First of all, happy 2011 everyone! We're into the second decade of the 21st century, and the world still hasn't ended. Can someone tell that to all the nutcases littering Port Authority?
Secondly, I've been wanting to write this entry for a while now. Well, I also wanted to write a sum of 2010 entry too, but then life happened and I didn't have time or energy. Bah, humbug.
Anyhow. So, as I'm sure most of my flist knows, In his last show in 2010, Jon Stewart dedicated the entire show to the Zadroga (or 9/11 responders) bill in a carefully orchestrated move.
The direct result of this show (and the full month of continuous campaigning Stewart did beforehand) was the passage of the bill in both the House and the Senate in the remaning week of the session. Which, of course, got everyone talking again about Stewart and what The Daily Show actually does. Most notably, the New York Times wrote a full article about Stewart's influence
, making him into a 21st century Edward R. Murrow, and NPR chiming in
somewhat more sanely (but it was pre-passage, which is important to remember). Then, in a responding article, analyst Andrew Cohen made a very good point by saying 'he's no Murrow, he's Stewart, and that's plenty'.
My two cents (as a huge nerd of media and politics, and a Stewart fangirl to boot)? There is a difference between what Jon Stewart normally does on The Daily Show, and what he did on December 16th. 9/11 is an issue that has been extremely sensitive to Jon Stewart, and so his sense of obligation to defend the people who defended New York that day (and dealt with Ground Zero onward) hugely played into this whole deal. When Jon Stewart normally campaigns for things, he does it on his free time (like "The Evening of Too Many Stars" autism charity benefit, for instance). I feel like media analysts keep getting him wrong, by lumping in his political views, his criticism and what The Daily Show does.
Jon Stewart may be the most brilliant political analyst of our time. He really is very, very bright at what he does. But what he does is not journalism; he analyzes political waves and the media that covers them, and in rare occasions like December 16th, he lobbies. Neither of these things are investigative journalism. The Daily Show is not a show of breaking news, but a satiric commentary on the 24-hour news networks. It's, quite simply, infotainment. You don't watch The Daily Show to hear about their latest discovery; you watch it to get its perspective on the big stories of the day/week/month. I keep gaping at respectable news outlets getting this simple distinction wrong, whether knowingly or mistakenly.
It's hard for the media to give Jon Stewart the benefit of the doubt. He repeatedly insists that he hosts a fake news show in a channel championing ridiculous comedy, and he self-deprecatingly refuses to acknowledge that he is an extremely intelligent man who is well-spoken and wields great cultural and political power. But the thing is, Jon Stewart knows not to blow his horns. In a field full of people with huge egos and horrible cases of narcissism, he keeps a low profile and talks humbly of his own successes. I'm sure he celebrated when he heard of the passing of the 9/11 bill, but he's not about to brag about it to Brian Williams in Nightly News, for instance. Other journalists seem to take it as a sign of cowardliness, but it really is just a sign of levelheadedness. Jon Stewart is a reasonable man.
And by the way? I thought the 12/16 show was incredibly touching. My god. At least one of those men was dying, for crying out loud. How much more human than this can you get.