Monday, March 16, 2009

A Critique of A Critique

If you've visited my buddy's blog lately, you'll know that he has a little trouble with Jon Stewart's take on the news. Despite being a self-proclaimed fan of the show, my pal seems to believe that Stewart wants to have his cake and eat it, too: holding other news outlets to high standards while seemingly shirking those same standards when conducting his own "news" program.

While I do agree that there is some merit to this argument, I believe that Stewart's show further nuances and effectively cripples any argument that looks to take aim at the program for not being a genuine news feature.

This discussion was prompted by a single message via GChat that encouraged my Horchata to take a look at video footage of Jon Stewart's interview of Jim Cramer (host on CNBC's Mad Money). I found myself to be especially amused by the interview and felt that Stewart made a valid point. In America and around the world, presentation and packaging is everything. While Mad Money is clearly an exaggerated approach to critiquing Wall Street and inaccurately forecasting market performance, it is still a show that airs on a network geared toward delivering facts. People tune into networks like CNBC with the intent of gathering information that has practical import on their everyday lives. While on the other hand, I wholeheartedly believe that The Daily Show's positioning in the comedic news realm enables it to touch upon serious issues in a humorous fashion. This strong juxtaposition was shown clearly by Mr. Cramer who left character and admitted to the faults of his show and his network. He lost the battle and he lost the war.

Call me crazy, but I'm of the opinion that you don't hold your comedians to the same standards that we should be holding policy makers and others whose soul professional purpose is to relay information and drive public thought. Therefore, you don't measure the worth of CNBC with the same ruler that you use to measure the worth of Comedy Central. People like Anderson Cooper are paid to tell me the news. People like Dave Chapelle are paid to make me laugh; even if that entails speaking about serious issues in the process.

Of course it would be naive for me to suggest that Mr. Stewart has no impact on public opinion. Contrarily, I acknowledge that the role he plays in influencing the public continues to grow along with his celebrity. However, I do think that it is important to acknowledge his role in pointing out the ridiculous that shapes public opinion instead of simply relay information for the purpose of shaping the public opinion. Again, he's serving up snake oil and he's not marketing it as some type of miracle tonic capable of ridding all of the ills from American society.

While Horchata finds difficulty attempting to reconcile that attacks that Jon Stewart wages on his fellow Republicans, I view the show's role in far more black-and-white terms. Sure, Stewart leans further to the left than Michael Jackson did during his Smooth Criminal video. But that is not sufficient reason to discredit the entire program and accuse the show's host of hiding from his power. Instead, I believe that Stewart has gracefully embraced his growing influence and has carefully walked that fine line between his comedic routine and his civic duty to point out poor leadership in America. And I have no doubt that if the current administration stumbles frequently and baffles enough situations, there Mr. Stewart's avoid levying the appropriate critiques.

Sure, foot-to-ass is the best way to describe the interview I posted. However, I hope that in the process of seeing Mr. Mad Money allow himself to be render a fraudulent, insincere and misleading tv personality that you were able to appreciate the humor in the moment that explicitly marks the distinction between people that give you the news and people that make fun of the people giving you the news.


Horchata said...

i agree that holding comedians to the same standard as our journalists doesn't make much sense, but in the jim cramer interview, jon stewart was *not* a comedian.

he wants to be edward r. murrow when jim cramer comes on the show and he wants to grill sen. mccain on the iraq war when he comes on the show, but on other nights he wants to be a comedian who can cherry-pick his jokes to make republicans look worse than we otherwise would (and we look bad enough without his help). but i've already made that point...

congratulations on another good post.

MKNG1tHappen said...

wait a sec.... he wasn't a comedian during the Jim Cramer interview? because i was laughing... a LOT.