Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Last Half of the Daily Show Now Watchable

If my step-dad reminds me of Bush, then Bernie reminds me so much of my grandmother. Bernie is a certain type of conservative intellectual who denies any partisan affiliation, and then a) defends everything in terms of conservative ideology and b) has relentlessly anti-Democrat rhetoric. (There’s a passage in Al Franken’s book where he defeats Bernie so soundly on a talk show that a caller calls in complaining that this is media bias in action, because they put nothings like Goldberg against intellectual giants like Franken.) His new book of “100 people who are ruining America” has 3 conservatives and the rest liberals (including Franken).

But this entry is about Stewart. In the past I couldn’t stand his interviews, as he complained about how much the press kow-tows to politicians, and then he gives rather unquestioning treatment to O’Reilly, Fleischer, Kerry, and Powell. I think with the new set, he has found a new place for politically relevant and humorous interviews.

Let’s see how he spins some things:
“You say Barbara Streisand is one of the 100 worst people. Now c’mon, she’s a singer that writes a few things on a blog that is read by some gay men and a few Hassid’s”
“Eh… I don’t want to disparage Barbara Streisand. Let’s go back to gangsta rapppers”
“Let’s stay with Barbara Streisand.”

This may seem harsh, but yes, the interviewer gets to determine the subject matter. In this little instance, he shows how Bernie isn’t just attacking culture everyone is disgusted by, but attacking people just for being unfriendly liberals. Then he shows how Bernie doesn’t want to discuss that crass partisanship, and just shock everyone with his obvious points. And Stewart doesn’t have to let up… and after this point, he’s already made his argument.

“Some of this junk that’s on TV, no one wants their kid to see sex.”
“I don’t want my kid buying pornography any more than I want him to see me doing it.”

This floored me. In terms of Lakoff framing, it’s key. The conservative argument about pornography often is based on porn itself being bad and is trying to destroy it altogether. This is why liberals fear such measures. Stewart has phrased porn as like parental sex… of course it happens, it’s good that it happens! We just don’t want kids to see it. There’s a difference between the desire to keep kids from it, and to destroy it altogether.

"And now on TV anyone can say 'fuck'."
"Thomas Jefferson could fuck his slaves."

That Stewart did this on the fly is great. He proceeds to discuss how this rise in cultural profanity doesn't match anything in our society getting worse materialistically, and instead things continue to get better, that whole classes are no longer oppressed. The liberal point of view is that a whole bunch of "culture war" is repetitive sideshow, people have always been saying it and it doesn't reflect problems in the country at large. Saying this outright is often difficult (and when Stewart says that, Bernie increduously say "you want to tell me this isn't getting worse?", not making any argument but relying on the common sense that these things MUST be bad, and asking Stewart to challenge that), but he uses his own shocking thing to get on point, while seeming amusing, and discussing something rather important.

“I think a lot of the people you write about are powerless, and smart people like you should be investigating those with power who have been hiding from this country.”

In terms of actual recommendation, pointless; there are plenty of intellectuals on both sides of the aisle. But in terms of spin; wonderful. It’s a compliment, saying “you can do better – do what I want you to do.” Stewart has been doing a lot lately taking liberal frustrations and putting them in very objective terms. Conservatives have long done this, and it’s important for liberals to do this as well. Bernie can’t outright defend the Bush administration if he’s going to keep the above-it-all-intellectual-image he’s crafting (particularly in the current very negative news cycle), so he just as to sit there as Stewart attacks the pointlessness of his writing, attacks the Bush admin, and comes off as a sad soul desperately trying to make sense of the world. (This is what he did best on his Crossfire appearance I think, the “argument through compliment”.)


At 7:28 PM, Blogger Dennis said...

You forgot my favorite line, on Roy Moore's unimportance as a member of the Alabama supreme court: "You really want to lose Alabama?" "It's Comedy Central -- you really think we had Alabama?"

But I digress...


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