It was a beclowning. A cable castration. Sacrificial slaughter. Sadomasochist programming. But more than anything else, the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer show was an object lesson. An object lesson in how the one thing the media/infotainment world loves to cover most is itself, itself, itself.
Here is a screenshot of the top half of Memeorandum, the web’s top aggregator of MSM news/opinion/blog posts. It’s been like this all day long:
I’m sure Stewart, sanctimonious scourge of Big Media, will be wagging his finger on Monday at all of the journalistic sycophants wasting time and ink lionizing him and promoting his show instead of covering REAL ISSUES.
Since he’s so concerned and indignant about financial fraud and shoddy journalism, perhaps the brave Speaker of Truth to Power will set his sights next on crony of color Maxine Waters or the ACORN crime racket.
Yeah, make me laugh.
Ultimately, I find Stewart disturbing because in some sense he’s doing exactly what Cramer is–making powerful statements, and then when he gets called on him, retreating into the claim that well, you can’t really expect him to act as if he were being taken seriously. Jim Cramer, whose stockpicking acumen seems slightly worse than your average monkey with a dartboard, frequently issues recommendations that people act on, then brushes off the failures with a shrug.
Jon Stewart also shapes peoples’ decisions. Video is a medium with powerful claims to reality–people tend to think that if they saw it, it must be true. This makes it uniquely good at manipulating its audience with skillful editing. I’m very sympathetic to Stewart’s deep critique of financial shows, but I don’t think the way to go about it was to string together a bunch of very misleading clips. Nor to imply that Santelli, who has been vocally against all bailouts from the beginning, was merely frothing on the forclosure program because ordinary taxpayers were finally getting a taste of federal largesse. But Stewart carefully claims he’s just an entertainer, so he has no obligation to hew to journalistic standards on things like quoting out of context.