This past weekend I posted a criticism of how Jon Stewart criticises (and handles criticism). The result surprised me a bit. I do not mind people disagreeing with me, quite the opposite! I enjoy the engagement, but I was surprised at how strongly folks are defending Stewart. My friend Rick put it nicely.
I admit to some curiosity as to why some defend Stewart so passionately. Which is fine of course and people have done so well and intelligently. But Chris and I clearly pushed a button here (rightly or wrongly). What button did we push?
And I have been mulling this all day. In the end, I don’t think people are defending Stewart as much as they are sharing his outrage at the financial collapse.
I went back and watched Stewart’s complete interview with Cramer again. While I still take issue with Stewart’s manner, placing himself above anyone else in the media by wearing the shroud of populism, what is clear is that Stewart was simply funneling his anger at the financial crisis upon Cramer. This became crystal clear to me when Stewart was criticizing Cramer and his show and when Cramer tries to defend himself (which was reasonable IMHO since Stewart was attacking Cramer directly) Stewart parried and said (paraphrasing), “Don’t you get it? It is not about you.” It is, he said, about the financial news media. Why didn’t you all reveal that all this was going on before? Certainly many of those who commented on my previous post have the same emotion and feeling.
This is, needless to say, a resaonable sentiment given the circumstances. People are angry and frustrated and cannot understand why no one is being held accountable. This is “the button” that we have pushed, clearly. It is not that we criticized Stewart, rather he represents the feelings of many and so our criticism was viewed as a disavowal or rejection of their outrage.
That certainly was not my intent. There is no excuse for the graft and the greed that drove our economy to this place. Finding a precise point of fault is a little more complicated, which is why very few other than Bernie Madoff have had any charges brought against them (and some continue to receive their bonuses, as we all heard in the news today).
But is the “financial news media” really the primary culprit? What about the SEC who were told something like 10 years ago that Madoff’s operation was a Ponzi scheme? The CEOs who oversaw and directed these schemes?
As Mr. Huff so astutely pointed out in his comment, the real question is one of ethics. Who is responsible for what? I was not and have not rejected the basis of Stewart’s criticism, either of Cramer or Crossfire, rather I take issue with his lack of refelction upon his own role. Again, Mr. Huff said it best.
But then again, who is to say that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are not representations of a new iteration of the news where satire becomes more important than content. Much like the birth of New Journalism and its subjective viewpoint did during the 1960s and 70s, Fake News is forcing even the major networks to reconsider how they present themselves. I am curious if, in his ability to influence so many people, Stewart has assumed some sort of new role of journalist-social commentator, even if it is a role that he rejects.
I couldn’t agree more.