Saturday, June 24, 2006

Is Jon Stewart bad for democracy?

Jon Stewart? Bad for democracy? Am I losing my mind?

At the
Post, columnist Richard Morin points to a study by two East Carolina University political scientists which found that "young people who watch [The Daily Show] develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting".

College students. Those non-voting bums!

Now, there's a good deal wrong with the study — and I don't just say that as one of Stewart's most ardent fans. As Liz asks at
BlondeSense: "[W]hat is wrong with American citizens being less trustful of their government and political candidates?… What is wrong with questioning our governments policies?"

Nothing. It's the American way, isn't it? Revolution may or may not be a good thing every now and then, but a healthy skepticism of government is a central democratic impulse. I'm sure Locke and the Founders would agree. Perhaps even Socrates would agree.

For more, see also
Shakespeare's Sister. And Kevin Hayden at The American Street: "You know what the greatest disincentive for voting is? The way the Republicans rigged the vote in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere in the last two presidential elections. The whole electronic voting scam. Politicians that practice cronyism. Leaders who torture in our name… That’s not cynicism. That’s a broken political system."

And Gloria at
The All Spin Zone, who counters this lame study (of which Morin is but the lame messenger) with some reporting of her own: "According to a study done by PA's Annenberg Election Survey, TDS viewers were the most informed viewers on the issues in 2004. Political knowledge has a direct effect on political choices. Young voters were John Kerry's strongest supporters and George W. Bush's most vocal detractors."

Of course, the anti-Stewart right buys the study completely. See, for example, Ed Morrissey at
Captain's Quarters, who assumes, without anything to back up his assumption, that "people who [find] Jon Stewart hilarious [suffer] from a form of superficiality". He also claims that "reliance on satire and sarcasm alone requires little real courage, especially in a free society".

Has he even seen The Daily Show? If so, does he get it?

Jon Stewart is an educational satirist. In contrast to the news media, which often report the latest political spin without so much as an inkling of irony, Stewart educates us all — and not just the collegiate among us — in the ways of politics. For example, while the MSM will report on Cheney's latest remarks on Iraq, and do so virtually context-free, Stewart will juxtapose those remarks with previous, and often contradictory, remarks.

If some of Stewart's viewers turn into cynics, laughing at leaders who make fools of themselves, that's only because current political reality itself breeds such cynicism. How is it possible to look at what's going on at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and not become something of a cynic?

I would hope that many of Stewart's viewers don't stop and cynicism and do what they can to remake political reality, but I would much rather have America's young people, its first-time voters, understand American politics as it is rather than as the Republicans and their spin machine and the news media that report that spin as truth would have them understand it. I would rather have them turning away from the polls holding their noses than voting out of ignorance and fear.

Not voting is a political statement. Voting with knowledge of things as they really are is the essence of democratic responsibility. Jon Stewart puts his views on a path to knowledge and responsibility.

Jon Stewart is good for democracy.

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  • I think Jon has caused more people to pay attention to government than ever before.

    By Blogger Penrick, at 8:15 PM  

  • What would be good for democracy?
    Candidates who represent their constituents instead of themselves.
    Candidates that are more aligned with the best interests of humanity rather than big business and thought long term about policies rather than re-election.
    Candidates who are consistent.
    Full disclosure.
    If the media took less interest in personal lives of the candidates and focused on their policies and their commitment to carrying out their promises.
    Having a longer memory.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:54 AM  

  • Good Moorning Viet Nam/Baghdad - I think Dennis Miller is hilarious, love when he spins those Jim Nabor jams. I will vote for Jenna Bush in 2018, how about you?

    By Blogger Rudi, at 3:01 PM  

  • This is OUTRAGEOUS!

    Visit to support Jon and register your disgust at the Post and this "study".


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:21 PM  

  • I am wondering who funded this "study" and if it contitutes anything more than some dude's theoretical musings? If memory serves, weren't the networks claiming that "indecision 2004" was largely responsible for higher than prior voter turnout??

    Jon Stewart rocks my world.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:14 PM  

  • Well, the study was conducted by two political scientists, though they may very well be "dudes". I can't be sure. Either way, it's a rather pathetic study.

    And I think that Stewart ultimately turns people on to politics. At least, he makes them more aware. And I would much rather have cynical voters than brainwashed ones.

    I'm not big on Dennis Miller, Rudi. I used to be, back when he was a ranting independent. But he lost me the moment he became a pro-Bush mouthpiece after 9/11. (And a really stupid Republican, too.)

    (Another Bush in 2018? I think there should be a constitutional amendment banning any Bush from being president ever again.)

    Rachel: You're right. But will we ever have any of that?

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:46 AM  

  • I don't know anything about the study. I think Stewart is really funny and makes a lot of good points. But I will say this; the way he deals with issues and statements out of context can be very misleading and makes stuff look more simplistic than it is. To that extent, I think it plays into the desire of liberals to be reflexively anti-Bush without considering the underlying issues. The fact is, forgetting about Bush, these issues are complex but satire tends to focus on the parts that can be reduced to silliness. That's not to say that Stewart is "bad" for democracy, buI don't think satire presents a full idea of the issues. To that extent, it might breed undue cynicism. And I don't think that satire really provides people with knowledge so much as it provides them with an attitude.(And the same would apply if a Democrat is in office; If the Dems win in 2008, I think a lot of Democrats might not like their ox being gored.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:10 PM  

  • Where would Jon Stewart be today without clips of the media, the president, the vice president and our house and senate making asses of themselves? Jon Stewart is simply capatilizing off of reality. The media and the government are a joke that should not be taken seriously. He doesn't have to use hidden cameras to catch them making fools of themselves and each other, he simply uses their own words to show America that they are all full of shit.

    This writer is right Jon Stewart is good for democracy because if young people don't want to vote for either the good cops or the bad cops of our federal government that means that we might actually get a party out of this generation that will fix the damage caused by these lames we have ruining the show now.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:12 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 AM  

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