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Did Jon Stewart Equate MSNBC With FOX? Maddow Will Ask Him Tonight

Did Jon Stewart Equate MSNBC With FOX? Maddow Will Ask Him Tonight

Two of my favorite people in the world — Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow –  will be on the television this evening for what, I imagine, will be a lively discussion about lowly state of the American news media.  First, however, they’ll need to sort out a misunderstanding that has developed in the wake of Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity.

At the crux of the matter is the perception among progressive commentators that the message of Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s October 30 rally implied a false equivalence between, their fact oriented journalism from a liberal point of view, and the propaganda which freely flows from Fox News Channel.

Stewart, who will appear on The Rachel Maddow Show Thursday, Nov. 10, acknowledged his liberal critics in a humorous, self deprecating manner, on his own show, Nov. 8.  Stewart featured clips of Keith Olbermann, Maddow, and Bill Maher making their false equivalence arguments, then sarcastically announced the next rally, entitled:

“The Rally to Determine Precisely the percentage of blame to doled out to the left and the right for our problems because we all know the only thing that matters is that the other guys are worse than we are and/or fear” to be held 11-13.

Then, Stewart got a bit more sincere:

Contrary to what people may believe, I do think the rally was about something, just not necessarily what they wanted it to be about, or what they think it was about.  If we were in artful in that message, we were in artful.  I disagree with their classification of it, but I’m sure we’ll all have a chance to clarify on each others programs for the next ten years.  You’re free to disagree…

While I don’t disagree, I fully understand how it could be misinterpreted.  I’ve included video of Stewart’s closing remarks from the rally below, but consider this excerpt from the perspective of a liberal television news show host:

…we live now in hard times, not end times.  And we can have animus and not be enemies.

But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke.  The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder.  The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.

Yeah, that pretty much puts all of the cable news networks in the same category.  Is that fair to MSNBC?  Probably not, but with no specific party, network, or pundit referenced within his speech, it was subject to interpretation.

To be sure, MSNBC has its hyperbolic moments, its magnifying glass has certainly been misdirected from time to time.  But, by and large, MSNBC has nowhere near the ant burning prowess of Fox News.  I think any regular viewer of The Daily Show would concur, its host would agree with that sentiment.

For those gathered on the National Mall and watching the rally on television, Oct. 30, the message conveyed by its organizers went beyond an assessment of blame.  Rather, Stewart, I believe, was offering a reminder that, despite our differences, Americans cooperate on a daily basis and have for some time.  Sometimes viewing the world through a cable news lens makes that easy to forget.

Regarding Stewart’s assessment of the American news media as ‘broken’, can anyone say with confidence that he was wrong?  Last week I highlighted Maddow’s take down of conservative media outlets for its self sustaining ability to proliferate false news narratives.  Within the Nov. 5 segment, Maddow lamented the inability of conventional news outlets to penetrate and effectively debunk such narratives, even when their spuriousness is easily made plain.

… there have always been myths and lies around American politics.  But there used to be a process of debunking those things…  But the debunking process is gone now.  No non-right wing information is allowed to be used to debunk right wing information.  So, if conservatives self-confirm something as fact in their close circuit media world, it’s fact to them…

The loss of the inability to debunk is as clear indicator that Stewart was correct.  Even when there are proper, well intentioned, ethical news operations still in existence — and Rachel Maddow exemplifies all three — the news media in general, if not broken, is seriously malfunctioning.

Returning to Rachel’s upcoming interview of Stewart, I have no doubt the conversation will be cordial.  Hopefully they’ll quickly move beyond the false equivalency skirmish and damaged ego and on to a more constructive discussion about how to fix it.

Watch Stewart’s speech or read the transcript and let me know what you think.

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60 comments

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11:14PM PST on Nov 20, 2010

this can be so easily fixed. turn the channel or turn tv off. no one has to listen to any of them...and for the record, all channels are biased. and i don't think that there has been an honest reporter that didn't promote the business owner's agenda since edward r murrow. sorry, but i quit watching the news because all they have done is prove they have a selfish, self promoting interest in hawking their own perspective and no one listens to anyone else. i'm sick of all of them and i do think that MSNBC is the worst, but that's just my opinion.

9:53AM PST on Nov 15, 2010

To say that MSNBC is any less biased in their reporting because you agree with what they say. That is a common problem with liberal/progressivism... its only a problem when "they" do it. They say "the right are idiots, we know what's best for you," is a common note from the condescending broadcasts of Olbermann and Maddow, not to mention the tingly legg of Matthiews... no way he's bias... not at all. MSNBC just seems to be bent on discrediting Fox, whatever Fox says, they have to counter. They should get a life of their own. I agree, it would be great to have an objective viewpoit, but none exist.

9:57PM PST on Nov 13, 2010

I like Fox. The majority of the day Fox reports news as any other station.

I dislike Madow & Olbermann....I don't attack them I just do not care for them.

Can you people dislike and/or disagree with a person without calling names? Seriously....every time a person post faux news it makes me watch it MORE. you all are haters :)

4:28PM PST on Nov 13, 2010

Patricia S....I wouldn't expect you to look anywhere else but on a right wing hate site, so here's something for you to look up....right here on Care2Causes.....http://www.care2.com/news/member/193692282/2628890

5:36AM PST on Nov 13, 2010

Sharon H,
Please read the following:
http://bsimmons.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/who-is-george-soros/

5:34AM PST on Nov 13, 2010

Karen Z,
You are so right. The few times that I flip on MSNBC just out of curiosity all they do, especially Keith, is repeat what happene on Fox News. Now tell me that there isn't big time jealousy going with MSNBC over Fox! They can't come up with news on their own?

12:07AM PST on Nov 13, 2010

Karen Z.: you're right. And so was Jon Stewart at the end of what was otherwise (as he admitted) a sometime inartful "rally" that fell at times to Bruce Springsteen's "Republican Nerd" skit during his 2008 concerts. The punditocracy on both sides of the political polarization has gone hog, no, make that wild boar crazy. Between Keith Olbermann's "worst person in the world" nominations (where I've noticed a striking lack of Kim Il Sung, the tacky blazer guy who runs Iran, and other logical candidates) and Glenn Beck's para-Hitlerian rhetorical sobbing, the stupid-shyt-o-meter has been permanently pegged to "over-range."

I SAW both the part of the Stewart rally in which he very correctly lambasted ALL of the pundits, right, left, and tangent to reality, for using their lenses for incendiary rather than optical uses (THAT was a good analogy, btw). I SAW the interview of Bill O'Reilly on the Stewart show (a rare time when I watched Stewart's show because he usually shares the same agenda that MSNBC seems to follow) when he asked if O'Reilly thought that Comcast would remodel MSNBC to increase its viewership.

That would be a shame. Tilting MSNBC from left to right wouldn't solve a damn thing; just leave the "real journalism" level on television at its current low level.

Almost ALL electronic news reporting is political agenda-driven. BBC does it; Murdoch's outlets do it. Reuters and Agence France-Presse are about the only reliably objective electronic news outlets

10:47PM PST on Nov 12, 2010

I am definitely on the left side of the fence, but I'm not talking news here, I'm talking commentary. I love Olbermann and Maddow and the others but 4-5 hours of recounting every stupid thing Republicans and Fox News commentators said is not helpful. If I wanted to hear what a Fox commentator said, I'd be watching Fox. I don't because it annoys me. And I recognize that watching some of this commentary fuels my anger and makes me feel that things are worse and people are stupider in larger numbers than maybe they really are. In this regard MSNBC is also an offending party. Oh what I would give for more non-partisan news with a little educated analysis to help me, and others, understand the issues. Do we watch Fox or MSNBC because we agree with them or do we agree with them because we watch them? Are we being pushed to a point of view that we might not necessarily reach if we were given more non-biased reporting? For the sake of what's left of my sanity, I've greatly cut down on how much I watch. Jon Stewart articulated what I've long felt. And I have no interest in hearing him go back and say "Of course I wasn't really talking about you!" I am definitely a liberal but it's time to share the blame. Yes! Let's restore sanity!

10:05PM PST on Nov 12, 2010

Darla O:

I have long suspected that Faux News does more than just REPORT rumors as if they were true. I genuinely think they START THE RUMORS. That's why they don't follow that cardinal rule of journalism: state your sources.

I'm a journalist. Fox News horrifies me. I'd have been fired from the smallest, lowest circulation weekly newspaper I ever worked at for the kind of "reporting" they do. Glenn Beck is not a journalist, and has stopped even pretending to be one. He's a propagandist, through and through. I used to think that Bill O'Reilly was at least SANE -- not anymore.He's become as delusional and irrational as Beck. Fox News doesn't seem to WANT actual journalism any more -- they want opinion, ideology, attacks, disinformation, and outright lies, all screamed by somebody red-faced with hysteria who pretends to be outraged over something that hasn't really even happened.

I think that's where the difference truly has its genus. Olbermann is angry for a REASON. He's angry about thinks that have actually been done, that have actually happened. Fox is just whipping up anger among the uninformed by feeding them misinformation.

Genuine anger over genuine issues is something I can respect. Fake anger over fake issues is as disgusting as Beck's fake tears.

I give Rachel Maddow her props for her show on the loss of the debunking process. She's right. There's no debunking the crap Fox puts out as "news" when Fox is the only source its viewers accept.

8:35PM PST on Nov 12, 2010

The major difference in MSNBC and faux, is that MSNBC researches their stories, whereas faux news seem to get their information from rumors. I seldom hear them state the source of their information, which I find extremely odd, because I like to check things out to be sure they're true. Faux news is very difficult to watch because they seem to have difficulty reporting anything without emoting. They are actually more in the category of the Jerry Springfield show...lots of freaks and crying going on.

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