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The Stand-Up Age 

The most serious TV news anchors and commentators these days are comedians. Comedians are in fact so serious that they don't even have to stand up anymore. Instead, real news anchors must now stand up on television, having switched roles with the comedians. Jon Stewart sits down. Wolf Blitzer stands up. It used to be the other way around. What's more, Jon Stewart looks more and more dignified sitting down, the harder he skewers the news, while Wolf Blitzer looks more and more like a sad clown the longer he stands up. Stewart's expressions are more and more vivid because we mostly see his face, while Blitzer's delivery seems more and more pained as we wonder if he has hemorrhoids or not. What used to be a ratings battle between news and entertainment has long been won by entertainment. So much so that pure entertainers can afford to be intelligent, while so-called serious anchors and commentators cannot. Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher do not have any problem seeing the absurd patterns of our increasingly unreliable public body, while bad-news bearers and gravity-victimized commentators aren't being taken seriously by anybody, not even by our political class. Stewart and Co. have no problem interviewing any politician or intellectual, even ones who know only too well that they could end up humiliated. The land where ratings rule is a perpetual Mardi Gras. The mob is in charge and the elites dance to their tunes. Maybe it was always thus, even in the days when the elites wore suits and the plebes wore knit sweaters, but lately the mob has grown a bit sadistic. I mean, making Wolf Blitzer stand up! Really. On the other hand, Wolf Blitzer doesn't have to stand up. He didn't have to stand up when he first stood next to Anderson Cooper, and it was obvious that Anderson, being younger and handsomer, could stand better and for longer than Wolf. The network separated them, but Wolf's been standing ever since. Why? Just standing up doesn't mean you're standing up for something. I don't know, maybe he's forgotten how to say, 'Screw you!" In fact, this may be our main national problem: everybody's forgotten how to say, 'Screw you!" Nobody'll sing, 'Take This Job and Shove It" these days when having a job is some kind of holy sacrament, no matter what it might do to forgotten things like dignity and self-respect. As my friend Jim Gustafson used to say when challenged, 'I'd insult your dignity if I thought you had any." Comedians are the only ones allowed to say, 'Screw you!" because it's in their job description. The rest of us have the right to laugh " everything else we might say will be held against us. Sit down, Wolf.

Andrei Codrescu's latest book is New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writing From the City (Algonquin Books).

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