Monday, October 18, 2004

Cringeworthy
That's all I can really say about Jon Stewart's recent appearance on Crossfire. The buzz over the weekend was that Stewart had somehow spoken truth to media power, and as a ferocious admirer of The Daily Show, I watched the clip eagerly, thinking the best news anchor in America would skewer the mainstream media's he-said, she-said approach to this campaign.

Instead, Stewart went after Begala and Carlson. From the transcript:

STEWART: In many ways, it's funny. And I made a special effort to come on
the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in
occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.
(LAUGHTER)
BEGALA: We have noticed.
STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come
here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's
hurting America. (LAUGHTER)
CARLSON: But in its defense...(CROSSTALK) STEWART: So I wanted to come here
today and say...
(CROSSTALK)
STEWART: Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.
CARLSON: Yes.
STEWART: Stop. (LAUGHTER)
STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.
BEGALA: OK. Now (CROSSTALK)
STEWART: And come work for us, because we, as the people...
CARLSON: How do you pay? STEWART: The people -- not well. (LAUGHTER)
BEGALA: Better than CNN, I'm sure. STEWART: But you can sleep at night.
(LAUGHTER)
STEWART: See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping
the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.
BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when
they make mistakes.
STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their
strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks. (LAUGHTER)

Now, I'm no big fan of either Begala or Carlson, but they are hardly the worst either side has to offer. And its disappointing to me that Stewart chose to go after these guys, because they are not the problem in the mainstream media. The problem is so-called mainstream journalists who end up parroting partisan talking points in so-called "news" broadcasts, providing coverage for groups like Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. As Pandagon noted today:

CNN's election coverage this morning: show a poll with a hefty Bush lead, interview a Bush flack, tell everyone what the Kerry campaign is saying and thinking. Show a Kerry speech, but only in the background as a reporter talks over it. Cut to a Bush speech, uninterrupted, in a fluff ceremony for Olympians. Set for this afternoon: let Miles O'Brien talk about his incontinence while Kerry is giving a speech to supporters in Florida while Daryn Kagan gives a fifty minute thumbs-up during a Bush speech, carried in its totality with Swift Boat Vet ads running in the upper left corner of the screen.

I really thought Stewart got it. His show isn't a send-up of people like Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. There's nothing wrong with partisan-ship. The Daily Show is a vicious satire of people like Andrea Mitchell, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume, who pretend to be neutral but are nothing of the sort.

I'm not going to stop watching his show or anything, but I think Stewart really embarrassed himself here.

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