Harrington's Sort & Cull

Stewart's Ode to "BS"

John Harrington
By  John Harrington , DTN Livestock Analyst

I'm more than a little sad today about Jon Stewart's final program aired on Comedy Central last night, a touching tribute to one of the great political satirists of our times.

The show began like "Old Home Week" with wave after wave of former fake correspondents flooding the stage to lovingly lampoon the outgoing fake anchor. Together they had masterfully used the podium of humor to speak truth to power in the noble tradition of Mark Twain, H.L. Menchen and Will Rogers.

The finale ended with Stewart's personal "moment of Zen," a rocking and soulful salute by fellow New Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen performing "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "Born to Run."

But it's what came in between that will hopefully stick in my craw for a long time. Midway through the festivities, Stewart couldn't resist delivering one final sermon -- characteristically packed with hilarious ridicule and scorching passion -- against the dangerous window dressing of propriety, pretense and power.

It started like this: "Bull**** is everywhere."

(Note that editors at DTN have a much higher threshold for acceptable language and polite decorum than Comedy Central. While I'm generally grateful for this standard, there's no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of our readers are intimately familiar with the word under the bleep. Indeed, most of you have either thought it, said it or stepped in it before the morning chores are completed.)

Stewart quickly conceded that not all "BS" was bad, certainly not the kind friends and acquaintances exchange with one another in the spirit of comfort and encouragement. He labeled this variety "social-contract fertilizer."

Yet the mock newsman focused on a more pernicious brand of "BS," the calculated and manipulative form that constantly oozes from advertisers, politicians, legislators, corporations, the media and lobbyists. The only way to combat the relentless intrusions of dishonesty is through vigilance: "Whenever something's been titled Freedom Family Fairness Health America, take a good, long sniff."

Concluding his farewell address, Stewart tried to frame his wise advice as simply as possible: "So if you smell something, say something."

Given my background, I would have added to his list of potential factories of "BS," including markets, USDA data, traders, economists and analysts. Not that any of these sources are intrinsically evil and absolutely bent to mislead. Maybe I'm naive, but I believe most working to illuminate agricultural information and transparent markets are making a "good faith" effort.

But that does not excuse any of us from the responsibilities of critical thinking, of asking the right questions and demanding meaningful answers. For me, such a reminder will always be Stewart's lasting legacy.

The fact that he made me laugh so hard along the way was sheer gravy.

For more of John's commentary, visit http://feelofthemarket.com/…

(CZ)

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