Oops...I guess I sort of left my regular readers hanging. I promised this last week. I found myself to be much busier than I expected last Thursday, and now I have sort of lost my energy for this post. But since I said it was coming, here you go. Jon Stewart deals in what he calls “fake news.” He is thoroughly self-deprecating, and often laments that he is taken seriously by so many. In reality The Daily Show is not so much “fake news” as it is commentary on the news. Most of the Jon Stewart shtick is to point out how terrible news coverage is. This video I linked to as a prelude to these thoughts illustrates this perfectly. In it, he shows that CNN did a fact check on a Saturday Night Live sketch, while not even questioning a senator on his views of healthcare reform. Then there is a barrage “leave it there” quotes. This is the way that CNN doesn’t bother with fact checking. They just bring in 2 points of view and debate. Then end whenever it’s time for a commercial.
The daily show has repeatedly done critiques of the same sort on the networks and each of the cable news channels.
You might say that this is just rampant cynicism and not Neil Postman-like criticism of the news. But even if it is just cynicism, it illustrates the same point – television news is in terrible condition. Clearly Stewart is no Postman in terms of gravitas (to use a good cable-news word), and he is much more political, but his criticism is valid nonetheless.
The only thing lacking from Stewart’s criticism is the why. Postman explained the why. News is terrible because the news organizations exist to make money, not to protect the first amendment. If it is more profitable to show debates than truly look at the issues being debated, then debates will continue. And Saturday Night Live is simply more interesting than charts and graphs looking at the financial impact of a given healthcare reform bill.