Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Daily Grind

To begin with, everyone who knows me knows I am very liberal and a former admirer of Jon Stewart and his comedic and political accomplishments, but I had an attack of nonpartisanship when Jon Stewart held his rally in Washington, DC, after his less than stellar interview with President Obama.

Stewart’s trademark, the unveiling of hypocrisy, has always seemed a little less important to Stewart than telling a joke. After all, it’s a comedy show and there is the ratings pressure of having the show daily. Stewart’s facts need a little glossing over now and then. Even the most ardent Daily Show viewer has known those moments of discomfort when the facts were portrayed inaccurately to achieve a laugh. All is well and very funny when one feels hypocrisy has actually been exposed. But when the viewer knows the facts and doesn’t use Stewart as his or her primary source for news, it becomes easier to see the reality of the situation. Stewart has preconceived stereotypes of the people and institutions he criticizes. While the typecasting is often brutally accurate, the actual facts are malleable.  Stewart has his own unique brand of hypocrisy.

Jon Stewart cannot actually believe he is somehow above the fray simply because he criticizes everyone else.  Rush Limbaugh often used that logical fallacy (that he was not part of the media he was criticizing) on a daily basis. To listen to him meant you believed Limbaugh wasn’t really part of the media at all. And what is the difference between Stewart’s criticism of everyone in the “cable” media and Fox News’ homage to Rush Limbaugh in the form of “all media is liberal?” It’s all from the same mold. Stewart must know he has affected the voting populace and even governmental decision making, know that his fake news appears no different from Fox's made-up news, and he must surely realize he too is on cable.

In the spirit of, I guess, being “fair and balanced,” Stewart apparently sees very little difference between Keith Olbermann’s show, and the blatant factual misrepresentation and political maneuvering of Fox News. Fox’s views are very clear and based on preconceived stereotypes and that familiar daily grind and ratings pressure. Both CNN and MSNBC have some actual journalistic values and ethics that Stewart doesn’t seem to admire or encourage. Stewart’s idea - that Fox stupidly represents the right, MSNBC stupidly represents the left, while CNN stupidly represents the boring – is simplistic and sadly easy to remember. The “media” is the new whipping post to replace George W. Bush. If you are a regular viewer, you will remember how Jon Stewart’s first attempts to make jokes at the expense of the newly elected President Barack Obama were met with loud groans from his live audience. I think the audience’s response was similar to mine: “Is there no end to this negativism and why are you still here, again?”

The answer as to why he is still here apparently lies in a mission of pointing out that we should not trust anyone on cable for our news. It is all a little reminiscent of the character Howard Beale from the movie Network: “Turn off your TV sets now!” Turn my cable show off now. His Washington get-together didn't vigorously encourage voting as one might expect. I think I heard a reference somewhere but not from Stewart. Unfortunately, Jon Stewart has wasted his moments on the national stage, the one with the White House as a backdrop and the one with the President himself. Two years after Jon Stewart had a major hand in awakening a generation of voters to the realities of the day, he appears irrelevant and hypocritical to me. That is very sad.