Monday, June 20, 2011

Jon Stewart LIVE On Fox News, Tells Host 'You're Insane'

From the Huffington Post:

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart entered the proverbial lion's den, appearing live on Fox News Sunday to debate "media bias" with host Chris Wallace.

Early in the interview, Wallace flashed a previous quote of Stewart's calling Fox News a "relentless agenda-driven 24 hour news opinion propaganda delivery system," and asked Stewart, "Where do you come up with this stuff?"

Stewart responded, "Uh, it's actually quite easy."


"The embarrassment is that I'm given credibility in this world because of the disappointment that the public has in what the news media does," he said.

"I don't think our viewers are the least bit disappointed with us," Wallace said. "I think our viewers think, finally, they're getting somebody who tells the other side of the story."

"Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers?" Stewart shot back, his voice rising. "The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll."

More here, with video highlights.

Watch the entire segment here.

HuffPo's account of the events is somewhat misleading. Stewart did say these things, but reading the account I've linked above gives you the sense that these were some knockout blows when really it was nothing like that at all. On the other hand, Wallace didn't really score any points, either. Actually, the whole thing wasn't much more than an exercise in frustration. For twenty four minutes.

The gist, as best as I can explain, is that Wallace attempted to defend Fox's bullshit "fair and balanced" slogan while at the same time trying to pin Stewart into the corner as being a liberal ideologue--that is, projecting onto Stewart the same criticism he makes about Fox, but from a liberal perspective. Stewart, meanwhile, attacked Fox for its extreme right wing bias, while continuously retorting that he's a comedian, which simply cannot be compared to Fox's 24/7 demagoguery.

And that's about it. For nearly a half hour.

Neither had any moments of clear victory. Of course, I agree with everything Stewart said, but it was one of those things where you imagine liberals and conservatives watching while counting the points their guy makes but ignoring what the other guy says. In the end, it was all a waste of time.

So why is this important?

The lesson I get out of this is that, when arguing with conservatives, liberals must immediately reject how their opponents frame the debate. Wallace's opening gambit, from which he never really deviated, was dragging Stewart into an argument about media bias, and the Daily Show host totally went for it. Stewart actually did pretty well, but the most he could ever hope for was a stalemate. After all, Wallace was running the interview, cutting his guest off just as he was getting started, jumping in with new pieces of video before Stewart had adequately addressed the previous one--there was just no chance for Stewart to get down to the nitty gritty. Indeed, Stewart should have opened with his best stuff, the numerous studies showing how Fox viewers are wildly misinformed about current events, instead of squeezing it in at the end while Wallace talked over him, and taken it from there without letting up.

In short, Stewart probably should have stayed completely away from the "is Fox really biased?" question and just pounded away at how Fox isn't simply biased, it's just plain wrong, just pounded away at bullshit conservative notions the "news" network pushes day in and day out. I mean, it didn't have to be exactly that, but the point is to immediately figure out how your conservative opponent is setting up the terms of the argument and go somewhere else. Surprise these guys, get them into a talk for which they weren't prepared. Because if you let them tell you how to argue with them, you can't win. Actually, you'll probably lose.

That Stewart didn't lose is testament to how quick the guy is on his feet, but he completely gave up his opportunity to win from almost the very beginning.

Here's another lesson to be learned from this interview: conservatives don't argue in order to arrive at the truth; they argue in order to fuck up rational thinking. And they're very good at it.