Archive for March 15th, 2009

It is a sad commentary on our society (and particularly on the farces masquerading as network television news programs) when some of the most poignant criticism and analysis of the culture comes from a show that comes on right after Futurama.  This is, of course, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  

Jon Stewart and I don’t agree on everything, but we do have a lot in common, apart from our first name.  Recently he has become something of a hero to me because he has the stones to openly criticize people who are doing dumb things.  He was a guest on Crossfire in 2004 and made everyone surprisingly uncomfortable when he refused to play the role of “funny guy” and instead spoke eloquently, seriously, and critically about the role of shows like Crossfire and their journalistic and ethical duty to the public.  It was one of the best face-to-face criticisms I’ve ever seen on television.

Last week, Jon Stewart ran a piece on his comedy show criticizing the CNBC network and especially its financial programs.  Jim Cramer, former hedge fund manager and host of the show Mad Money, got uber-defensive and decided to fire back.  At a comedian.  Anybody who has ever been to see standup knows that you don’t heckle comedians unless you want your butt handed to you or force-fed to you.  And especially if it’s a comedian who is really smart and has a legitimate bone to pick with you.  And especially if he’s full of righteous anger.  

So anyway, Genius Jim decides to fire back, and CNBC gets defensive, too.  Which gives Jon Stewart more fuel to work with.  Finally, in what can only be called the sickest possible action taken by a television corporation, CNBC handed Jim Cramer to Jon Stewart to destroy, meaning Jim Cramer was a guest on The Daily Show.  In the course of this half-hour show, Jon Stewart repeatedly nailed Cramer to the wall.  He pulled out footage of things that Cramer had said that were at best morally dubious, and several times it looked like Cramer was about to break and start weeping like a little 5-year old.  The link to the entire show is here, and I highly recommend everyone watching it.  Stewart was relentless but fair, giving Cramer plenty of time to explain what he thought, but not letting him get away with anything.  

Various shows are framing this as a duel, but I appreciated it because it was a small moment of justice.  The wizard was unmasked, and though I’m sure it won’t change much, it was so satisfying to see someone who had admittedly lied over and over again get caught in his own web…on national TV.  

So for these couple of weeks, Jon Stewart is my hero.  And people can say that I ought to have a more mature hero than a comedian, but for these few weeks in America, this comedian was the most gutsy defender of the common American that we had.  Someone cared about justice this week…and he served it, if only in a small way.

If only more talk show hosts did the same!

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