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.


Ilan Goodman said...

Start at minute 4:40 watch at least until 8:00. Jon Stewart isn't a journalist, and has no ethical obligation to present the "whole story."

shesthesheriff said...

Well, its tough the more popular you get the more people expect from you. I think J Stew definitely goes out of his way to declare himself agenda free but I mean, he's a human being-there's going to be a lot of cases like this where he's not totally objective, or he omits certain things, and yeah even though people see him as a news anchor he isn't really. Part of whats starting to bother me about the daily show, which isn't totally fair because if he was a niche program it wouldn't be such a big deal cuz he'd be less popular.

Jonathan Rubin said...

To both of you: Hmmmmmmmmmm

Jonathan Rubin said...

One comment from the YouTube video that Ilan promoted seems to be very appropriate here. It's a grey area in some ways, but black and white in another:

EndtheDenial: Jon Stewart is closer to being a journalist than a pundit. BUT he rejects the journalist title and responsibility. He is first and foremost a comedian. So it's people's EXPECTATIONS of him that should be examined. No comedian is going to hold himself to a high standard of integrity where TRUTH is concerned. (Although he and Colbert do pretty well). They are satirical entertainers, and journalism really isn't entertainment. These are important distinctions, especially for America.