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Nerd Spot

A shout out to the nerdy and proud.

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Location: Massachusetts, United States

Lifelong nerd, shameless Constitution-hugger, unreconstructed Democrat and thoroughgoing misanthrope

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Hell hath no fury like a Stewart scorned

I promised myself that i would leave this well enough alone, especially as every blogger and mainstream media commentator in the english-writing world appears to be waxing on about what Wonkette styles Tuckergate. but as im a serial bullshitter, i should have known better.

I get a kick out of the "real" media weighing in, chastising JS for his appearance on Crossfire. The subtext, or in lesser cases the text, is "just where the hell does Yorick get off telling Polonious how he should carry out his commentary? My, my, the hubris, the chutzpah. Doesn't this fellah know his place??" (Now is the point where I imagine that flashback scene from zoolander where the photographer is throwing bananas at stiller in a monkey suit.) At best he gets a "yes, but..."

Here's a sample:
"Given a choice of serving as an entertaining "monkey" or lecturing on the ills of modern politics and journalism, comedian Jon Stewart opted for serious talk last week. He would have done better to stick with what he knows, such as rolling his eyes, mugging in front of a camera and grinning while cracking sarcastic. That's how he earns his money. And he's good at it......And his Crossfire rant has been hailed as the ultimate in reality programming — unscripted, unvarnished and unflinching. Sadly, it was also uninformed."

--- Leslie Papp from The Toronto Star (Papp certainly is the right name. you'll note he/she actually turns to the fool's role.)

"Each side is still uneasy with the other because they have a self image that is different from the reality," he said. "Tucker was complaining that Stewart wasn't being funny. He wasn't wanting commentary, he wanted entertainment. And Stewart wanted to take advantage of the show to make some serious statements."

--Damien Cave quoting Darrell West of Brown University in the NY Times.

Perhaps Stewart was edging toward sanctimony at this point. But then again, he was on a show whose hosts are so punctured by conflicts of interest none of them thought to point out that Novak's constant hyping of the Swift boat story might have been influenced by the fact that his son is a publicist for the book's publisher.

And has anyone else on "Crossfire" ever even noted Novak's central role in the scandal surrounding the outing of CIA agent Victoria Plame, apparently functioning as a tool in a partisan campaign to punish her husband's criticism of the Bush administration?

-- Peter Ames Carlin of The Oregonian (at least accepts that the criticism is legit.)

In taking down hosts Paul Begala and especially Tucker Carlson, Stewart offered some sharp criticism of the mainstream media and political discourse - criticisms with which I largely agree. But Stewart seems not to realize his own place in the modern media firmament.

--Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix media blog, 10/16/04 (emphasis supplied by MM.)

But that doesn't mean I have to like what he did on Crossfire. To wit:

1. Stewart picked the wrong targets. By directly challenging Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, the hosts of a tired old show that no one watches, Stewart came off - as I said earlier - as something of a bully and a bore....

2. Stewart needs to be more self-aware. By offering serious media criticism, and then throwing up his hands and saying, in effect, "Hey, I'm just a comedian" every time Carlson took him on, Stewart came off as slippery and disingenuous. Sorry, Jon, but you can't interview Bill Clinton, Richard Clarke, Bill O'Reilly, Bob Dole, etc., etc., and still say you're just a comedian.

3. Stewart endangered the franchise. By stepping out of character the way he did, Stewart runs the risk of being seen as less of an inspired subversive and more of an activist with an agenda he's trying to push....If he starts taking himself too seriously, then he's just another Bill Maher...

4. Stewart became what he criticized. Everyone's favorite moment was when Stewart called Carlson "a dick." (For the record, I know Carlson a little, and he's not a dick, although I'll admit that he often plays one on television.) Quite a closing for someone who had just spent an entire interview lamenting the confrontational nature of political talk shows...

--Dan Kennedy, Boston Phoenix media blog, 10/19/04 (emphasis supplied by MM.)

What JS and The Daily Show have been fantastic about -- and for which they richly deserve their Emmys -- is showing you how ineffectual the media has been during the course of this Administration (one of the main takeaways i got from Fahrenheit 911 wasn't necessarily the war stuff but the self-censorship going on by US media organizations -- you really get a sense of what we aren't seeing on tv.)

E.g., The repetition of talking points by administration surrogates without ever being challenged. The fact that the President so rarely deigns to give interviews that when someone inveigles one he/she -- oh who are we kidding? he -- makes an ass out of himself a la Tim Russert's painfully deferential interview in February. (Check out Russert disclaiming any influence due to his participation in White House functions. More info.) No doubt the interview of bush on Good Morning America on monday will be hard-hitting. Signed loyalty oaths at bush/cheney events and arrests of those wearing kerry t-shirts (In Massachusetts, check out the Governor cum Senate/Presidential Candidate Romney barring the distribution of leaflets.) "Town Hall" debates in which questions are submitted in advvance so that the moderator can determines which questions are appropriate and decide when to cut off questions that differ in a "material" way from those submitted. Ad infinitum and nauseum.

I admit that i find JS sometimes appears naive about hostility in political discourse as if there were some golden era of enlightened idea exchange. Does he think that the founding fathers (i suppose in this P.C. age we might say founding parents, but then we wouldn't want to exclude single people or couples without children. founding forebears?? hmm, revolutionaries sounds too bloody. i'll get back to you) sat around at debate parties sipping rum cordials and debating the merits of the Extent and End of Civil Government. (There are, of course, people who would have us conduct the affairs of government this way. You can call Pam Wilmot at Common Cause at 617-426-9600.) Hamilton killed Burr in a duel. Rep. Brooks (D-SC) beat Sen. Sumner (R-MA) almost to death in the Senate chambers after an anti-slavery speech. Monopolies and combines, the Pentagon Papers, the S&L scandal, heck, even Free Silver, these things are worth getting red in the face about because they are about the future of the country. All that aside, it doesn't mean that he isn't entitled to talk about what he sees as threatening to this great republic but rather should remain confined to his monkey role. The pundits come irritatingly close to suggesting that he doesn't have a right to participate in our democracy and that he shouldn't worry his pretty little head and just leave this tough "thinking" to the experts. And if he doesn't, imagine what they think about us?

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Saturday, October 02, 2004

Big Blotchy Bully

As has been widely reported, Bill "Never Let the Truth Stand in the Way of a Good Story" O'Reilly tapped his his fathomless reserves of warmth and hospitality to start his interview with John Stewart thusly:

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": How are you, sir?

O'REILLY: OK. You know what's really frightening?


O'REILLY: You know what's really frightening?

STEWART: You've been reading my diary.

O'REILLY: You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary.

STEWART: If that were so, that would be quite frightening.

O'REILLY: But it is. It's true. I mean, you've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night, OK, and they can vote.


O'REILLY: You can't stop them.

STEWART: Yeah, I just don't know how motivated they would be, these stoned slackers.

O'REILLY: Yeah, it just depends if they have to go out that day.

STEWART: What am I, a Cheech and Chong movie? Stoned slackers?

O'REILLY: Come on, you do the research, you know the research on your program.

STEWART: No, we don't.

O'REILLY: Eighty-seven percent are intoxicated when they watch it. You didn't see that?

(You can read most of the interview at Fox News -- also be sure to check out Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, no surprises but nice synthesis nonetheless. If you're really jonesing (who says that anyway?) for S&D re: Fox's lies and distortions, check out http://www.newshounds.us/.)

Anywho, as also widely reported, Comedy Central was a tad irritated with O'Reilly's characterization of The Daily Show's advertiser-bait audience as comprised of stoned slackers, so they issued a release on the matter citing two studies showing the greater education, political knowledge and affluence of the Daily Show audience versus Fox viewers and/or average Americans. The release itself was interesting and had quite a few little factoids. All the pertinent info including links to the original source material can be found in the release.

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