Friday, January 21, 2011
Did the Daily Show drink the Kool Aid for a second?
First off, I must say that there are few bigger fans than me of the Daily Show / Colbert Report. It is one of the highlights of my day. But last night's episode was a little off for me in the truth category. Now I'm not talking about the comedy bits during the first 2/3 of the show - those are basically invulnerable to criticism because it's comedy.
I'm talking about the interview segments, which is supposed to be a semi-serious no-bullshit zone. Stewart doesn't let people get away with baseless rhetoric, or avoid the real issues people are thinking about (or should) for very long. He's not hard-hitting, but he is transparent. And that's why certain omissions in last night's episode, featuring an Iranian comedy internet news show, bothered me so much. It featured Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, who broadcast news satire into Iran's dictatorship. With all it's censored state-run media, this is dangerous stuff the two are doing, even maybe from the U.S. where they tape it.
It's very inspiring - a story about Iranians who leave their repressive country and escape to the United States, where they use the freedoms we enjoy to spread democracy in their homeland. The problem is in Stewart's throw-away introduction to the two - that the official name of the show is Voice of America's Parazit. Jon Stewart never really goes into detail about what Voice of America is, he just jumps over it and starts talking about their great show.
Most Americans don't know what Voice of America is, either. It's essentially U.S. Federal Government radio, and is listened to by U.S. troops and other peoples worldwide in 44 languages. It is far, far better than state-run media in other nations, but it is not unbiased and does promote a positive view of the United States and its actions. It serves U.S. interests, basically. So Jon failed to mention that this fantastic show broadcast into Iran is bankrolled by the U.S. government (and no, he doesn't mention in the extended interview, either). I think this is significant, because even if the two are authentic and funny and passionate, they are still being sponsored by our government to undermine another government. It has a whiff of propaganda, and that seems worthy of mention.
Maybe this fact gets in the way of the great story the two men had to tell. Maybe it wasn't funny to mention this. Or maybe I'm overthinking this. But I sort of felt hoodwinked last night.