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Can you hide behind satire?

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BUTANE
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Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-13 10:59:47 Reply

I recently watched a few interviews with Jon Stewart and in those interviews he is often critical of the press and their lack of following through with their responsibilities (asking questions that matter, not simply splitting the country into dems/reps, etc). But when pushed back and asked about his own responsibilities, he quickly hides behind the fact that his show is a comedy show, he produces satire and therefore is pretty much exempt from taking any heat.

I feel that even though his show is satire, and therefore takes a comedic spin on things, he still has a similar responsibility to maintain integrity (which I think he does for the most part). Viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are obviously (I would hope) aware of the fact that it is comedy. But comedy may have an even greater effect and swaying public opinion and peoples minds on issues since they are less inclined to blow it off as purely political partisanship. Jon Stewart may be a comedic voice, but in the world of politics he does have a very powerful voice. He is just as prominent a character in the media, if not more so, than many of the commentators on Fox, MSNBC, CNN and others.

What do you all think? Should satirists be completely exempt from criticisms about integrity? Do they exist only for the purpose of laughter? Or do satirists have an obligation to their viewers, just the the media does, to fact check and make compelling arguments, even if they are presented in a comedic fashion?

http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/the-maddow-stewart-in terview-uncut/68kjwas
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFQFB5YpDZE


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Dogbert581
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-13 12:47:30 Reply

Well, as you said satire can still decide people's minds. Obviously a lot of satire makes fun of stupid or unpopular things done by politicians and can emphasise stereotypes. For instance, how many people would have noticed/cared that George W. Bush occasionally made stupid comments if satirist hadn't seized on those stupid comments? But now, say George Bush to anyone and one of the first things that would come to mind is words like 'misunderestimate'.

So I think it is right for satirists to come under scrutiny as they can be just as useful in changing opinions as other pundits. For instance, if a satirist spent the whole run up to the election making fun of every move by Obama whilst ignoring Romney's mistakes it would create a negative impression of voters about Obama

Dorkcraft
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-13 23:32:28 Reply

It is comedy. It is not his personal opinion, as far as we all know. People always freak the hell out at HIM because of his jokes. It is all meant to make you laugh and realize the stupidity that is modern politics.


VOTE BUSH 2012

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DoctorStrongbad
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-14 00:26:43 Reply

Yes, you can hide behind satire. People have done it for many years.


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SteveGuzzi
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 00:39:10 Reply

Entertaining the crowd is an entertainer's only real responsibility. That the subject matter may be political in nature doesn't really change that. Being a comedian doesn't make Jon Stewart immune to criticism over his 'journalistic integrity' or potential lack-thereof... it just makes that type of criticism irrelevant. It's like criticizing an *actual* journalist for them failing to make the audience laugh. See, that isn't their job. For him, it is.

You might as well criticize Dagwood comics for their biased misrepresentation of the typical office work environment and then follow that up by criticizing the newspaper's front page for its utter lack of hilariously-oversized sandwiches.


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Entice
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 09:49:41 Reply

The viewers already have either confirmed views or they're misinformed people that won't bother watching any other news source. They're going to stay that way whether or not the news gets "responsible", in the end it's the VIEWERS job to stay informed and take information from multiple sources.

Sure, there will always be people that only watch the Daily Show or only watch Fox News or whatever and take it as absolute truth, but those people would obviously be misinformed either way. So don't complain if their opinions end up on a side that's not yours, and blame the media for not being "responsible".

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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 10:14:27 Reply

I think you can as long as it's not too bad. I mean, sheesh, Doug Stanhope said that Christians were more evil than Nazis, but he can say anything he wants, because he's a comedian and even if they spread hatred and ignorance like Doug, they will never get booed. It only gets bad when you label an entire group of people as being bad because of some status like Doug does, and even then, he's safe from it.


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SteveGuzzi
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 10:20:15 Reply

At 5/15/12 03:46 AM, Austerity wrote: That is what has always pissed me off about Jon Stewart. You can suddenly say whatever the fuck you want. All you have to do is say that it is "comedy" and then everyone will laugh at what you say just because of that label.

They laugh because it's funny, not because it was designated with the label "comedy". If you designated it "high art" it's not like the audience would suddenly transform into a bunch of tophat & monacle-wearing stiffs. When Rush Limbaugh insults folks on his program and then apologizes later by saying it was absurdist humor only meant as a joke, it's not like people go "Oh, it's 'comedy'? I get it now! AAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Good one!"

Stewart's show is a half-hour program that airs on COMEDY CENTRAL. His lead-in is a show about a guy making fun of Youtube videos. In an earlier defense, he had to remind O'Reilly or whoever he was speaking with that his lead-in was a show about puppets making dirty prank phone calls.

Why ANYONE thinks it's legitimate to compare what he does in 30 minutes on a comedy channel to the folks who work at the 24-hour news networks, etc. is beyond me. It's a category error. It's stupid. EVERY person who appears in front of national media has the ability to influence others... aaaand so what? Comedians and journalists have entirely different roles and perform entirely different functions, therefore it is only fair that we have entirely different expectations of them.

If a person or network actively markets themselves as a source for unbiased news, or markets their pundits and commentators as being intelligent and authoritative on the subjects they discuss, then it's fair to expect them to live up to their own hype, and it's fair to criticize them when they don't. What exactly does Jon Stewart market himself as? At what point did he ever promote himself as unbiased or authoritative on any political or economic subject? Approximately never. Pretty sure they themselves even refer to the show as a "fake news program". The only legit criticism would be regarding whether he's actually funny and entertaining or not.


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TheMason
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 11:27:46 Reply

At 5/15/12 10:20 AM, SteveGuzzi wrote: They laugh because it's funny, not because it was designated with the label "comedy". If you designated it "high art" it's not like the audience would suddenly transform into a bunch of tophat & monacle-wearing stiffs. When Rush Limbaugh insults folks on his program and then apologizes later by saying it was absurdist humor only meant as a joke, it's not like people go "Oh, it's 'comedy'? I get it now! AAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Good one!"

Where are you placing Limbaugh? Because he is a satirist/lampoonist. First, you've gotta realize that satire =/= comedy. In essence satire is pointing out folly and/or weakness and dealing with it with scorn and derision. Often this does involve humor, jesting, etc. What Limbaugh does is wrap his commentary in his satire; but he is not a serious journalist. Same thing with Bill Mahr; he'll attack people just as viciously (if not worse) as Limbaugh but wraps his comments in the cloak of satire/comedy.


Stewart's show is a half-hour program that airs on COMEDY CENTRAL. His lead-in is a show about a guy making fun of Youtube videos. In an earlier defense, he had to remind O'Reilly or whoever he was speaking with that his lead-in was a show about puppets making dirty prank phone calls.

Why ANYONE thinks it's legitimate to compare what he does in 30 minutes on a comedy channel to the folks who work at the 24-hour news networks, etc. is beyond me. It's a category error. It's stupid. EVERY person who appears in front of national media has the ability to influence others... aaaand so what? Comedians and journalists have entirely different roles and perform entirely different functions, therefore it is only fair that we have entirely different expectations of them.

I think you're being a little extremist here. I don't think the OP is sitting there putting them in either the same category and/or level as legitimate journalists. What I think he's asking is if they do not have some degree of responsibility to put things out there that are (to some degree) accurate. I do think they may. There are people out there, despite CC's, Colbert's and Stewart's marketing of the shows as fake news, that makes them their only source of news. And they also have a greater influence over public opinion than a professor, local officials, etc. In fact their influence could arguably be as great as journalists.

Now I don't think that's right (and I think you'll agree). But we don't live a perfect world.

A good example of this is Michael Moore. I remember his TV program in 1990s (or was it early 2000s) when he put a ficus plant on the ballot because "no one was running against the Republican". He went the entire program, doing this very funny/absurd/satirical device, making the viewer think that this was the general election. But guess what? It wasn't...it was a primary. So I do think they have, especially when imitating something serious like a documentary or the news, a responsibility to ensure their audience keeps it in mind that this entertainment.

As for Stewart...I think he kinda opens himself up to this "category error". He goes on CNN or Fox and pokes their on-air personalities on their journalistic practices. Hell he even refers to himself as a media critic. Finally, he further blurs the line by bringing people on his show to debate, seriously rather than purely comedically, his media criticisms. If you're sitting there thinking I'm making this up...refer to his second highest-rated episode of the series: his debate with Jim Cramer over criticism/spots attacking CNBC.

So yeah...I think Stewart uses his status of a comedian to hide behind when the heat gets turned-up on him when he puts on his serious, media/social critic hat. So no...I don't think Stewart is immune because he does blend those roles and categories. Therefore it is not stupid or illegitimate to ask these questions. So I think there is some degree of intellectual dishonesty (or some may call it cowardice) when Stewart hides behind the "satire" or "comedy" label.


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Camarohusky
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 12:10:43 Reply

I thinkpeople are losing that "news" has little to do with whether the speakers intends it to be news and mroe to do with whether the listener believes what they hear as news.

With John Stewart, the latter is true. he may claim it's comedy, but seriously, how many people out of 10 willclaim they don't take any truth out of his show? 2? 3? How many of those are lying? (most, if not all) When John Stewart says "Congressman A did [something]" people believe it. Same thing goes for Limbaugh, Colbert, Weekend Update, and Maher. Just because there is humor involved doesn't mean that these people can lie about the base facts and then it magically becomes not news.

The Onion is a good example of true comedy news. Sure, some readers may be initially fooled, (and some forever fooled) but the vast majority realize that nothing is true in it.

Now Stweart does have more leeway than CNN or FOX and the other regular news outlets. He has the leeway to snark and make derisive comments, knowing that that is his comedy. However, as he puts his show up as comedy based on real news he must report that news factually, or elsed he is no different than FOX and Friends.

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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 12:53:12 Reply

At 5/15/12 12:10 PM, Camarohusky wrote:

Very well put.

With John Stewart, the latter is true. he may claim it's comedy, but seriously, how many people out of 10 willclaim they don't take any truth out of his show? 2? 3? How many of those are lying? (most, if not all) When John Stewart says "Congressman A did [something]" people believe it. Same thing goes for Limbaugh, Colbert, Weekend Update, and Maher. Just because there is humor involved doesn't mean that these people can lie about the base facts and then it magically becomes not news.

One thing that I'd like to piggyback on what you said:

Stewart also uses a lot of video on his fake news program which I think makes his entertainment more 'truthy' (thanks Mr Colbert!). I think this distinguishes himself from John Lovitz and Robin WIlliams (both of whom incorporate political comedy into their stand-up)...who don't use the fake news format in their comedy.

Furthermore, I've some polling data that seems to suggest that Daily Show viewers tend to do better on "man-on-the-street" quizes about politics than ppl who just watch their local and network daily news shows. So I think they do do some good...and that adds a degree of responsibility to the entertainer to check some degree of their bias at the door.


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SteveGuzzi
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 13:16:50 Reply

At 5/15/12 11:27 AM, TheMason wrote: Where are you placing Limbaugh?

I wasn't suggesting he was a serious journalist, I was suggesting that people laugh at Stewart because he's actually entertaining and not because what he does is labeled "comedy". As in, Rush calling his own schtick "comedy" doesn't instantly transform it into something people would find humorous.

There are people out there, despite CC's, Colbert's and Stewart's marketing of the shows as fake news, that makes them their only source of news. And they also have a greater influence over public opinion than a professor, local officials, etc. In fact their influence could arguably be as great as journalists.

Now I don't think that's right (and I think you'll agree). But we don't live a perfect world.

Personally I think the media outlet itself and the manner in which they market the show is disclaimer enough regarding the level of just how seriously people should be taking the content. I agree that it isn't "right" that there are folks out there that make it their only source of news. I also don't think it's "right" that people are entertained by Jersey Shore or that the bimbos and meatheads on the show get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for just being bimbos and meatheads. The folks on that program can and do influence their viewership, and even spark conversations amongst people who've never even watched the show... but that, to me, doesn't create an obligation for them, or make it reasonable for others to expect them to wield their cultural influence "responsibly".

As for Stewart...I think he kinda opens himself up to this "category error". He goes on CNN or Fox and pokes their on-air personalities on their journalistic practices. Hell he even refers to himself as a media critic. Finally, he further blurs the line by bringing people on his show to debate, seriously rather than purely comedically, his media criticisms. If you're sitting there thinking I'm making this up...refer to his second highest-rated episode of the series: his debate with Jim Cramer over criticism/spots attacking CNBC.

How do two people even hold a debate "purely comedically" without the both of them being in on the satire?

Look, it's obvious that the news media and the government are the bread and butter of his material. He makes unserious comedy from serious subject matter, mostly out of a sense of exasperation with how these public figures portray themselves versus how they actually act. That's the key point for me. When he chides a pundit or network or politician or political movement, it's typically because they fail to live up their own standards or make crazy hyperbolic statements that oftentimes contradict previous, usually equally-hyperbolic statements made by the very same people. When a person or group publicly promote themselves as being unbiased, trustworthy, authoritative, etc. then their criticism is well-deserved when they fail to live up to those things. If we really wanted to judge Stewart "by the same standard", then it would be more honest to judge him by the standard he sets for himself rather than the standard that others set for themselves. That's the crux of the matter.

So yeah...I think Stewart uses his status of a comedian to hide behind when the heat gets turned-up on him when he puts on his serious, media/social critic hat. So no...I don't think Stewart is immune because he does blend those roles and categories. Therefore it is not stupid or illegitimate to ask these questions. So I think there is some degree of intellectual dishonesty (or some may call it cowardice) when Stewart hides behind the "satire" or "comedy" label.

I forget exactly how he put it, but he made a statement in his defense that I thought summed it up simple enough. Basically, it isn't that his absurdist humor is encroaching upon their territory, it's that their absurd conduct and behavior is encroaching upon his.


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SteveGuzzi
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 13:59:46 Reply

At 5/15/12 12:10 PM, Camarohusky wrote: I thinkpeople are losing that "news" has little to do with whether the speakers intends it to be news and mroe to do with whether the listener believes what they hear as news.

That's definitely an important distinction, but I don't think it actually takes the responsibility out of the listener's hands and puts into into the speaker's. People have a pretty good degree of control over which sources they listen to and how they allow those sources to influence them. We live in an age of media overload where there's no lack of people to listen to, watch, etc.

Just because there is humor involved doesn't mean that these people can lie about the base facts and then it magically becomes not news.
Now Stweart does have more leeway than CNN or FOX and the other regular news outlets. He has the leeway to snark and make derisive comments, knowing that that is his comedy. However, as he puts his show up as comedy based on real news he must report that news factually, or elsed he is no different than FOX and Friends.

I thought the criticism towards John Stewart was more about him being a liberal shill with an anti-Republican agenda, as opposed to his program exhibiting a pattern of getting the base facts wrong with regard to the various topics he covers.

I can only agree to a certain extent being that "getting the base facts wrong" (with intentional absurdity) is a satirical device in itself.


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Camarohusky
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Response to Can you hide behind satire? 2012-05-15 14:51:14 Reply

At 5/15/12 01:59 PM, SteveGuzzi wrote: That's definitely an important distinction, but I don't think it actually takes the responsibility out of the listener's hands and puts into into the speaker's. People have a pretty good degree of control over which sources they listen to and how they allow those sources to influence them. We live in an age of media overload where there's no lack of people to listen to, watch, etc.

I know. However, it is true that Limbaugh is a pseudo-news outlet at best. It is supposed to be satire, however, based on how he reports and the fact that so many people (far too large a group to be a mere statistical anomaly) we can't just place it all on the listener. I mean, heck, on pure technicality, Jim Kramer's shpw is for entertinment purposes only and look how that turned out. When someone holds themselves out to be an authority, whether it be for comedic purposes, or for new purposes, they thus place themselves in a position to be criticized for abusing that authority.

I thought the criticism towards John Stewart was more about him being a liberal shill with an anti-Republican agenda, as opposed to his program exhibiting a pattern of getting the base facts wrong with regard to the various topics he covers.

I didn't look at the links, due to my spotty ability to play certain things with the volume on. (not that I technically can't, but the environment I am in doesn't fit well with playing this stuff aloud, and I don't feel like lugging headphones around on the off chance someone posts a youtube link here). I don't see why Stewart would shy away from this type of criticism. Unless there's some strange deal or dynamic he has with Viacom, there's no reason for him to deny what is essentially true. he may not be a shill, but he is most definitely left leaning (sometimes to the point of annoying me, a left leaning person).

I can only agree to a certain extent being that "getting the base facts wrong" (with intentional absurdity) is a satirical device in itself.

If only all of the pseudo-news people (i.e. pundits) followed this.