I’ve never been a regular viewer of The Daily Show; we’ve not been cable or satellite subscribers in years. Since I fanned the show on Facebook, however, I’ve seen one or two episodes a week – embedded right in my news feed.
Observation: the show does a fantastic job of calling out politicians and pundits for changing positions and for all-purpose disingenuousness.
Here’s a recent example:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
In this clip, Jon Stewart sends up John McCain for suggesting he never though of himself as a “maverick” in an interview with Newsweek magazine. McCain was begging for this parody; this is the same guy who ran a Presidential campaign ad in 2008 called “The Original Mavericks” and rode around in “The Straight Talk Express.”
Stewart runs through a list of stands on which McCain has doubled back. Among them: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, redistribution of wealth, intolerance, tax cuts, torture, cap and trade, the deficit, the Confederate flag and others. To illustrate the first three position changes, Stewart tees up clearly sourced and date-stamped video clips – in the first, McCain takes a position and in the second, McCain contradicts that position.
In his rant on how ridiculous the “never considered myself a maverick” statement is, Stewart refers briefly to his regular modus operandi – tossing to a montage of clips in which the subject talks out of both sides of his or her mouth, generally for political expediency. In this case, he decides the montage is unnecessary because of how embedded the “maverick” concept is in McCain’s persona.
These montages are a standard tool for the show – and they’re powerful. They’re smart and useful. They’re simultaneously hilarious and disheartening.
Regrettably, they’re also partisan, which limits their range and effect. Michael Steele and the RNC lesbian bondage club incident provided days of fantastic material. Whether it’s highlighting “ramming-cramming-jamming down our throats” health care debate talking points or using crowd shots from a wholly different event to make a Tea Party look bigger, Fox News is practically a constant stream of content ripe for Daily Show montages. In contrast, there was a recent segment called “Tenacious O,” which lauds Obama’s incredible accomplishments … what can’t he do … does he ever sleep … “even Jesus rested on Sundays.” Note: it was quite hilarious with an 80’s themed Obama-Biden montage in the middle.
Under the cover of satire and parody, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show call people out and hold them up for public review. Scoff at this programming as simple entertainment at your peril; its reach and influence are strong … and young. Fox News is paying attention (see end of clip).
The “watchdog” is a valuable function in service to an informed voting public. Fact checking and credibility metering tend to be the province of smaller outfits. Few large, mainstream media outlets have the willingness or ability to take on double speak so openly, aside from the seasonal reviews of political ads.
While there are many solid news organizations that tackle difficult and complex situations year-round, including corruption, waste and fraud, most outlets tend simply to pick up and cast wide the day’s sound bites and talking points. If those words contradict what the same source said previously, there’s no criticism or even awareness. We frequently get rote regurgitation … content providers playing friendly to stay friends and retain access to sources.
Idea: this could be a direction for CNN, who’s getting beaten very badly by both far-right Fox News and far-left MSNBC. The original cable news network and current ratings laggard, CNN seems to want to hold the high ground with the guise of objectivity, distance and non-partisanship.
CNN, may I kindly recommend devoting some resources to drawing attention to politicians’ and pundits’ double speak, hypocrisies, flip flops and other sleights?
It won’t be as funny as The Daily Show, but it could have more range and broader effect. It might also be sufficiently entertaining to help your ratings and revenue.