Friday, March 13, 2009

Reflections on the Stewart-Cramer interview

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(My initial reaction is here. Watch the interview here.)

Last night, as you know, Jon Stewart took down Jim Cramer and exposed the ridiculousness of the stock-happy, CEO-coddling business media, as well as the malfeasance of master manipulators like Cramer. It was an amazing and utterly one-sided debate, with Stewart coming out easily on top, and it made for some amazing television.

There is nothing "faux" about Stewart. He may be self-deprecating, and he may often shield his his seriousness of purpose behind his comedian persona, and behind his unwillingness to take himself too seriously, but he and his show -- which isn't "fake," journalistically or otherwise -- are far more real, and far more honest, than just about anything else in the media. (And so it isn't surprising that many in the media, threatened and insecure, continue to write him off as "fake.")

With most in the media unable and unwilling to do what they are supposed to do, so beholden are they to their corporate masters (and so much a part of the problem, especially in Washington and New York), Jon Stewart has become one of America's leading commentators. This is why so many people turn to him night after night -- and why, last night, it fell to him to take on not just Cramer but what Cramer represents, Cramer's whole world. Who or what else is there out there? There are a few in print, yes, and more online, but on television? PBS, 60 Minutes, which has its moments, and, like Stewart, others who don't have the platform of a major network. It isn't cable news, that's for sure. CNBC, Cramer's network, is precisely what Stewart was exposing. MSNBC, another part of the pro-Cramer NBC family -- well, it is being reported that MSNBC intentionally avoided the Stewart-Cramer interview today, apparently not wanting to highlight Cramer's failure. CNN doesn't know what it's doing much of the time, and Fox News, well, you know where Fox stands on all this, firmly against Stewart and fully dominated by right-wing ideology.

I disagree entirely with the Times's Alessandra Stanley, who wrote today that Stewart's "point was not to hear Mr. Cramer out, but to act out a cathartic ritual of indignation and castigation." No, his point was to speak the truth to a liar and a fraud, and he did just that. Stanley obviously didn't get it, perhaps because of her own right-wing inclinations, and her piece is full of anti-Stewart nonsense. She even claims, evidently out of her mind, that he has "always had a messianic streak to his political satire." Apparently some people can't handle the truth, or what nothing to do with it.

That applies to Stanley and to others like U.S. News blogger James Pethokoukis, who alleges that "Stewart really doesn't believe in the idea of a stock market where individuals can go to invest their money and build wealth over the long term." This is just crazy. How is Stewart against the market? He isn't against it, just as he isn't against long-term investment, he's against, to repeat, the stock-happy, CEO-coddling business media and the malfeasance of master manipulators like Cramer. Not that that matters to the right, for which any criticism even of the excesses of the market amounts to an assault on the very foundations of capitalism. So Obama is written off as a "socialist," even though he is nothing of the kind, and Stewart is similarly dismissed as an anti-market "liberal." It's all so silly, but the smears are hugely popular among conservatives, who seem to accept dishonesty, fraud, and corruption in the market without much concern.

As for me, I agree with James Fallows: Jon Stewart is the new Edward R. Murrow. And, after last night, I will watch him with even greater pride and admiration than ever.

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  • Well said.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:00 PM  

  • I have been a regular watcher of both shows for several years. Stewart
    s criticisms of CNBC have some merit, but if he is looking for scapegoats for the current financial crisis, CNBC doesn't even make a top twenty list.

    He is way off the mark making Cramer the face of this. Cramer's show is much like Stewart's: he employs over the top humor to deliver messages that are dead serious and highly informative.

    Flaying Cramer for wrong calls on a couple of stocks merely reveals Stewart's total ignorance of financial markets and stock investing. Cramer's past as a hedge fund manager is precisely what makes him a valuable advisor. It's his practical experience that make him worth listening to versus all other available financial media pundits.

    By the way, this financial crisis was not caused by stock market manipulators. It is true that short sellling stock manipulators are exacerbating it now, but Cramer has been out front - virtually alone - in calling them out for over 6 months.

    Stewart showed incredible ignorance and lack of research on his topic in scapegoating and smearing Cramer on his program. He even did a disservice to his own cause, which I sympathize with.

    I was stunned at Cramer's inability to articulate this to the viewers of Comedy Central.

    By Blogger Doug Balch, at 10:40 AM  

  • I have watched The daily show for a very long time in fact since it 1st aired with Criag Kilborn 14 years ago. Granted I do not know all that much about the financial system nor the workings of the stock market. However neither does Jon Stewart, which he admits to during the interview. To be honest I am not sure what interview you saw, but from what you have said you did not pay attention. If you can watch the full unedited interview on Comedy Central or Hulu ad you will see that Stewart did a fine job I feel a job that should have been done by the more known news reporters, and he stated that Cramer was not the face of this financial disaster nor should he be. Go on hulu and watch the episode that started it all, the episode from march 4th. Cramer was an innocent victim of the crossfire, that the news media pundits started, since they had nothing better to do. Cramer did his best to defend himself and sadly he was not able to do all that well. Not because he didn't know what to say but because he knew that Stewart was right. Stewart apologized to him for being caught in something they both did not want but instead treated him very well and with respect. For you to think that Stewart was ignorant of the process and with what some have called a one sided argument is wrong. He was lucid and I agree with the article that Stewart has in many ways become what Edward R. Murrow was during his time. Stewart admits he is not a reporter he is an entertainer and comedian. He is also a great satirist and to be one, one has to be knowledgeable about the goings on in the world. Also he was not scapegoating Cramer...the media made him the scapegoat by making this whole feud up over what is the truth in what Stewart said and showed last week. With any luck other news organizations as well as reporters will look on this and ask themselves, why were we not doing our jobs. In my personal opinion I feel this interview is a watershed event, one in the face of the other news networks who should have been doing what Stewart was able to accomplish.I have always liked Jon Stewart and the Daily Show has gone from a good show to a great show since he took over 10 years ago. As Bill Moyers himself said he feels that more people get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than they do form the major news networks and I agree with him.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:10 PM  

  • I fully subscribe to your first an final paragraph.. the bit in the middle bit gives the impression that you haven't looked at the full interview

    "I have been a regular watcher of both shows for several years. Stewart
    s criticisms of CNBC have some merit, but if he is looking for scapegoats for the current financial crisis, CNBC doesn't even make a top twenty list."

    "I was stunned at Cramer's inability to articulate this to the viewers of Comedy Central."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:20 AM  

  • If you guys did indeed watch the full interview, Jon Stewart said and I quote "It is unfortunate that you have now become the face of this, because this is so much bigger than you" You guys obviously didn't catch that did you. Jon Stewart did an excellent piece of journalism plain and simple others should follow his stride

    By Blogger Zorn, at 9:34 PM  

  • I wouldn't say that this is purely a right ideology, and I doubt Stewart would either.
    The market collapse was due to dishonest people and you can find those on any end of the spectrum.
    As for the interview, Stewart as always, exposes everyone and Cramer just happened to take the brunt of it by striking back. Cramer is an intelligent financial guy who knows a lot about the financial markets, but he has too many friends in too high of places with too much money involved... he needs to be an investigative reporter/commentator and fess up to what he himself has done as a huge hedge fund manager... Stewart did a good job, but like he said there are many more people in high places (the gov't and fed res) who had a lot to do with this crisis

    By Blogger Unknown, at 12:37 PM  

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