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Just need a fuse
XHerakleitos - 6/21/11

"And the decor on the ceiling
Has planned out their future day"

"We tell the other side of the story", says Chris Wallace at least three times in his interview with Jon Stewart on Fox News Sunday. There is "no single marching order, not some kind of command", he says again later. But it's already shown itself - at least three times.

Stewart's got his game on enough to deflect Wallace's absurd suggestion that he's a partisan hack with an agenda, that there is no comedic/artistic impulse not already totally manipulated by the fingers of ideology, and that the New York Times is just as much of a "propaganda delivery system" as Fox News. But when it comes to the deeper problem, he seemed slightly off and stumbling for purchase. And it's so right in front of our faces we can't see it any more.

It's right there. It's everywhere. It's the idea that there are two sides of the story, literally and only two sides. It's not just Fox News marching to this order. The conjuring trick elevates cliché and anecdote to an unassailable mindwrap, a suffocating transparency where the dubious refracts into the obvious, and we buy into this fate by reflex. Locked in the punch of an absurd spacing, we've bought this meta frame where there's only two sides, Fox exuding the conceit, all pumped with an heroic harrumph, of a tenacity in representing half of what is.

Maybe, early in the interview, there was something in that cup. You want to think a properly caffeinated Stewart would have lanced this boil. And in doing so, he'd have shown the difference between artist and hack in one gesture.

We need art to somehow pinch the scene and make this frame flutter evanescently, perhaps bringing it into view even if by analogy with the simple, dorky irreverence of lighting a fart.

Even just imagining such a moment, it doesn't last long. Soon habits threaten to occlude the opening. But hopefully we can ask in the echo: is there a more apt way of characterizing the political landscape? Is everything opposed to Fox News and its demographic "Leftist" and "Liberal"? I'm not trying to covertly suggest the store be opened to a comic book rack of Libertarian fetishism. Far from it.

I don't have a ready answer. I only have the sense that the realities we face are begging us to ask, and that our condition justifies groping for something, anything beyond a scene where, as I wanted once to say, "parody is the propaedeutic".

Notable in the interview was a moment where Wallace asserted that Fox viewers "are not disappointed" in the product, to which Stewart leaped into the established point that "Fox viewers are the most consistently misinformed." Maybe there's a clue here, since both can be true at the same time. Perhaps, then - if to limit ourselves to two sides, recast the bivalent framework in a different way, i.e., the happily misinformed versus an amorphous constellation of those who defer gratification for the sake of being informed. Maybe Hedges has a point in recasting it in terms of a print based, literate culture at home in complexity up against a throng absorbed in imagery, retreating from a reality-based world into magic and illusion. Could be something to this, though it doesn't sound as catchy and simple as the frozen pantomime of Right versus Left.

All I'm left with at the moment is an old faith that, as Plato traces in the 7th letter, holds out the potency of rubbing names and definitions together - whereby, a flash may supervene and illuminate the matter at hand. Nowadays as we're caught in the boiling upshots of ideologies past, in a simultaneity of wreckage and success propelling Benjamin's Angel of History, can we summon a spark that breaks the spell of Liberal and Conservative, Left and Right - and put ourselves in front?

"It's the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
All ready to use
It's the Grand Parade of Lifeless Packaging
I just need a fuse"

Update: Turns out it didn't take Stewart too long to find that bic lighter.

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