28 November 2017

A transcript of Jon Stewart's final soliloquy

Jon Stewart ended his remarkable sixteen years on television with one final series of incisive comments to his viewers.  I haven't found an "official" transcript of the program, so here is my best effort in that regard (boldface, formatting, and links added by me):
Bullshit is everywhere.

There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit - not all of it bad. General day-to-day organic free-range bullshit is often necessary, or at the very least innocuous. "Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure he'll grow into that head."

That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social contract fertilizer that keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there's the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract.  Designed by whom? The bullshit talkers.

Comes in three basic flavors:  One - making bad things sound like good things.
"Organic all-natural cupcakes." Because "factory-made sugar oatmeal balls" doesn't sell.

"Patriot Act," because "Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act," doesn't sell.

Whenever something's been titled Freedom, Fairness, Family, Health, and America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it's been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.
Number Two, the second way - hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit.
Complexity - you know, "I would love to download Drizzy's latest Meek Mill diss." (Everyone promised me that that made sense.)  "But I'm not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy's ITunes agreement, so I'll just click "Agree" even if it grants Apple prima noctae with my spouse."

Here's another one - simply put, simply put - banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red.

Bullshitly put, it's... hey, this. Dodd-Frank.

"Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right?"  "Of course not. They can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into a 501c4 if 50% is devoted to issue education; otherwise they'd have to 501c6 it or funnel it openly through a non-campaign-coordinating superpac with a quarter...  I think they're asleep now. We can sneak out."
And finally, finally, it's The Bullshit of Infinite Possibility.
These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry.

"We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything."

"We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns.  Until then, I say "teach the controversy."
Now, the good news is this: bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected.

And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time - like an "I Spy" of bullshit.

So I say to you tonight, friends - the best defense against bullshit is vigilance.

So if you smell something, say something.
TYWKIWDBI embeds this image in selected posts for that purpose -

Reposted from 2015 to celebrate Jon Stewart's birthday.  We miss you, man.


  1. Man, I'm going to miss him!!! This should be taught in every High School civics course...

  2. Thank you for printing this. I haven't watched any of the last week shows. I watch almost no other shows but The Daily Show, and I'm going to miss Jon Stewart mightily.

  3. Ultimately, I'm disappointed in Jon. His enduring legacy is that he made Americans hate each other.

    1. No he didn't. He developed humor out of a hateful reality.

    2. His enduring legacy is that he was instrumental in explaining WHY there has been so much hate and so many lies being told in the U.S.

      If you haven't lost relatives to Fox News Syndrome, then you are very lucky.

    3. I think he was harder on CNN than Fox, but it was close. One of the reasons he was so successful is that the mainstream television news agencies have really gone downhill, whether it leans left or right.

    4. Yes, there is no such thing as racism, no such thing as greed and avarice, no such thing as blatant hypocrisy and institutionalized inequality; life is completely fair- and anyone who suggests it's not, or endeavors to make things fair(er) is just trying to make you hate your fellow man...

  4. The picture os the woman spraying the aerosol can… she is pushing the button with her thumb….I just tried it….it can't be done…unless your fingers are 150mm long….or you use superglue on your fingertips.

    1. It depends on the type of spray cap the can has.

  5. The ability to smell bullshit though, requires a great deal of trust in your (olfactory) senses most people actually don't trust their judgement, for good reason. Trusting your judgement means taking responsibility, which is risky. At the end of the day only people who are more or less consistently successful taking risks also trust their judgement.
    It's definitely easier to be told and trust in advice, authority and commandment, blaming someone else when things don't work out.

    What is worse though is a BS society that punishes risk taking behavior when it presents only BS choices between BS and BS that inevitably lead to failure, when it removes social safety nets, when it instills fear and tolerates social injustice, thus discarding those who risk and fail. A society that teaches people to be critical and judgmental of each other but mistrustful of one's own abilities.

  6. He's right though. Take that enacted American-talkshow-host-can't-contain-his-laughter thing, for instance.

  7. I think it's important to point out that Stewart uses the philosophical meaning of bullshit here, as derived from the treaty by Harry Frankfurt. According to Frankfurt, there are three ways the way speech can relate to the truth.

    1: You speak the truth. Obviously, this is the best.

    2: You deny the truth. This is lying. Not as good as speaking the truth, but at least the speaker knows the truth, and has a reason to hide it. There may be a good reason to hide the truth. "Honey, does this dress look good?"

    3: You don't know, nor care about the truth. This is bullshit. People just say stuff that sounds good. Politics is generally full of bullshit. Advertising prays on bullshit.

    Colbert's concept of truthiness describes the feeling that bullshit should be true.

    I wish more people read Frankfurt's treaty. A lot of people take the word bullshit as offensive. It should not. It perfectly describes most of what it said in politics and on cable-news.

  8. Gertrude Stein said, "Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense." I think Stewart's words speak to that, especially when he talks about hiding things under mountains of bullshit or the Bullshit of Infinite Possibility.
    Interestingly Stein was explaining why she was not afraid of the atom bomb, and, again, I think Stewart also speaks to that. We're distracted by something big that is unlikely and miss the bullshit that's right under our noses.

  9. Found the transcript here:

    1. Yessss... but not an official one. Like me, he just typed out what he was hearing during the broadcast video.

  10. I still miss him. Trevor Noah is good, but he'snot Jon Stewart.


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