I just finished watching Jon Stewart’s final episode of The Daily Show and I was glad see that his parting speech addressed the topic of misinformation (aka: bullshit) and how to recognize it. The following is a rough transcript:
TRANSCRIPT: Jon Stewart delivers speech on “Bulls–t” during his final episode hosting “The Daily Show” Wednesday night on Comedy Central
Welcome back! Anyway, about the debate. I don’t have anything for you.
We’ve seen the correspondents. We’ve met everyone who works here. And now I feel like I should probably say something. So maybe one last time, maybe a little — if you want to — maybe a little camera three.
Bullshit is everywhere.
Are the kids still here? We’ll deal with that later.
Bullshit is everywhere. There is very little you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit — not all of it bad. General day-to-day free range is often necessary, or at 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 and keeps people from make 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 bullshitacracy.
It 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 is titled freedom, fairness, family, health, and America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it’s been manufactured in a facilitate 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, 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 501(c)4 other wise they’d have to 501(c)6 it, or funnel it openly through a non-campaign coordinated Super PAC … “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 a pleasant way to pass the time like an “I Spy” of bullshit. I say to you tonight friends the best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something.
Thanks for everything, Mr. Stewart. We couldn’t have made it through these last 16 years without you.