Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Daily Show

This editorial refers to some of the more crass moments of The Daily Show. If you wish to avoid hearing about them, do not read further.

I first became interested in the news by listening to NPR and watching The Daily Show. Many, including Stewart himself, view The Daily Show as comedy. I believe that it is a political opinion program. The show has covered many serious and important stories.

The Daily Show (TDS) covered the story of Asbestos, Canada, which is exporting their poisonous namesake to India.

TDS covered Nezar Hamze, who was denied entry into the Boward County Republican Party in Florida because he was a Muslim.

TDS also covered Turkey Creek, a historic black community in Mississippi that faced extinction at the hands of Eminent Domain and environmental pollution. The town was saved by the Audubon Society, which successfully had the area designated as a wildlife sanctuary, saving the town. TDS powerfully demonstrated how this incident showed that birds were valued more than black people.

In 2010 Stewart preformed his Rally to Restore Sanity where he articulated the importance of being able to disagree about politics without demonizing those you disagree with. His media montage showed CNN, Fox, and MSNBC scarring people for no reason as well as Fox and MSNBC demonizing those they disagreed with. His call for civility was summarized in his final speech at the rally.

In 2010 Stewart took up the cause of the 9/11 first responders, who were being denied healthcare because of Republican obstruction in the Senate. He powerfully showed the hypocrisy of Republicans that use 9/11 for rhetorical advantage while denying healthcare coverage to 9/11 first responders. This is one of the most powerful editorials I have ever come across. Stewart also discussed the filibuster of the bill with actual 9/11 first responders all of whom suffered from disease. Stewart’s advocacy played an irreplaceable role in getting the bill passed.

Also in 2010 Stewart exposed the bigoted Islamaphobia behind the opposition to the inaccurately named “Ground Zero Mosque” that would be built 2 blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center. Stewart pointed out that there was already a mosque 4 blocks away from Ground Zero and that it had been there before the World Trade Center was built. At the time, the building of local mosques was opposed in cities throughout the country. Opponents alleged that the location of the Manhattan mosque was insensitive, that the mosque had ties to terrorist groups, and that the mosque could be used as a terrorist command center. Stewart pointed out how ridiculous those last two claims were. The source of those claims was, of course, Fox News. Stewart also pointed out Fox News’ stupidity or evil in not disclosing that Alwaleed bin Talal, a funder of the mosque who they were demonizing, was a large shareholder in News Corp, their parent company.

Stewart’s advocacy for the 9/11 first responders bill and in support of the Manhattan mosque are among the greatest moments in television news, next to Murrow’s takedown of McCarthy and Cronkite’s Vietnam editorial.

That being said, I have, of late, become somewhat disillusioned with Stewart. His humor has always been a bit too obscene for my taste. He depicted Tom Delay as riding a giant penis. He had Mario Barteli regurgitate food into his mouth. My view of Stewart really took a plunge after I saw that.

On substance, I was offended by his uniformly negative depiction of Occupy Wall Street. Stewart showed an Occupier taking a dump on a police car, depicted the movement as universally uncleanly by airing a segment about how some Occupiers had soiled the bathrooms of local businesses, and painted Occupy as hypocritical and a movement of freaks. I might as well have been watching Fox News. Stewart also covered the excessive use of pepper spray by police, but every depiction of the movement itself was highly negative. In the months when the movement was most powerful, Stewart did not once have on an Occupier as a guest on his show. Politicians, movie stars, and authors were all given a platform. However, regular citizens speaking their mind about politics who were participating in a movement Stewart was demonizing were never given that opportunity.

The Alyona Show, on the other hand, devoted an entire episode to interviews with Occupy activists at Zuccotti Park.

The Daily Show has also completely ignored the moral depravity of the US providing weapons to the government of Bahrain, which has been suppressing a pro-democracy protest movement. I expected mainstream television news to ignore the story, but I expected better from The Daily Show.

The Daily Show is a powerful source for pointing out absurdity, corruption, and falsehood. But when it came to Occupy Wall Street Stewart was unfair and on Bahrain, he was silent. I still have respect for Stewart and enjoy The Daily Show, but I do not watch it as often as I once did and will not have the reverence for Stewart that I had in the past.

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