Monday, October 4, 2010

Stewart And Colbert: What's the Point?

Source after source continues to try to figure out what to make of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. While it doesn't seem that difficult, it appears that Republicans didn't get Colbert before they asked him to speak at a White House affair only to be shocked that he was not one of their own. Today, the Christian Science Monitor asks if they are walking on dangerous ground and getting serious with their events in Washington DC this month.

It seems that people don't seem to understand the role of comedy in society. Comedy is a mirror that shows us ourselves. It tries to get us to see something that we might otherwise ignore, or that is too serious a topic for us to see in another light. It seeks to show us something about ourselves in a different, often a deconstructionist light.

To ask if Stewart is getting serious is to ignore his past. It seems as if they forget when Stewart went on Crossfire and asked the pundits to "stop," as he explained just how they were "hurting us." Stewart has been making a serious point for quite some time as a media critic through the lens of comedy. He has done it well enough that many young people actually get their information from Comedy Central instead of news organizations.

What people forget is that in this day of 24 hour media, where networks don't use news as a loss leader or a public service, but as a profitable vehicle; the news gets presented in a way to attract viewers, not to serve the public. And that isn't evil, but it is a reality that far too few realize. And when you don't realize what's going on with the media, it is too easy to get duped. And that is where Colbert fits in, as he shows just how bad this propaganda machine can go.

Don't get me wrong. Stewart is correct. It isn't the left or the right. It is the media machine that tries to define the "news" as a debate of two ideologies instead of some attempt to find an objective truth (note: this does not mean objective in an unbiased sense, but rather objective in the attempt to discover and report the information discovered with as little "spin" as possible.). It is the media machine that focuses on the clash, not the public service, not the "truthiness" of the information, not the importance of the subject.

Fox is the right wing media machine, MSNBC has decided to move to the left, and CNN has long focused on the drama regardless of truth or implication. None of them care about what matters to society or the people involved other than that those people should create the type of story they want for their viewers because they believe those are what attracts their viewers. And more viewers means more ad sales and more profits, while suiting their purposes.

Stewart is a critic, but he is also an artist. Artists tend not to focus on their wallets as much as the significance of their views of society, and how it ought to function. Thus, explaining Stewart's comments on Crossfire where he begs with the pundits to help the people instead of the corporations and politicians.

Whether Stewart's interpretation is correct or not, he clearly has indicated that he feels a responsibility to fight "for the people" against the politicians and the corporations in that appearance. He views himself as one who can see through the things others can't see through, as well as being able to present it to the people in a way that makes the problems apparent to them.

The primary question isn't about whether or not Stewart and Colbert take themselves seriously, or are trying to be serious with a point; all comedians have a serious point.

The primary question is: will their audience get the point, act on the point, create the right changes, and create those changes in time to have the desired impact before it is too late.

The focus isn't right versus left. The focus is on the process: How can the people make informed and intelligent decisions in the democratic process if they are never given the relevant information about the people and the issues they are voting on?

Stewart and Colbert seek to show the people the smoke screen, not to decide the policies. And that is their role as critics.

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