart’s interest was anything more than selling TV ads to keep himself firmly in the Top 1%.

      I have friends and family that do something similar. They can’t seem to help themselves from what I call, ‘throwing a noise grenade’. That’s denigrating one of my (or another’s) worldviews and when challenged with a rebuttal to the comment, they throw up their arms and say they were just trying to push buttons “…and it worked! HaHa! You’re so stupid for being so passionate about your beliefs!”. I instituted a simple rule to prevent this…don’t criticize unless you’re willing to engage. It works pretty well. When they throw a noise grenade, I simply remind them of the rule and ask if they are ready to explain what they think is wrong with that view and if they are willing to hear out why I agree or disagree with it. Usually they walk away without the satisfaction of having ‘pushed my buttons’ and on occasion, they say yes…let’s engage and it turns out well.

      As for Stewart I believe his continued idealism about government, and non-recognition of liberty as a better (not perfect) alternative, is the result of his feedback problem, that problem being overuse of his defense mechanism.

      It keeps him from learning that the problem with government isn’t getting the right people in government. The trouble is that those people are few and far between. The founders learned their lesson the government power corrupts and attracts folks with less than noble intentions. They tried to protect us from it.

      • Great response. Thanks for writing. I have a further thoughts on this statement:

        “The founders learned their lesson that government power corrupts and attracts folks with less than noble intentions. They tried to protect us from it.”

        I’d go further and say that power of any kind attracts folks with less than noble intentions. Military power. Monetary power. Social power. Whatever the source of the power, it seems to attract some unsavory folks.

        Do you think that the founder’s attempted to set up not only a limited system of government but also a government that has the power to limit other forms of power?

        • Not limit. Rather, protect us from other folks violating our freedoms.

          Gov’t has the power to coerce. They thought it important to keep that power limited and checked.

          However, government is to protect us when others want to assume the power to coerce. For instance, a military power. I don’t believe the founders gave government the power to limit military powers (though, I’m always willing to consider if you can point me to a passage of the Constitution), but rather protect us from those powers when they seek to threaten our freedom.

          Not sure what you mean by monetary, but Article I, Section 8 does give Congress the power to issue currency. It’s not clear that is meant to limit others from doing so.

          If you mean wealth, then no. Social power, no. Only to protect us if someone seeks to use these powers, or others, to coerce against our freedom.

          What gets confused, a lot of times, is what is an our freedom. Minimum wage is a good example. Some folks people have a right to make a certain minimum wage, which must be enforced in a law, otherwise “rich” business owners will seek to pay as little as possible.

          However, since the whatever wage is purely voluntary between employer and employee, there is no coercion. The coercion is only imagined.

  2. Coerce! I dig it.

    Do you think the child labor practices of early industrial America and Europe classifiable as coercion by “rich” business owners? I’m thinking not of kids working on the farm for their parents but of kids employed as chimney sweeps, in coal mines, factories, etc and getting paid next to nothing for it.

  3. I have no idea if they were coerced or not.

    They’re families were poor and needed the wages. The companies dug it because they could pay them lower wages and be confident that the children would neither organize into a union or strike.

    Do you think child labor laws are unconstitutional? From reading a little bit of history it sounds like the supreme court thought so up until 1938.

    • I do think safe working conditions should be a standard, but if the parents and kids were okay with the kids working, where’s the harm? Seems like a voluntary, mutually beneficial transaction. It’s too easy to judge a situation unacceptable when we have no stake in it.

      I’m not sure about constitutionality, but it does seem to be an unnecessary overreach aimed at “protecting” people who didn’t ask to be protected, and would rather have more opportunity to be productive than less.

  4. Pingback: Noise Grenades | Our Dinner Table


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s