I save up all week’s worth of Daily Show recordings to savor them on my weekends. It’s a treat that I look forward to with anticipation.
This morning I got to watch Jon Stewart and Senator Jim Webb have fun with the Republicans who’ve been obstructing the new GI Bill that is making its way through congress. Then it was instructive to see just how long we’ve waited for part two of the Senate Intel report on the Pre-Iraq War Intel. Of course, as the Senate Republicans who kept it from coming out for three years knew, the report said that we were lied to about the reasons for going to war. Since I don’t generally watch TV news, it was even more instructive to see Stewart point out that only one national TV organization thought it was important enough to mention to this report to the public, and even they didn’t dwell on its conclusions. Then I got to watch Jon Stewart run circles around Ralph Reed, a Republican operative, who came on to hawk his latest book.
As I was enjoying all this, it occurred to me that this is the smartest public discourse that there is anywhere to be found in our nation. Jon Stewart brings in politicians, newsmakers, and authors with interesting ideas, and not just celebrities hawking their latest movie or album. He also does a fine job with balancing guests with right AND left leaning viewpoints, and he talks to them with civility, rather than shouting at them. It’s a smart show, for a smart audience — and judging by the commercials that run, advertisers have also figured that out. [I imagine that the same holds true for The Colbert Report, but I find that a little of Stephen Colbert goes a long way with me.]
Pundits like to take shots at The Daily Show by pointing out what a sad state of affairs it is when “young folk” get their news from a fake news show on The Comedy Channel. As usual, they don’t know what they’re talking about. To “get” what goes on in The Daily Show, you already have to know the news. Although for the most part I already know the references that Stewart and his writers make in the show, what I do learn is a perspective on the nature of our public discourse — such as the one about how no television news organization really reported about something as important as the reasons we went to war.
This past week Stewart also had a guest on who wrote a book about how dumb the American public is. As an example, said the guest, all those people who support the war even to this day, do so because they believe what the president told them, that Al Qaeda is in Iraq, even though this is false. Stewart asked if maybe some of the responsibility for this rested with the news organizations that repeated the administration’s falsehoods without examining the truth behind them. Oh, no, said his guest; in this day and age Americans need to take responsibility to seek out the truth for themselves. But, said Stewart, American’s have busy lives, and they rely on news organizations to sort these things out for them. But this reasoning held no water with his guest.
I think this guest appeared on the same show where Stewart pointed out the networks’ non-reporting of the Senate Intel Report. Oh, the irony. I’d take the time to look up Stewart’s guest’s name and his book, but you don’t want to read something so clueless, do you?
Meanwhile, the nation mourns the passing of Tim Russert. Me? Well, of course it’s sad that someone passed away at such a relatively early age, leaving a growing family behind, and in the prime of his career. But I just can’t get on board with all the paeans to his professionalism. As a member of the media establishment, I found that he was no less likely to get carried away with the daily news memes than any of his weaker minded brethren. Will the television news profession be worse for his passing? I don’t see how it could be.