Monday, May 22

Is Jon Stewart helping or hurting?

Andrew Chung of The Toronto Star relates findings that (gasp) TDS viewers are more politically cynical than non-viewers. This is raising some alarms, as TDS viewers are primarily young and forming life-long habits of political thought and discourse.

Of course, other studies have shown that Daily Show viewers are better informed than those who don't watch. Maybe we're cynical because we just know too much.

Shouldn't the decider-in-chief take some of the credit for my cynicism, huh?

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19 comments:

  1. I think a distinction should be drawn between cynicism and skepticism.

    The former can be toxic, the latter is nothing but healthy, and I think if anything, Stewart encourages the latter.

    Either way, you're right, blaming a professional comedian for any sour mood in this country is like blaming the guy who rings the fire bell for the blaze itself.

    I'm going to stop now because I can see a Billy Joel reference in my future, and that'll really make me cynical...

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  2. Hello? This is a cynical time. And for good reason.

    Would you rather us return to a time where we believed that politicians were noble and that governments actually have our best interest at heart?

    I'm not sure if life was ever like a Norman Rockwell painting, though some of us would like to believe otherwise.

    Most Daily Show viewers I know, myself included, actually care about politics and thus are MORE likely to vote.

    These days, you either care about politics and watch the Daily Show, or you're currently watching American Idol or MTV.

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  3. I mean, why watch the news? It's always so DEPRESSING.

    GO BACK TO BED, AMERICA! YOUR GOVERNMENT IS IN CONTROL.

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  4. it's ok for smart, well-informed people to be skeptical, cynical and sarcastic. chances are- the rest of the morons won't even notice.

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  5. Varkentine I do like to keep Blue Gal a Billy Joel free zone. Thanks for your restraint.

    Comrade don't forget those of us who have no television at all and only catch TDS via internet. I mean, I know that's totally unAmerican and all...

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  6. I have Daily Show tix in August, right after my bday! I'm psyched, it will be my first time.

    Anyway, I think you had it right the second time. We are more cynical as TDS fans because we are more informed.

    It's like the old saying, if you're not outraged you're not paying attention?

    Well, we're paying attention, therefore we're pissed.

    So of course you said it in jest, but it should be pointed out the Bush administration is hurting the young minds of future political participants - Stewart's writers simply call them on their bullshit.

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  7. This is too fascinating! As Ben Varkentine points out there is a distinction between cynicism and skepticism--the former is an overall and entrenched mistrust, the latter and informed or inquisitve distrust. Whilst skepticism may lead to cynicism, cynicism doesn't lead to skepticsim.
    I had problems loading the link so I don't know whehter it's you,Blue Gal or Chung who is editorializing here at the moment.
    But as you say TDS viewers are well informed ( certainly better informed with facts than Fox viewers) and whether that is because of TDS or because the viewers are better informed to begin with is another issue.
    Though I am inherently sympathetic to TDS's barbs at Republicans , it certainly has no problem in mining comedic gold from the Democrat side. There is certainly a bias to TDS, but it derives from a general intellectual skepticism that happens to be the natural province of progressives and liberals--where conservatives naturally insist on dogma and a status quo.
    But what strikes me about John Stewart is his interviews, where he poses informed questions to all his guests yet really never fails to skewer them gently but clearly. He's supposed to be a comedian but he's so much more than that. Colbert uses a differnt style but is equally adept. Both put the majority of paid pundits to shame. It is telling how certain MSM pundits have responded to these two as though they were acrredited journailists and not just as satirists. TDS I understand manages 2 million viewers, Colbert 1.5 ( and surely with some overlap) , but with O'Reilly falling below 2.5 million and he being "serious" its no wonder MSM pundits are taking notice (not to mention the commercial demographics of the respective audiences. What's more, though TDS might not really be aware of it the show is hugely popular in the U.K. whilst FOX is equally villified there.

    The notion that youth is impressionable is reasonable, but it is also the the hope of conservatism's future. Unfortunately life and experience has the unfortunate of getting in the way of dogma. Only dullards maintain a fixed political view throughout and never change, whilst those with active minds who do not fear change but are prepared to cope with it, will flourish.
    To be a cynic is to admit defeat, to admit that nothing can change; to be a skeptic is to hold out hope that things can change. that is the difference, not between the official Democrat and Republican parties ( both of whom are cynical) but between their respective conservative and liberal bases---conservatives being cynical and liberals being skeptical.

    If conservatives had had their way from the beginning (a moving scale for them) making fire would have been our crowning technological achievement. But thanks to progressive thinkers, the human race has flourished such that...oh ...having narrowly avoided nuclear destruction...we --um...are still about to witness our own annhiliation by other mad-made forces. Ooops!.
    Though what we have made we can un-make, or at least mitigate--but of course conservativism won;t allow that--what we have now should for ever be, according to their dogma.
    The key to all this is that when it comes to make decisions, we should also decide. Though we elect people to make decisions on a day to day basis, not all decisions are delegated to one person. For the really big issues, the decisions fall on the people, not the appointed. WE decide, and to decide we must be informed. TDS informs our views where others enforce their views upon us. Were it not for its commercial success("America" still sells at full price) TDS would be on the scrap heap. This is not yet a cynical nation, but it is rightly a skeptical nation, and sketpicism is the key to its future--that's how it was founded after all.

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  8. P.S.

    John Stewart (and Steven Colbert)are helping, where both are respectful of guests they dont agree with politically. And as I mentioned in my above post John Stewart has a favourable ( that's "real" english btw) international audience so he's helping out diplomatically too.

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  9. Oh, and sorry for the typos in my long post...bloggenfreude!

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  10. 5th estate is right...the interviews help balance the shows considerably. if i just saw the headlines, i think TDS would be far more negative.

    john is always so hopeful himself that the media can actually restore accountability to politics...it's hard not to be infected in a weird cynical sort of fashion.

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  11. A few corrections on your post though. I study politics and mass communication and actually The Daily Show viewers are some of the least informed people, but this may also have to do with TDS skewing to an 18-29 audience which is generally the least informed age group in America. Second, although TDS does broadcast in other countries, it is only once a week and is not the same show; I watched it a few times in Germany last year on BBC; similar but still different.

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  12. This seems a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Are they cynical because they watch TDS or is TDS cyncical for being forthright.

    Welcome back by the way, and congratulations on the smackdown of the anti-ACLU leady.

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  13. As far as I can tell TDS doesn't "skew" towards the 18-29 age group any more than any program skews towards any other group.
    Program producers expect to capture a demographic relative to the content of the program and then depending on research they either adjust the content to fit the market they wish to capture or if satisfied with the market intially captured they then act to re-inforce and perhaps expand it.

    If anyone who studies politics and mass communications could explain why a 40-plus politcal satirist comedian appeals to a generally ill-informed 18-29 age group that would have to be quite well informed in order to understand the satire provided, then I for one would be better informed.

    It would also be illuminating to know how TDS is similar yet different in foreign markets. I wouldn't know as I only get clips via the internet, but I wonder what the difference is?
    I also wonder why 18-29 year-olds are the "least informed group in America": shouldn't most people of this age group be entering college, in college, graduating college or pursuing their master's degrees? If they aren't informed than somethig is seriously wrong. Someone help me out here!

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  14. Both JS and Colbert teach media literacy, i.e., how to read the news with a critical eye toward presentation, talking points, rhetoric. So in that respect, a healthy skepticism toward the media text is a good thing.

    As for this: "I also wonder why 18-29 year-olds are the "least informed group in America": shouldn't most people of this age group be entering college, in college, graduating college or pursuing their master's degrees? If they aren't informed than somethig is seriously wrong. Someone help me out here!"

    Sadly, (though I'm starting to see some improvement, or maybe it's just when I have older students in my class) they are ridiculously uninformed. I've been teaching college for 7 years, and I've grown decidedly cynical about the American educational process in general.

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  15. 5th Estate says "To be a cynic is to admit defeat, to admit that nothing can change; to be a skeptic is to hold out hope that things can change. that is the difference, not between the official Democrat and Republican parties ( both of whom are cynical) but between their respective conservative and liberal bases---conservatives being cynical and liberals being skeptical."

    It is this difference that makes change possible. Unfotunately, television in general makes people cynical -- in that it puts us into a semi-coma; it keeps people glued to their chairs, munching on unhealthy snack foods, when we should be out connecting with others.

    I admit I love Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert (I would happily bear their children) however, it's more important for me to be out of my house working on a campaign to elect Marcy Winograd to Congress (or, defeating the Republocrat incumbant, Jane Harman.)

    Cynics don't act. Skeptics do, with one eyebrow arched, waiting for the shoe to drop.

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  16. having been a college grad myself, i know that i didn't keep up with current events or world politics when i was in college. the main fixed points were papers due, alcohol to drink and more of the same each week. it was more important to talk about where people were from and what music they listened to- and to watch snl with friends. the one exception was the bombing of the trade center the first time. i remember the whole floor clustered around the tv- although i have a thought that it was because most of the folks at my school were from the new york city area.

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  17. I don't have a problem with cynicism in general - I consider myself a pretty cynical person in that I generally tend to expect the worst of people in power, but where I have a problem with cynicism is when it's used for insincere manipulation, a la making every election about gay marriage and TERROR.

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  18. We cannot have such things as discourse and life long political activism! What will the politicians do with such abhorrent behavior! You should be ashamed of yourself for even having a blog that dissents... especially wone with heathen panties!

    hey? There's an idea...Heathen Panties... :>)

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  19. the Maaori girl11:10 PM

    "CYNIC" is a word optimists create to criticise realists. (Love to claim this quote but it's not mine. Apologies for not knowing who - found it in a cricket bio!).

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