November 4, 2002

Jon Stewart, press critic…

Jon Stewart, the “anchor” for The Daily Show on Comedy Central, knows a thing or two about real TV journalists (and, I suspect, like me, he considers that job title a bit of an oxymoron). He appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources and demonstrated how satire can be an effective rhetorical and critical technique. And that means, necessarily, that entertainment of a certain kind can play an effective and responsible role in civic discourse. Good satire, however, is not the kind of common denominator schlock Stewart decries here–joking with host Howard Kurtz about who between them is the real journalist:

STEWART: Well, yes, you could host “CROSSFIRE.” What’s that got to do with journalism? I mean, that’s just a couple of knuckleheads. I mean, the promo for that is Bob Novak in a boxing outfit. I mean, for God’s sakes, somehow I don’t imagine Edward R. Murrow ever putting on the satin robe and going, “I’ll destroy you.”

Stewart’s making biting jokes about political coverage is entertainment with a message (perhaps because I like the message). Robert Novak in a boxing outfit is simply embarassing. Worse, such stunts suggest a lack of seriousness unbecoming to a news organization.

No Responses

  1. JIM 

    Jon was on Crossfire today with the same message. It was amazing to see that “real” news people couldn’t answer his question about holding politicians accountable. Yet, they hounded him for not asking John Kerry deeper questions.

  2. I was privileged to see that episode – live! Now, here’s the thing: did the producers not anticipate the shitstorm about to befall them? For me, it was like being the science nerd and bringing Superman to school to kick all the bullies

  3. Jro 

    It’s a great clip to watch. Jon doesn’t back down.

    The clip is available at

  4. Wrye 

    What I truly enjoyed was seeing how much the audience got into it. Amazing stuff.

  5. Troy 

    Personally, I though Jon Stewart was a bit out of line. He compared crossfire to WWE and that just isn’t fair. Sure they only debate things from the left and the right but those are the two predominant political philosophies in America.

  6. I also saw Jon Stewart live on Crossfire. It was electric. All the staff of the show seemed to be shocked and awed. Beautiful.

  7. Mike Copeland 

    If you read the transcipt you will see that the hosts were probably ready for an attack such as this…
    You would have to be a non-critical-thinking person to be believe that Jon Stewart isn’t a mouthpiece for Kerry/The Dems.
    Under the guise of “political humor” (which isn’t really humor at all, just a chance for the useful idiots to let out their agreeing, sarcastic laughter) he slanders our President’s credibilty, integrity, honesty, etc., at a time of war, while gently poking fun at silly things inolving Kerry. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t question our leaders, especially with such a world changing issue like war.
    I’m saying, Jon, you’re just as guilty as Crossfire’s hosts at being a “hack”. You play pattycake with your Democrat guests, and hardball with the Republicans.

  8. Anonymous 

    Mike Copeland hes a comedian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    God wake up!

  9. Heywood Jablomi 

    Wow, Mike Copeland used the phrase “useful idiot” in a sentence. How edgy!

    I guess he prefers to watch mouthpieces for the right on every other station in heavy rotation.

  10. Dan 

    I think the distinction Stewart fought to make was that he, as a fake anchor, is not expected to be hard on politicians. Politicians, Mr. Copeland, on both sides of the aisle. Those on “Crossfire,” meanwhile, prove his point for him by pointing out the similar approaches their show and “The Daily Show” take to interviewing. Moreover, this is not a partisan attack as “Crossfire” pointedly employs an equal number of dems and ‘pubs; CNN, in fact, is an infamously liberal news station. The suggestion of partisan politics is ironic, here, when Stewart’s criticism was that shows such as “Crossfire” now rely entirely on party-line bickering instead of intelligent thought. I have long loathed the disgusting turn “Crossfire” took after employing hacks Novak and Carville and thank god someone finally said something (though it saddens me that usually mediocre Tucker and Paul had to bear the brunt). I, for one, could do with less spin and more truth in this country, though Copeland’s above spin-on-things does not fill me with hope for the future.

  11. Hello…I’m glad to see what appears to be several new readers. Welcome. The entry you’re all commenting on is almost two years old. You may wish to check out today’s entry about Stewart on Crossfire. Just click the link to the main web log or click the Rhetorica logo.

  12. Mike Copeland 

    actually Heywood Jablomi (pretty clever and “edgy”. I guess a real name is too much to ask), I find mouthpieces on the right to be just as annoying. I like people who seek the Truth in all issues, that don’t base their thoughts/beliefs by what a certain party expects of them. It’s funny that you assume that I’m a right winger just because I criticized one of your guys, considering that I never made mention of supporting any person of any political party. I made mention of the office of the President in general – at a time of war.

    I must apologize to the readers here, though, I did make a blanket statement….Not all people who watch and enjoy Stewart’s show are “useful idiots”, but the show does attract that type of person, much like the shows of Hannity, Rush, Franken, and whoever else fits the bill. Sorry about that.

  13. Mike Copeland 

    Oh yeah, and Haywood, who are these other “mouthpieces for the right on every other station in heavy rotation”? Which stations are you talking about? CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC? Those stations? Really?

    I’ll give you Fox, but…that’s about it.

  14. The point of Mr. Stewart’s show is that almost all so-called “journalism” on the public airwaves and cable news networks is either info-tainment krap or propaganda. That’s why he kept trying to point out that Crossfire is “theater”. Tucker is so deep in his own private Idaho that he wants to call it a “debate” show. It ain’t about left or right. However, I have to say that there is no living human who can evoke in me the worst feelings of loathing and disgust than Mr. non-threatening, cudly, cute, bow-tie wearing, punk-ass, bitch Tucker Carlson. He regularly refers to the French as frogs. Even PBS has been co-opted by the info-tainment, screamfest-as-news trend and has given this little neo-conservative (excuse me, I mean FASCIST – we can leave the ‘neo’ off alltogether) his own show. Kill your TV!

  15. Mike Copeland 


    My “spin on things” doesn’t give you much hope for the future? What would give you hope for the future? I’m sincerely curious. Specifics.

    I can tell you that we will never all believe the same way about any issue – there is always going to be friction between people of different beliefs in this country.
    I like it that way…when we talk (or scream) things out we can sometimes get to the truth, and that is no small feat.

  16. Dan 

    I am inflated with a mighty hope for this country’s future when I hear an argument not based on personal opinion or faith, party-propaganda, sideways semantics, or an outright disregard for the point at hand, but actual convincing fact. Concession and realization of personal flaws helps here tremendously and can, under the right circumstances, send me into spasmic orgasm. Directly after the first debate, a Fox News correspondent said, “well, I think it’s clear to everyone watching that Bush won this one.” Most, however, would point out that this was not the case. Furthermore, the president’s slight-victory last wednesday came out of his improvement in debate and ability to connect to viewers, not Kerry’s awkward attempt to point out that the gay community is vast and diverse.

  17. Dan 

    I have a good story to illustrate my disgust in the political process:
    I’ll assume for briefness’s sake that we all remember the contest entry comparing the president’s style of public speech to the demagogerie of Adolf Hitler. This ad was not aired, nor endorced by any party, and appeared on the website only as part of the contest agreement and the practice of free speech (or perhaps press). My story, however, takes place a few months later, about two or three months ago…
    It was at this time that President Bush’s campaign website ran probably the most revolting ad i have ever seen; it pieced together video clips of high-ranking democrats, John Kerry, John Edwards, etc., all describing the dire straits this country would be in under another 4 years under the current administration. A clip of the entry was included in this. After about 30 seconds of sound clips of exasperated democrats bemoaning George W. Bush, the ad said something along the lines of “Vote for George W. Bush: the voice of optimism, not pessimism.” The ad’s basic premise, it seems, was to paint Bush as an optimist due to his unrivaled confidence in himself. What a stupid, cheap, manipulative trick! And people would vote for him based on it! Our country, i believed, was nearing rock bottom.
    But then came a ray of hope; John Kerry’s campaign newsletter mentioned this ad in it’s subject line! For sure Kerry, on the highground, could point out Bush’s despicable attmpt to trick the lowest common-demoniator of voter. Ah, but alas! It seems what Kerry was concerned with was Bush’s “distaceful and offensive use of Adolf Hitler” in a campaign ad. Of course, this really refered to the mention of the ad, but the Kerry team could concern themselves with honest nor dare to take the highground. No! What they could do was beat Bush at his own game and out-pander the easily swayed. After all, not everyone is adverse to dishonestly and manipulation, but no one likes Hitler. And so it was that I decided, right then and there, and after a particularly bad episode of “Crossfire” in which James Carville jabbered on inaudably about stupidity and Robert Novak countered with a Lewinsky-refernce, to move to Denmark and write fiction after i get out of college. The opposite of that, Mike Copeland, is what gives me hope in the future.

  18. Dan 

    One last thing: I do think that Stewart was out-of-line and hurt his true point by insulting Tucker’s choice of bow-ties. A mistake often made spinners and debaters alike is to insult the practitioner to try to stop the practice. When Tucker, years ago, found out that George W. did not read a daily newspaper he conceded that, though his party would get mad at his saying so, the fact was upsetting and embarrassing. Truly, if any man could be saved and severed from a party’s propaganda, Tucker was that man. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with bow-ties. Least of all Tucker’s taste in such.

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