Sunday, November 7, 2010

ZenTiger Jon Stewart and Sanity

The Daily Show is a great comedy show, and Jon Stewart is a funny man. He can get serious though, and has often done so. For example, the recent Sanity gig, and further back the vocal criticism of various shows (Remember the Crossfire saga?) for not treating politics objectively and in an unbiased fashion.

All makes perfect sense to me, but there is another side to this.

A minor point is that Jon Stewart sees himself as a mere comedy show, and so excused from any of the responsibility he suggests the serious political shows have to the audience to act impartially and ask the tough questions. Whilst that is true, he needs to acknowledge that comedy shows like his can and do influence people as much as any "serious debate" show.

The larger point is that the danger in accepting people who appear sane is assuming their judgments must therefore be sound, sensible, and right. It's that old "truthiness" aspect that suggests facts may not be needed if everything just sounds right.

I could see this principle in action reading a review in Saturday's Dom Post of Jon Stewart versus the Tea Party. The writer sets out Jon's background, his calm and rational call for keeping things real, and it's all good. When we get to the authors portrayal of the Tea Party and various people, then the rules change. The truthy sentences are there, but the bias starts to slip in. They work from premises that aren't questioned. They offer facts that don't have any counterbalance to them.

For example, I'm pretty much sure we all have done foolish things in our past. The review mentions Christine O'Donnell dabbled in witchcraft or wicca in her younger days and lets those implications sit there. Shock!  Horror!  But we don't see any effort to dig up such equivalent career ending horrendous dirt on Jon or any of the other "sane and sensible" celebrities claiming they are the sane and sensible ones.   Maybe Jon once dabbled in horse racing and smoked cigars?  Where's the balance?

Instead, the writer plays into amplifying Christine's transgressions to make her point. Given the beating this has received in the media, it's a lazy point as well as a biased point in the context of the article.  Ironically, the article does what Jon rails against - amplifying issues to alter perceptions, when what he'd like to see is more balanced reporting.

I wonder if those standards of calling for a little more balance in reporting apply to the liberals though?

He'd be pleased with the results of his rally, even if the results of the elections days later indicate the people of America aren't entirely happy with the direction Obama is taking America.  The media lapped it up.

The rally for sanity was also about suggesting that the moderates are there to listen, and unlike the media, not trying to polarize people and crowd out their opinions. But moderately polite messages may simply be the tip of the iceberg. The signs were there:

"Wouldn't care if the president WAS Muslim!"
Now that's demonstrating America is big enough for everyone

"Real Americans don't use the term 'Real Americans'"
But not big enough for people who describe themselves proudly as patriots.

"Tea parties are for little girls and mad hatters!"
And even moderates can pay no heed to their mantra of "encouraging civility, togetherness, and overall being sane."

Like my previous post said:
One cow says to another cow: So, do you ever worry about catching Mad Cow's disease?"
And the other cow says "Why should I care, I'm a helicopter?"

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