While I personally don’t often watch Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert’s popular satirical comedy shows, I think they can be a great way for people to further engage in political information intake. They provide a comedic look into political and current event issues that the core news media outlets don’t provide. Yet often, I feel that you have to have your view of the issues brought up in these shows beforehand. While not doing so won’t hinder your enjoyment of watching, if you have your own mindset that can be solidified or challenged during the show you might be better off than someone unaware of the news issues included in the show.
Regardless of your political views, watching either Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert can make you laugh or sometimes even question the hard news we are delivered daily. But ultimately, their job is to entertain, not dish out the facts or to strictly discuss issues in politics. The following video shows a comedic spin by Jon Stewart on a recent Glenn Beck discussion.
As you may have noticed, this video was actually a story run on MSNBC that served to criticize a Fox News program, showing both the biases that each of these media sources are known to have as well as the way that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are able to make their way into the hard news scene. But it is important to understand, as stated previously, their shows are to make us laugh at the end of the day.
While politics and the hard media sources that deliver news of these issues are common topics to be debated and poked fun at by the general public, it is these sources that are crucial to our understanding of the political world. While I do agree to some extent that these comical “news” and political sources are useful to citizens by exposing them to any sort of political news at all, the real journalism is still left up to our main “hard” news sources.
While The Daily Show and Colbert Report may not be considered political news in the traditional sense, both shows do indeed promote political action. It’s a subtle promotion, but it’s also brilliant. Since both shows cover current events within the political realm, the assumption both shows make is that their audiences are aware of these current events. If they weren’t, the jokes wouldn’t land the shows wouldn’t last. But since both Stewart and Colbert have become the representatives of how younger people gather their news, with high ratings and awards, it’s obvious that the people watching it get the jokes. And the only way for people to get the jokes (outside of the easy dick jokes both make) is to be cognizant of what’s happening in the news in the first place. Without context, the jokes wouldn’t make sense. So, in order for audiences to really enjoy The Daily Show or Colbert Report, it’s necessary to understand the goings on in terms of the news and politics for the jokes to actually punch. This is how both shows promote political action. They may not have an outright agenda, but they do encourage audiences to know what’s going on, if for nothing else, so they can laugh at the jokes.
In terms of bias, during the joint Stewart/Colbert coverage of the election results during Indecision 2008, both comedians let their guards down with the announcement of Obama’s victory in the election. This breaking of character, especially on Colbert’s part, shows the elation both had that Obama had won the presidency. Though this doesn’t necessitate Stewart or Colbert’s liberalness, it’s evident that the guy they wanted to win, who happens to be a liberal Democrat, won, and they were clearly happy about it. Like all other human beings, they have their bias. But because they’re comedians first and informers second, it’s more acceptable that their bias be shown on the air than, say, someone from CNN or the like.
Additionally, the Rally to Restore Sanity was organized in direct response to Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. While it may be unfair to claim that it was a rally by liberals for liberals, the crowd was overwhelming liberal and the jokes told were aimed toward liberal ideologies. However, more interesting than the fact that this rally was in response to an overwhelmingly conservative moment was the general confusion over what Stewart’s rally was supposed to be doing. And as others have linked in their blogs, it wasn’t until Stewart explained that the rally was a wake up call to the media to calm down that the point was made.
Though the job of Stewart and Colbert is to satirize the media (a job it typically does well), they do have their own biases. For instance, Colbert supports an increase in immigrant rights in terms of work visas (which is a relatively liberal ideology) and testified as such in Congress, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner.
Stewart, too, admits a liberal point of view in terms of the show’s jokes. While this doesn’t mean The Daily Show won’t criticize the Obama administration, it’s much harder to find clips of Stewart criticizing Obama than it is of him criticizing the Bush Administration. And while this may be a function of his audiences’ interests, that his critique and comedy about the Republican Party and more conservative policies resonates more than his comedy about the Democratic Party and liberal policies shows his appeal as a liberal comedian.
In short, both shows are less political news shows and more critiques of the news, which is an important function in terms of providing information to the public. Both shows do have their biases based on which jokes the audience likes to hear and how both men, when not in character, react to happenings in the public forum. Finally, they promote political action because they have to in order for people to watch and enjoy the show. It’s hard to get the jokes if one doesn’t know what the joke is referencing, so though without an outright agenda and with a large amount of subtlety, both shows promote political participation.
These two men have either had the greatest political impact on Americans in the last decade or they are ruining what is supposed to be the political news structure in this country. Jon Stewart entered our homes in 1999 with the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert in 1997 on the Daily Show, but with his own show in 2005. There satirical news shows have garnered extreme amounts of attention and viewers. Their shows have become so popular because honestly, they are weaving through the bullshit and giving you their funny opinions on the political news of the day.
In the link above Colbert gives his comments on Wikipedia. He talks about the news of the day and puts his spin on it. Same for Stewart. Now does this count as political news? Some will tell you yes and others will tell you no. It is indeed political news because that is always the topic of discussion. Yes they are comedians and yes they make jokes, but who said political news had to be serious? Who said political news had to be stiff old white guys in front of cameras either stating their opinion or reading from a prompter without any opinion? Who said that political news has to be traditional? If this formula works then why don’t MORE people fucking CAPITALIZE on this?
The image above does indeed say America’s anchors, but that should be changed. They should be considered America’s pundits. They are not anchors even though millions of people would love them to be. It just isn’t so. They are pundits who do have a bias. Any interview Jon Stewart does he is battling right wing talking heads. Colbert ran for President last election as… (drum roll please) A DEMOCRAT.
Are they biased of course they are but that does not take away from anything that the do. Many people consider the Glenn Beck, Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh all to be “news” and forget that they are pundits. These men have helped INCREASE political participation in ways that we cannot even imagine. Without their popularity I honestly don’t think voting would be where it is at currently I don’t think many YOUNG viewers and voters would turnout. The voters of tomorrow love these men whether previous generations like it or not. Not everything they do is wonderful, but they have done much more great than they have harm. To be honest if the Conservatives or whoever does not like them or what they do, then man the fuck up and find out how to get them off the air or create a better product and quit whining about it. You are grown ass men and women. Act like it.
With the fragmentation of news gathering, it’s apparent that people who strongly identify with a political party tend to gather their news from specialized sources that cater to their political philosophies. For instance, those with liberal leanings tend to gather news from these folks:
While those with more conservative standing may get their news from one of these fine specimens of political banter:
While still others with, say, more Libertarian leanings will follow what this institute puts forth as relevant news:
Regardless of from which stereotypical political party sympathizing news source one gathers news, there are pros and cons to the fact that people tend to watch news programs that align with their political philosophies. For rational political news watchers, getting one’s news from a specific source will give that person a thorough understanding of a specific viewpoint pertaining to a given issue. For instance, if someone with liberal tendencies watches MSNBC news coverage of the healthcare debate or the dissolution of Wisconsin unions, that person will have a fairly deep understanding of the liberal viewpoint of those issues. This, in turn, can lead to lively and well processed arguments and debates with those who do not hold similar viewpoints and are, presumptively, gathering news from a source with a different viewpoint. The key here is rationality within the individual, however. One who gets one’s information from a specialized source must consider that the source from which they are gathering information is biased, may be misinformed or flat out wrong, and should consider other viewpoints if it turns out that the information one has does not back up an argument.
Another pro of gathering sources is that fragmentation breeds dissent, which can bring about compromise to advance a cause or manage an issue. That there are so many different channels concerning political news means that people are taking sides and holding opinions on issues important to the public discourse, implying that compromise and debate are necessary elements in terms of managing an issue relevant to the public discourse. Thus, rather than blindly accepting what the media says is the end all be all in terms of public discourse, people can argue and attempt to persuade others in terms of the “rightness” of an issue, which (ideally) can lead to solutions to an issue that may not be noticed if everyone was like minded and consistent in from where news was gathered.
However, a con with these vast array of choices is a lack of consistency. Because there are so many sources from which to gather news, the question of “What is really going on here?” becomes complex and sometimes muddled. If news sources covering the same topic provide entirely different “facts” on the matter, a viewer can become confused or disillusioned with the sources, assuming that if the same story has two conflicting sets of facts, one side must be lying and thus, will be forever considered untrustworthy. This can breed cynicism toward news sources, which may result in people leaving the political news arena altogether, reducing the number of voices on an issue that can be heard overall.
In short, it does matter that there are many different news sources with different political leanings that appeal to specific ideologies. This can be a good thing if political news organizations and participants are rational in their consumption of the news and are willing to engage in logical debate on an issue. However, it can be bad if irrationality, stubbornness and pure emotion guide the consumption of news, as this can lead to simple shouting matches and a departure of voices from the political issues arena due to cynicism over the sources’ credibility.
Everyone today watches some sort of news or news network. Whether it is in regards to Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, or serious in regards to NBC, CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, news media is all around us. One could argue that all news media is biased in one way or another. I believe that each network has its own beliefs and core ideals that they follow when reporting the news.
For example, NBC Nightly News and MSNBC are predominantly shifted to the liberal side of news. The analysis of news stories on these networks definitely leans towards the left and those who report on these networks seem to have an interest in liberal politics and have a disliking for conservative politics. Talk show hosts like Keith Olbermann who until recently was on MSNBC is a great example of this.
On the flip side, media outlets like Fox News leans largely to the right or conservative side of news reporting. I believe that while Fox News prides its network to being “fair and balanced” they are nowhere near this. Talk Show hosts like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are prime examples of conservative or right-wing media bias reporting. A prime example of Glenn Beck and his media biases can be seen below.
All media seems to almost certainly have some kind of biases in it one direction or another. I highly doubt that there will be a day where the media will not be biased in one party’s direction or another.
Asking if the media is bias is like asking if two plus two equals four. The answer is always yes. While many journalists aim to present their information in a non-bias fashion and just present the facts; bias is something they cannot avoid. When deciding which information to present and which information to withhold, they are framing their article, broadcast, blog, or other form of publication in a specific way. This in turn creates a bias. It is unavoidable.
Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN are among the top names in the media as a source for political information. However the unavoidable bias has left them all labeled by viewers to lean one way or another. While trying to stick to the facts, CNN has a reputation as having a slightly Liberal stance on news. Fox News has a reputation for leaning to the right and MSNBC has a reputation for strongly leaning left. I personally find these generalizations to be relatively true.
Other journalists however reject this concept of attempting to present the facts in an unbiased way all together. Heck, they do not mind including their individual opinions at all!! Take for example well known Conservatives, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Taking a peak at Glenn Beck’s radio websiteit would be tough to miss his right sided and rather witty opinions. On the same path as Beck, Rush Limbaugh also has a rep for his Conservative witticism. The instantaneous recognition of this is found when looking at his website. This is not only available through his video posts but even his advertisements. This one, in particular, I found to be a humorous mockery of Al Gore.
When jumping ship to the more liberal side of media personnel, an easy target for media bias criticism is Keith Olbermann. MSNBC recently had to release him from their lineup due to his extreme and unethical bias.
Biases can be masked but they are still exist.
It is impossible to be unbiassed.
Is the media biased? Really? That’s like asking does a bear shit in the woods or is Jeffery Dahmer a horrible human being. It is more true than most things we can say about life. At the same time the media cannot function without being biased. Some of the biggest “journalists” or television hosts are trying to report the news or speak on what goes on in our world in an objective way, but they cannot because honestly no one would watch. It creates for more interesting media outlets if there is a certain twist to what is being reported or being spoken on.
Bill O’Reilly, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Keith Olbermann, etc. The list continues on and on with very recognizable faces and how their stance in politics affects what they will speak on and how they will speak about it.
Glenn Beck has a habit of speaking his right side views on a constant basis and a lot of the time it allows him to put his foot in his mouth
Rachel Maddow who has her own political bias actually calls out another political “pundit”, “mind” in Glenn Beck with her own biased opinions
So is the media biased? Of course they are. In our society there really is nothing called objective journalism anymore. We just have to deal with in and weed through the bullshit bias and try to take the stories that are given to us and form our own opinions.