Being liberal means never being wrong, until you’re wrong, in which case you quietly discard your position and either ignore or adopt the right one, never ever apologizing or even acknowledging your prior error. From Michael Tracey at mtracey.substack.com:
If contemporary American liberalism has any High Priests, foremost among them would have to be Jon Stewart. Arguably, he’s the functional equivalent of a supreme pontiff. So much of contemporary American liberalism hinges on aesthetic presentation — the ever-present need to convey that you and your peers “get it” — and Stewart pioneered the perfect public sensibility tailored to this ambition. For years, cultural liberals’ sense of savviness and ironic detachment, coupled with an underlying pretension to earnestness, was cultivated and affirmed by Stewart. His method of communicating political information on The Daily Show became the dominant style not just of mainstream corporate comedy, but of left-liberal politics as a whole. Everyone from establishment Democrats to cynical online leftists speaks of Stewart with worshipful reverence.
Stewart is also very smart. Like any good leader of a religious order, he knows on occasion he must chide his fellow clergymen for their doctrinal blindspots, tactical blunders, or personal indiscretions. He knows how to gently but firmly advise parishioners when they’ve gone astray, or gone too far. He also mostly kept his head down throughout the Trump presidency — declining to weigh in on every fleeting micro-scandal — which was a wise decision, so as to not get himself too brain-melted by the endless frenzy of that period. He didn’t even join Twitter until this past January.
Empathizing with the habits and tastes of those who are culturally dissimilar is always healthy, but it’s a major struggle to understand why some people still voluntarily watch late-night network TV. Nonetheless, Stewart appeared this week on the first back-in-studio taping of his protégé Stephen Colbert’s late-night show. There he issued what amounted to a new Papal encyclical. In that signature weary, deadpan delivery everyone knows and loves, he averred that the “lab leak” theory of COVID origins — previously a contemptible heresy — should not just be seriously considered as plausible, but had in fact become trivially obvious. So obvious that you’re now the dummy if you don’t think so. Watch as Colbert awkwardly wrestles with the implications of what his longtime hero Jon Stewart is saying; he looks almost pained. Six months ago, anyone who broached this topic on Colbert’s show would’ve been assumed to be some sort of QAnon crank. But here’s Jon Stewart, repeating Steve Bannon talking points. Colbert, understandably, appears quite disoriented.