Friday, November 21, 2003

WHICH IS THE REAL SATIRE?
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is the best show on television. Not just the funniest, but the most informative. I feel like my brain has gained more watching 20 minutes of monologues and feature skits from The Daily Show than I do watching an hour of CNN (or three hours of the any of the other US news networks). I wonder what it says when a spoof of the news asks tougher questions than the real news.

The reason The Daily Show is more informative than the "real news" is simple: it gets to the heart of the matter. No obfuscation. No pained neutrality. No fear of retribution.

In my essay "Fair and Unbalanced," I wrote about how and why the establishment media takes great pains to nibble around the edges, rather than shooting straight to the core. It doesn't want to lose its prized access. A comedian like Stewart has no access to lose, so he no reason to fear making pointed, unvarnished observations. He asks the questions that the average person wants to know but high-powered journalists are afraid to ask.

For example, last night, he made same great comments about the gay marriage controversy. He pointed out probably seven or eight politicians (about half of whom were Democrats, incidentally). All of them either critized the recent state court ruling that legalized gay marriage in Massachussetts or pushed the federal "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1996. All of these rabid defenders of the venerable and sacred institution of marriage pointed out by Stewart were... divorced. Except for the man who signed the "Defense of Marriage Act": then-President Bill Clinton... who's respect for the sanctity of marriage is legendary.

Would Wolf Blitzer or Tom Brokaw have pointed this out?

When comedians are asking tougher and more revealing questions than journalists, maybe it's time for the Fourth Estate to do a little soul-searching.

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