A bioethicist at Loyola University claims that comedian Jon Stewart is currently the top public intellectual in the United States, a position that has typically been attributed to Henry Kissinger.
“Jon Stewart is our greatest public intellectual. This is no joke,” Dr. Kayhan Parsi wrote in an article published in the American Journal of Bioethics.
“Although Stewart himself would deride such an assertion as the kind of hyperbole that too often permeates our political discourse, this is simply a fact,” he said. “Stewart has emerged as our voice of sanity in a sea of insanity in a new media age with its ephemeral nature and lack of substance.”
For the past 12 years, Stewart has mocked political theatrics in America. On The Daily Show, he often juxtaposes media clips to humorously analyze political discourse, pointing out hyperbole and misleading news narratives, or lampooning politicians’ hypocrisy.
“Today, the effective public intellectual has to be less the pedant and more the artful catalyst for independent thought,” Parsi wrote. “Perhaps unwittingly or even unknowingly, Stewart has taken on this role with relish and gusto.”
Despite the satirical nature of The Daily Show, it has emerged as a cultural and political force. When the Pew Research Center asked Americans which journalist they admired the most in 2007, Stewart came in fourth place behind Katie Couric, Bill O’Reilly and Charles Gibson.
Parsi noted that Stewart’s fake-journalism was relevant to the field of bioethics as well.
When former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin claimed that the Affordable Care Act would create “death panels,” Stewart invited the conservative pundit Betsey McCaughey on his show.
McCaughey had falsely claimed that Ezekiel Emanuel, a respected bioethicist who briefly worked for the Obama administration, advocated for denying medical care to the disabled. Her article was quoted on the House floor by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and frequently cited by Palin.
With McCaughey on his show, Stewart said her views on health care reform were “hyperbolic and in some cases dangerous.”
Not only does Stewart address topics himself, but he also invites writers, artists and intellectuals to discuss their work on The Daily Show.
“Both Stewart and his colleague Stephen Colbert have created a space where serious writers can discuss their works in front of a fairly large audience,” Parsi said.
“Stewart is more than just a thinking person’s comedian,” he added. “Rather, he has reshaped what we expect from media and the people who convey information.”
Watch the interview between Stewart and McCaughey below:
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