Kevin Williamson of National Review Online explains in his latest column why Jon Stewart has exercised a negative influence on American politics.

Stewart, who has announced his pending retirement from The Daily Show, is only an intellectual parasite, echoing the conventional liberalism of the old-line media establishment without doing any of the work.

Say what you will about the biases of the New York Times, the Associated Press, or even up-and-comers such as BuzzFeed: They do real work. I’m annoyed by the Times on the average weekday as intensely as the next reactionary, but at the same time the paper’s investigative work on Rikers Island, to take one recent example, has been invaluable. BuzzFeed may butter its gluten-free bread with dopey features (“These Before-and-Afters Prove That Every Guy Looks Better with A Beard,” etc.), but it’s doing real reporting, too. And I suspect that BuzzFeed is starting to develop a keen appreciation for the fact that high-quality journalism requires real work on the part of the producers and — this is the hard part — real work on the part of consumers, too. There’s a reason People (weekly) has 20 times the circulation of National Review (fortnightly) and 70 times the circulation of The New Republic (monthly).

Jon Stewart’s genius — “and for once that overused word is appropriate,” Aucoin of the Globe insists — is that he provides intellectually lazy people with an excuse for forgoing the hard work of informing themselves at anything but the most superficial level about political events. Human beings being what they are, there will always be an acute need for humor in our political discourse; Stewart’s contribution has been to substitute humor — and an easy, vapid, shallow species of humor at that — for the discourse itself, through what Jim Treacher deftly described as his “clown nose on, clown nose off” approach to commentary: When it comes to Obamacare, the minimum wage, or the national debt, you don’t have to get the economics as long as you get the joke.