Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth..."

"...for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them. " - Umberto Ecco

Last Thursday, Jon Stewart hosted Jim Cramer on the Daily Show for the most devastating 30 minute piece of journalism I've ever witnessed. For your convenience, I've posted the UN-edited segments here (please be warned - Jon Stewart uses some language that isn't bleeped out, so this post is not suitable for young ears).

The only thing that comes close is that great scene from the movie "Network," and a similar homage that aired as the first clip of a short-lived Aaron Sorkin show called "Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip."

The only difference? Those clips were fictional.

Fictional though these comparisons may be, it doesn't take away from the truth of their message. Sorkin has the ability to write the world as we wish it existed, with people being brave in their assessments and ethical in their actions. But watching a real-live person interview another real-live person and hold him actually accountable for the things he has done was both painful and healing.

Many other bloggers (here and here) have beat me to the punch in commenting, and have made some astute connections to the parallel between Jeremiah's prophetic lanugage and Jon Stewart's unflinching inquisition. The fact that Stewart, a comedian with a self-proclaimed fake news show, is the only person who is willing to begin holding network hosts accountable for the information they've been spewing forth and marketing as "truth" is scandalous.

Jon Stewart's interview is not just a scathing critique of Cramer's work in presenting fiction as truth, but it also held a mirror to the face of the news media that has refused, for decades, to present true investigative reporting that isn't entertainment, character debasement, or worthless. Cramer claims to be hosting an "entertainment show about business." But, as Stewart points out, folks take his advice seriously. They're not watching him to be entertained; they're watching to be informed. He's abusing their trust and his authority, and Stewart is the only one who calls for it to stop.

Many of my friends are journalists, and many are clinging to the last vestiges of their jobs at their print media homes. They can speak to this topic far more knowledgeably than I can. But, I know that we, the people, are not alone in our anger over how far we've come in receiving actual news that isn't smeared with an agenda. Yes, there will always be a bias, but why can't we just decide it for ourselves?

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