End the duopoly

Jon Stewart’s Post-Partisan Critique of American Politics Is Stuck in 2004

Steve Carell and Rose Byrne in Jon Stewart’s new political satire, Irresistible. One of the defining moments of Jon Stewart’s career remains his famous 2004 appearance on CNN’s Crossfire. Like many of my fellow millennials, I watched the clip dozens of times, and parts of it would linger in my memory for years; it had a far greater resonance than any of the televised debates from that year’s election season (all of which I forgot about in a matter of days).

Revisit the appearance in 2020, and it’s still easy to see why it had such an impact. Skewering hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala as a pair of “hacks,” Stewart satisfyingly eviscerated the noxious partisan theater that so often masquerades as political debate on cable TV — correctly bemoaning a media culture that prizes empty adversarialism and histrionics over the genuine exchange of ideas. Pointed and funny, it was an example of what Stewart did best during his many years as host of The Daily Show : expose the political and media class with a hatred that often seemed genuinely pure.

Though I certainly didn’t realize it at the time, the famous Crossfire appearance was emblematic of another, somewhat less […]

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