Jon Stewart: A disappointing turn (Or realization?)

I used to be a big fan of Jon Stewart and his show, “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. It’s a good mix of comedy and political news, usually to make a point of the idiocy of what goes on in the news on cable TV. But more and more Stewart is starting to drift into making a comedy show about politics, rather than trying to make poignant political viewpoints, while being funny.

A lot of this started with Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity”, a spoof of Glenn Beck’s “Rally to Restore Honor”. Many people took up this movement, with many celebrity endorsers including the likes of Oprah Winfrey, and even being mentioned by the president of the United States. Stewart had a real chance to be America’s voice of reason. Instead what we got was a 3 hour rally, 2 hours and 40 minutes of it being filled with grade school level humor and silliness. The sincere moment, about cable TV being a hindrance on the problems in Washington, has one major flaw: Stewart shows clips of Fox news and MSNBC as if they are equally “insane.”

Fox news is not a legitimate news organization by any means. Jon Stewart essentially makes a living off of poking fun at their shows and their inaccuracy or made up fear mongering nonsense. Stewart will occasionally poke fun at MSNBC but only for silly stuff, like not understanding or taking issue with their new slogan “lean forward”, or with Keith Olbermann’s occasionally over the top rhetoric, or with Rachael Maddow’s analysis of President Obama’s administration being an advocate of those who helped during the earthquake in Haiti, as being on the “right side” of the tragedy.

I am of the opinion (or at least i was) that Stewart does this to seem “fair.” That he has to find anything at MSNBC, the “liberal” network, to poke fun at to show that this is not a republican or democrat thing. But it has gotten more and more fallacious these past few days. Stewart including statements from MSNBC in his vignette of “insane” cable TV statements such as “republican’s lie”, “Right wing terrorist” “right wing nut jobs” and puts them on par with the complete inaccuracy of the buckets full of statements by fox news. Keith Olbermann discussed on his show that this was a “false equivalency”, because MSNBC is based in fact and will correct itself when it makes mistakes (and is backed by this record by Politifact) and fox news is not and does not.

Stewart has not officially made a comment about this but mentioned it in this video:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-november-3-2010/exclusive—chris-wallace-extended-interview

Stewart sucks Chris Wallace’s di- er, I mean gives Chris Wallace an interview, Whispering a sweet nothing in his ear before the interview started which sounded like “this is so nice” and finishes up the interview with “I really like you” and is filled with compliment after compliment in between. Chris Wallace backs up his statement that the media is biased because of Chris Matthews interview with Michele Bachmann:

Chris Wallace says: "And she said 'No…'" and goes on to tell what Bachmann said. However, Bachmann never actually said no. Wallace added that part. That is why Mathews kept asking the question because Bachmann never actually answered it. Stewart respond "Yea, I saw that" and Wallace says "So when people say the Lame-stream media is biased, they're biased" to which Stewart replies "Oh I don't disagree." Stewart either didn't see the full clip (an abridged version was the "moment of zen") or missed it and is making a foolish and inaccurate statement like Wallace is.

But here is what I can gather as any official response Stewart has made about this accusation of a "false equivalency", Stewart says: "(the media has) been sad with me, that I was drawing a false equivalency between fox and MSNBC that they were the same, but I think…" and then gets interrupted by Wallace with him saying they (Fox) don't think they are equivalent, meaning fox is better, to which Stewart agrees, and jokes that MSNBC is "cute" in comparison but fox the the BEST, meaning one would assume, as far as blowing things out of proportion and sensationalizing or fabricating stories. But this still implies that not only does MSNBC do this, but they are a "fox Jr" but just for the other side, again equating what it is both of them do, but this time adding an insult as they are the lesser version of it. Stewart goes on to say that: "In some ways, MSNBC by trying to maybe become a version of that, you cannot defeat fox by becoming what they say you are-if fox's game is, the media is biased against republicans, all you're doing is giving them that field, the only way you can defeat them is through, like, an earned credibility not an earned partisanship, so I think they're making a mistake by becoming equivalent to fox rather than becoming, a brand new journalistic organization."

I am convinced at this point that Stewart does not watch MSNBC, only the clips his staff sends him. Because MSNBC is at times also hard on democrats, the morning crew is filled with conservative pundits, and the main team, Keith Olbermann, Chris Mathews, Rachael Maddow etc. have been hard on democrats when the situation called for it, Charlie Rangel for ethics violations, democrats who held up the health care bill, Joe Manchin for his opposition of the cap and trade bill, and has been very critical of president Obama for being "safe and electable" and not being liberal enough, trying too hard to be in the center and compromise. Now that being said, 95% of the main programs' show anti republican stories, which is about the same if not less than Stewart's show who makes anti-republican jokes. The reasoning is clear-because the really fucked up shit happens on the republican's side. Bill Maher (a much better and more poignant political comedian, in my opinion) has said, "I'm not a fan of fake fairness" so it's not reasonable to display idle concerns about, say, specifics in the health care bill, when you've got republican candidates talking about violent overthrow or the government, privatizing social security, or whatever crazy story is happening that day.

But now here's an interesting clip from Stewart's show just a few weeks ago:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-september-9-2010/are-you-ready-for-some-midterms—-msnbc-s-political-narrative

There is Jon, comedically bashing MSNBC for being FAIR and not stooping to tactics used by fox news. All the sudden he seems to get it there, although still calls MSNBC “hyper partisan.” Jon has bashed the media for being partisan and over stating one sided news, so if he’s seriously bashing MSNBC for not doing that right then he is a hypocrite. But if he is (more likely) making the point that MSNBC is presenting a more fair analysis of the situation, that Fox does not, then he is indeed creating a false equivalency in his statements now. I feel like if Jon Stewart did a show on himself this would be the clip he’d show to prove himself wrong, like he does with so many other politicians and pundits. But that wont happen, because there is no counter show to Stewart. You know who does have a counter show? Fox news, and it is called MSNBC. You know why? To counterpoint all the silly, ridiculous and non factual claims made by the other show. Fox news is a propaganda machine and MSNBC is a 24/7 rebuttal to that program. While also being fair and factual along the way.

So, to suggest that MSNBC has an earned partisanship and not an earned credibility, is hugely insulting and inaccurate. Do I expect Stewart to examine and recant his claims? just look at Tuesday’s show:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/364222/tue-november-02-2010-michael-beschloss

Stewart equates democrat's views of controlling the house and senate with republican's views of it turning over power. Stewart presents this as if all democrats or at least a majority of them, share the views of the 3 he showed. Only 2 were expecting the house not to change hands, the other quote is a optimism about races swinging the democrat's way. If Stewart took one second to watch MSNBC, he would have seen all the journalists, commentators, and most of the guests agreeing the democrats would lose. Bill Maher and most on his show agreed they would lose. Almost everyone agreed they would lose. But then why would Stewart present this viewpoint in this way? Because it doesn't fit with his narrative. His comedic narrative. Jon Stewart is making a comedy show about politics, not a political show with comedy in it. The rally to restore sanity was supposed to be a voice of reason in politics, but it's become clear that Stewart is more a comedian who simply makes political jokes. Stewart has lost a lot of credibility in being "the voice of reason" in his overall smugness in poking fun at everyone while being factually inaccurate, creating false equivalencies and creating his own narrative, but I think it's less blurring the line of comedian and pundit and more overlapping, trying to be funny at the expense of being a credible pundit. And it's kind of sad to watch a once great and thoughtful show become a lot less watchable when put up to the scrutiny he supposedly stands for. I am disappointed.

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~ by Adam Hughes on November 4, 2010.

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