Jon Stewart sat down for a great interview with Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show. Stewart described to Maddow what he thinks is the brilliance of Fox News, “I think the brilliance of fox news, and they delegitimized the idea of editorial authority while exercising incredible editorial authority.” Fox News has managed to take any criticism and label it as persecution.
Here is the video from MSNBC:
While talking about the cable news business, Jon Stewart told Rachel Maddow what he thought was the brilliance of Fox News, “I think the brilliance of fox news, and they delegitimized the idea of editorial authority while exercising incredible editorial authority. It’s amazing, and they also have the game that they’re all out to get us. Any criticism of them can be filtered through the idea that it’s persecution. This isn’t criticism, it’s persecution. That’s a tough distinction to make. Nobody likes to be criticized. I don’t like to see people I like and respect go, that rally was useless. It did nothing and, in fact, you’re crazy and wrong. But I understand that I put something out there. I made something, and people should have a chance to go, this is what I thought it was. I just want to make sure that I’m clear about what I thought it was, not what I thought it was, what it was, because I made it.”
Stewart later pointed to a genetic linkage between what Fox News does and the rise of Keith Olbermann, “Do you think MSNBC changed over the last five years? There is a genetic linkage between Keith– Keith was the first. It was a voice in the wilderness. People were like, what? You can say that? You came on, now I’m talking about climate as opposed to weather. But it does create a linkage that I think it would be hard for you to say, geez, I don’t know if we’re really doing that. Then what are you doing?”
The Daily Show host discussed the over dramatic over hyping that the 24 hour news cycle has made necessary, “If that was a measured tone, I don’t think you would see people raising the bar on graphics. The problem with 24-hour news cycle is it’s built for a particular thing, 9/11. Other than that, there isn’t 24 hours of stuff to talk about in the same way. How do you keep people watching it? O.J.’s not going to kill someone every day. That’s gone. What do you have to do? You have to elevate the passion of everything else that happens that might even be somewhat mundane and elevate it to the extent that this is breaking news. This is developing news. This is breaking developing news. The aggregate effect of that is that you begin to lose the lexicon. You begin to it lose any meaning of what breaking news means or urgent or look at this or dangerous. That was our montage at the end….”
Stewart also returned to the point of his rally that not everything is a left/right issue, “It was it the language then has to become sharper, louder, to cut through more and more of the noise. What I’m saying is maybe there is a way to not engage in the idea, not to accept the premise — there is a premise out there. The premise is, we are all on this access of left/right. Maybe there’s a different premise. I don’t mean that in the way of partisanship. I mean it in the way of they cover politics. Politics is a Democratic and Republican game. It is left and right. I think the conflict that would be more appropriate to a news channel would be corruption and noncorruption…”
This was a fantastic interview. The most striking thing about it was the tone. I can’t remember the last time two people sat down on prime time cable news and reasonably discussed an issue, especially an issue as explosive as the role of cable news in our national dialogue. I am sure there are some people thinking; oh Maddow and Stewart are both liberals. Of course they got along beautifully, but there was plenty of disagreement in this interview.
The way that disagreements between the two of them were handled made this interview standout, not just for The Rachel Maddow Show, or MSNBC, but for cable news as an industry. Two people sat down and spent an entire program in a discussion that did not involve raised voices, name calling, or gimmicky segments. They sat down and talked, and the result was some great television. In reality, it isn’t just as simple as two people talking. It was the fact that Maddow is one of the best interviewers on cable combined with Jon Stewart, who is a thoughtful, well spoken, intelligent guest.
Expectations were pretty high for this interview, and it delivered. This was a serious discussion about the media, the role of Stewart and The Daily Show as both news commentary and satire, the tone of cable news, the false equivalency between MSNBC and Fox News, and how Jon Stewart views himself as the latest in a long line of satirical comedians. This was truly must see TV, and if you missed it, do yourself a favor and sit down and watch it. At least for one hour, the screaming stopped on one cable news channel and intelligent discussion took its place. Now if we can only do something about those other 23 hours a day, we’ll be good to go.