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Jon Stewart on Trump, Cancel Culture, and Optimism

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Jon Stewart on Trump, Cancel Culture, and Optimism

[upbeat music]

A lot of voices now, Jon,

Early Newspaper

are, like Bill Maher for example,

when it comes to the culture wars,

he expresses his frustration over and over again:

I can’t say this, we’re limited in saying that,

we have to wear a gag,

and this kind of expression comedians are

talking all the time about, well, I can’t,

I feel I can’t do this, I can’t say that.

No, I- listen.

How do you come down on this, on this.

All the people who talk about cancel culture,

Here’s here’s a nice absurdity.

Okay.

People that talk about cancel culture,

never seem to shut the up about it. Like,

there’s more speech now than ever before. It’s not,

You can’t say, it’s that when you say it, look,

the internet has democratized criticism.

What do we do for a living?

We talk.

We criticize, we postulate, we opine, we make jokes.

And now other people are having their say,

and that’s not cancel culture, that’s relentlessness.

We live in relentless culture.

And the system of the internet,

and all those other things are incentivized to find

the pressure points of that. And exacerbate.

You were a nightly presence for 15, 16 years, and then,

and then not, and it is

[laughing]

Off to Jersey, deepest, darkest.

How did your life change?

What did you do all day?

The first,

I think there was a certain feeling of graduating college

and you have that, that sense of the day is mine.

And I will, and I will waste it as I deem fit.

And I took up drumming and driving and, and, you know,

I got, I got to do a lot of, you know,

I had not read for pleasure in like 16 years,

I basically had only read non-fiction.

And only in the two days before Rumsfeld was coming on,

you know, assigned reading

in the worst AP Lang class you could ever take.

You’re in the basement,

like a 14 year old boy learning trumps. This is fantastic.

It was fantastic. And to the,

to the point where one of the neighbors once said

to my wife, you know, I think your son

is getting much better.

[David] In four years, Trump proved himself

a colossal liar and admirer of authoritarians,

and his incompetence during the pandemic

was what it was. January 6th was supported by him

and pretty self-evidently in attempt

to illegally reverse a democratic election.

And yet he persists! He’s quite likely to run in 2024.

But how do you feel about it?

How I feel about his chances?

[David] Yeah.

Oh, I think he’s, he’s got it. Got a very good chance,

and they’re, they’re smarter about it.

What I think they really learned from this exercise

was there are really specific pivot points

within the American electoral system.

And those pivot points are generally the administration

of elections run by partisans, but not ideologues.

In other words, a lot of those,

a lot of the real mechanics and logistics of elections

are run by Democrats or Republicans, partisans,

but they are administrative positions.

If he can replace the administrative functionaries

with ideologues, he’s removed almost all of the guard rails

that stopped this present one.

Forget about that, you know, they were going to storm

the Capitol on January 6th and Mike Pence was

going to reverse it in some dramatic, you know,

And on the finale of The Apprentice.

[Jon] that’s not how this is going to go.

It’s going to be an administrative coup,

but it will be a Democratic coup.

So it won’t be a coup and it will bring about

a kind of early stage minority rule.

The actual danger of what happened is that it exposed

a fragility at a level that is not flashy

or sexy or known.

The environment is falling apart. Democracy is in peril.

Need I go on? This, this, this pandemic,

that’s not only endangering the health of people,

but their mental health.

Where resides your optimism?

[Jon] In the resilience of the human species to,

to move forward to, you know, that, that it’s a pendulum.

And, you know, I was, I came of age in the late sixties

and early seventies, when the best people this country

had to offer were all killed.

And the Vietnam War raged, and the president

of the United States was a liar

and it exposed certain realities of power structures.

And so I don’t look at today as uniquely flawed or uniquely

troubling or uniquely. I look at it as,

as all of the time periods that have come to pass.

You know, my, my parents came of age

in the depression and World War II.

So, the greatest threat to our mental health,

I think is probably loss of perspective and nostalgia.

And the idea that the travails we face today

are somehow uniquely threatening.

Now I’m not minimizing what we face,

but adaptability and resilience and,

and the willingness to sacrifice and to do good

and to elevate and to illuminate don’t ever leave us,

and they haven’t ever left us.

And they’re not leaving us now.

Jon Stewart, thank you so much.

And thank you for everybody

for making this festival possible,

and thank you to everybody who put it together.

And thank you, and thank you for the free subscription.

Is that what I got?

Yeah, that’s coming your way.

There you go.

[upbeat music]

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Jon Stewart on Trump, Cancel Culture, and Optimism