Do you get your news from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show? If you do, you're not alone, and if you don't, then you turn to actual journalists for actual news.
It concerns me to some degree that so many people turn to a comedy show for their news--to be honest, I have more faith even in Twitter to get news, or in Facebook or anywhere else but a comedy show. Could it be that journalism has been so downgraded and so compromised that the public are just ditching them entirely? Maybe. Journalists as of late have made no secret of their bias, so it's not surprising that so many viewers simply shut them off.
Of course, Jon Stewart's biases are no secret, despite his many protests to the contrary. He may call it as he sees it, but that doesn't mean he calls it as it truly is. True, a good portion of his audience is already well informed about the news of the day, which is great, but that also calls into question the purpose of the show as well as the cultural and political impact of the show. For many, Stewart's comedy reaffirms what they already think about politics and the world, which could explain why so many of them gush about how he's so spot-on and how he just nails every topic so perfectly. Success is easy when you're standing before an already sympathetic audience.
Of course, it is just comedy, not news, and it provides a convenient excuse for any controversial remarks on the show. Everybody may understand this about The Daily Show, but does everybody really believe that? Those are two different things, and unfortunately, the consequences of this difference can have a huge impact on the direction of our country. It seems crazy to place such a level of importance on a TV show on Comedy Central, but the audience's response to Stewart has made this the case.
So let's take Stewart's mid-September segment on climate change and Congressional Republicans (the part about Congress starts around 3:50) and try to break down Stewart's "logic." Let us also note that the show has multiple writers, so that Stewart's supposed brilliance is a collective effort:
When Dana Rohrabacher asked about potential toxic levels of CO2, Stewart brands him as a baby or a cat. Stewart fails to recognize that maybe Rohrabacher has a point, considering that carbon dioxide is such a small portion of global emissions. But that doesn't fit with Stewart's paradigm, so the Congressman is an idiot and Stewart is brilliant. Never mind that Rohrabacher's background is in public service and politics whereas Stewart's is in menial jobs and comedy, but apparently he knows everything.
When Congressman Larry Bucshon expressed his valid and understandable doubts about global warming, all Stewart could do is a dramatic facepalm, then suggest that the Congressman look at the AMS journal to get "educated." Let's just point out one kind of important thing: Bucshon's background is in science, whereas Stewart worked as a puppeteer at one point, though I don't know whether that was before or after his stint as a busboy. Clearly, Stewart's rigorous intellectual background is so much more significant than some dumb old heart surgeon. Conveniently, Stewart failed to mention is that nearly half the membership of the AMS does not believe that climate change is caused by humans. He also makes a hasty generalization that Bucshon relies on a YouTube feed to form his political opinions. What an insult, particularly to someone who actually has a real background in science. No kiddie volcanoes needed here, except maybe for Stewart or his team of writers.
Bucshon went on to point out what is pretty widely known, especially to anyone in academia or in science, that climate science is notoriously politically motivated and that universities tend to deny funding or fellowships to "climate deniers." Scientific and academic journals are also more likely to publish articles favoring human caused climate change, so yes, Mr. Stewart, that is a reality. Stewart totally mischaracterized Bucshon's comments by saying, "I do not believe the scientists because it is their profession, not their hobby." Nowhere did Bucshon mention the word "hobby," so this is just Stewart putting spin on the comment, and then getting outraged. This sort of Straw Man "reasoning" is flawed at its core because Stewart is just making up an opponent and then skewering him. Maybe if his background extended beyond being a stock-boy, he might know that.
Stewart then produced evidence--hard evidence: the evil Koch Brothers helped fund Bucshon's campaign!!!! How can Bucshon DARE say anything about our fragile climate when he's in bed with the evil Koch Brothers? Unfortunately for Stewart, that doesn't really take away from Bucshon's point. This sloppy sort of ad hominem attack never works because instead of taking on the substance of what Bucshon says, Stewart simply lashed out at individuals who donated to his campaign. The Koch Brothers' funding has nothing to do with the issue of politically compromised researchers, but Stewart drags this up in order to show Bucshon both as a fool and as corrupt. This kind of lazy thinking is almost entirely based on emotionalism and not on reason or actual evidence. Oh, but this is comedy, right? Thank goodness for that, as Stewart lacks the intellectual gravitas to do much else.
Stewart also assumes that the scientific community "at large" agrees with his view, but that is not the case. That might be fine for his devotees who think he's some sort of genius (and therefore above reproach), but in fact, Stewart reveals how woefully out of touch he is with the actual science. According to a 2013 report by David Legates, only 1.6% of academic articles published claimed definitively that most global warming since 1950 was caused by humans. Stewart also seems not to know that RSS satellite data shows no sign of global warming for the last 17 years. I guess when you rely on a former bartender to give you scientific information, you run the risk of it being on the inaccurate side. Who's facepalming now?
Finally, Stewart mischaracterized Bucshon's point about using scare tactics in the global warming discussion. Bucshon rightly advocated a cautious approach, that maybe it's better to look objectively at the issue rather than to use "the sky is falling" tactics that are so common now, particularly among people like Jon Stewart. I've seen these Chicken Little tactics myself: just last year, I saw a presentation regarding global warming suggesting that if we don't do something about pollution now, and if we don't start recycling and embracing sustainable living, we'll end up in World War III! To quote Stewart, "are you f@@@ing kidding me?"
But maybe Jon Stewart should get a break. He doesn't seem to understand what Bucshon meant there, because his narrow world view causes him to misinterpret these remarks; strangely enough Stewart seems to think that the Congressman just doesn't want to look at the scary consequences of our own actions, which is not what Bucshon said at all.
No, that's silly. After all, despite his ho-hum, intellectually inferior background, Jon Stewart really is a smart guy. He understood Bucshon perfectly well, but he chose to skew the Congressman's words to fit his own agenda and to get a cheap laugh from his audience. That might work for comedy, but the reality is that The Daily Show is way more than just comedy, even if it is just comedy. Because so many people go there for validation, in fact, the show ends up doing its fans a huge disservice. Rather than challenging an audience, it endorses a lazy attitude that never asks for more than a cheap laugh and a feeling of self satisfaction. It strokes the ego, to be sure, makes the audience feel cool and smart and self-righteous, but that's about it.
Don't get me wrong here, if you enjoy The Daily Show, that's fine. If you laugh at Stewart's jokes, great. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking that this is just "just comedy," any more than Rush Limbaugh is just, as he puts it, a "harmless little fuzzball." I think Jon Stewart and his army of writers know that very well, even if he won't admit that on Bill O'Reilly or anywhere else. After all, that's show business.
Reviews and more!
Culture is all around us, in the city, the country, everywhere. We see it from the old world and the new, and as Catholics, we have a rich tradition of developing Western culture throughout our history.