Dear Jon Stewart and members of the Best Fucking News Team,
Thank you for doing what you do. You endure a lot of criticism, but millions of us revere you. The critics are just louder than the admirers.
I want you to know that I am profoundly grateful for The Daily Show and I want you to know why. Researchers have questioned your effect on public opinion and journalistic practices. Jon, you have expressed doubt over your ability to impact issues. Regardless of these views, I stand as a proud and vocal data point, saying, “The Daily Show is vital!”
First, in terms of political and social consciousness, you have raised me from ignorant apathetic to smart-ass, concerned citizen. I used to ignore the news because it was boring; it was Dan Rather constipatedly delivering headlines to my dad, who sat in an arm chair, eating dinner off a tray in our TV room. When dad got fed up about “the stinking Republicans” etc., we were allowed change the channel to Simpsons reruns. Yay cartoons! Boo news!
But in adulthood my deterrent is the fact that most news is depressing, without prospect of clear and positive resolution. Conventional news shows buffer the devastating nature of their content by ending with uplifting fluff: a dog dialed 911! A second grade class made a Gangnam Style video! A piglet and a kitten are snuggling! That’s swell, but I haven’t forgotten that ISIS is plowing through the Middle East, Uganda outlawed homosexuality, and Congress has essentially been useless for years. Conventional news leaves me distressed without age or intellect-appropriate consolation.
The Daily Show, however, provides the right form of comfort: caustic camaraderie. You help me to cope with the disheartening and infuriating problems of our world by reminding me that there are other reasonable people, just as disheartened and infuriated as me. Rather than becoming paralyzed by the absurdity, hypocrisy, and tragedy that dominate current events, we can first of all laugh about that shit, and then see what we can do about that shit. Through humor you ease my anxieties and galvanize my activist spirit. It’s a cynical and lazy activist spirit–easily distracted by snacks and drinks–but it’s in there and you know how to talk to it. For this, I thank you and need you.
In particular I appreciated your recent bit about the overreactions that mentioning Israel incites. I’m an archaeologist, so with no preexisting ties to the land or people (except for those going back 50,000 years), I have lived and worked in Israel quite a bit. When I suggested having empathy for civilians on both sides, predictably I received backlash from both sides. I was simultaneously accused of supporting apartheid-like occupation and pro-Hamas terrorism to lift this occupation. I’m from Pittsburgh and I have reservations about “supporting” the Steelers; do you think I would support extreme views on a complicated, multi-generational conflict drenched in propaganda and ambiguity? For days I could not shake off the sting of these accusations, until I saw your segment and it revitalized me. Once again you admirably used your platform to voice reason against absurdity, and steered me from throw-the-towel-in, “fuck-it-all” mentality.
Because I’m an archaeologist, many of my colleagues and I do prolonged fieldwork in foreign countries. We get lonely and we get homesick, and your show becomes a daily (well 4 days/week) fortifier, a kind of therapy. It keeps us connected and caring, everywhere from Tsaghkadzor to Huancavelica.
Watching The Daily Show during field research in Tsaghkadzor, Armenia (so I was in a Marriott with room service).
Watching in The Daily Show during field research in Amman, Jordan (so I was staying in a professor’s lovely house).
Watching The Daily Show at my parents’ lake house in Chautauqua, NY (so sometimes I travel for vacation too).
I don’t know what I would do without you. You are the best fucking news team.
PhD Candidate, Harvard University
PS: I know he’s gone to HBO, but do you know if John Oliver is single, and interested in witty American grad students who have huge crushes on him? Okay, he can just tweet me @bannelia