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.
Television shows such as The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have become overwhelmingly popular in our culture. In some cases, people are using these programs to obtain their political news more than they are using other more “reliable” sources. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have created a phenomenon that has given society an option to escape from the seriousness that political news usually entails and provide an entertainment form of political news. It is important to examine though whether these “sources” are providing people with actual political news or if it is just a pure form of entertainment. There are many arguments to support both sides. Personally I feel as if these programs do provide political information, but they are not political news.
Political news, to be most effective in reaching the average consumer, should be unbiased and present the story in its original form. Obviously with the antics of Fox News and MSNBC, this type of information is hard to find these days. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have used this obvious biased in political media to poke fun at the respective parties and the extreme stances they take. They do though seem to have political biases themselves in doing this by tending to make fun of one party more than the other. Political news sources claim to be non-biased though and these satirical shows have consistently stated they are not attempting to remain fair. This biases though does not determine whether political satire can be classified as political news.
A main factor for me that distinguishes The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as purely entertainment is what researchers have named “The Daily Show Effect”. This idea focuses on the link between young people and political news. The average viewer of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is between 18-24 years of age. This research is showing these young people are much more likely to obtain their political news from these shows rather than traditional political news sources. So what effect are these shows having on these young people? Many researchers are saying these shows are increasing cynicism in young voters and increasing their distrust about our government. One writer responds to this study by saying,
This is not funny: Jon Stewart and his hit Comedy Central cable show may be poisoning democracy…. Young people who watch Stewart’s faux news program… develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.
Stephen Colbert seems to believe his program can be very beneficial to helping young people get more involved in politics. He contends it grabs their attention and this is one of the hardest things to do when it comes to young voters and politics. As he explains,
People are constantly saying ‘How’s it feel to have such an impact?’ I just want to be funny. I’m a comedian, not a political thinker. We’re changing the world one factual error at a time.
Here he seems to believe they are helping political news by pointing out their errors as sort of a check and balance system. In a way, I think this could be beneficial. It seems though most young people are using satirical political news not as fact, but as a source to provoke their interest in further researching a news story. It is for this reason I believe this can not be labeled political news.
Overall, I believe The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are doing a service by increasing young people’s interest in politics if they are indeed doing this and not reverting them into further cynicism. It is hard to reach they young voters of America and with their entertainment they have found a way to do it. If you want real political news though I’d say stick to the traditional sources.
For those who have never seen these shows here are clips to give you an idea of the overall purpose of these programs:
I remember that it was my junior year in high school that I started to watch The Daily Show on a fairly consistent basis. Back then The Daily Show was just a shadow of what it is today. Today, Jon Stewart and his companion Stephen Colbert, have so much pull that they can have thousands of people travel hundreds of miles just to see them speak at a rally they created. With so many people getting news from these two men when does their show move from a comedy show to something else? I think that these two shows have a very strange place in the political spectrum. They know that at the point of their show is to make people laugh. However, they also know that they have a opportunity to reach out to people who normally may not be interested in the news. Jon Stewart knows how he impacts political debates and the “Colbert Bump” is a very real thing. In my opinion these two shows can be counted as real political news. I learn new things from a different perspective every time I watch their shows. I believe that Jon Stewart stated what he saw as his role in the political spectrum at his Rally To Restore Sanity.
I believe that The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have a bit of a left leaning bias. Everyone knows that Jon Stewart gets a lot of kicks from Fox News, especially Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly.
That’s not to say that Stewart and Colbert spend all of their time attacking Fox News and it’s pundits. I have seen Jon Stewart spend an entire segment of his show attacking MSNBC or CNN. By going after all the news networks Colbert and Stewart keep all of them held accountable to what they are saying.
I believe that Stewart and Colbert are great at promoting political participation. Colbert does an awesome job at raising money for charities and other events by using his show as an outlet for a certain cause. I believe that they hold a special sway with young voters as opposed to older voters. All in all I am a pretty big fan of The Daily Show and Colbert Report and I like what they say on their show.
What makes Jon Stewart such a popular figure within the US political culture? One word: humor. Jon Stewart since his arrival on Comedy Central has always made certain that his show is strictly a comedy show and shouldn’t be considered a source for news. Think about this though, isn’t it ironic how he says this but within this day in age someone like him is such a key cog when it comes to being a news outlet.He does such a good job of commenting on politics that are at the front of the headlines by adding a little bit of his own humor in to relate it back to people. I’m much more inclined to watch this sort of “political” show than I am just regular Fox News because I know I’m at least going to get a good laugh at what is said and who knows, I might actually learn something pertinent along the way! Here’s a good quote that I found from Jon Stewart on rising oil prices:
“This morning, prompted by increasing concerns about terrorism, oil prices reached a record high as the cost of a barrel of crude is a whooping $44.34. Wow, it seems shocking that a product of finite supply gets more expensive the more we use it. … Now the terror alert means higher oil prices, which oddly enough means higher profits for oil companies giving them more money to give to politicians whose policies may favor the oil companies such as raising the terror alert level. As Simba once told us – it’s the circle of life.” –Jon Stewart.
So let’s break this quote down; he first informs you of what’s going on and gives some details to back it up (oil prices reach $44.34 a barrel), he then throws in some humor and questions why it’s getting so high, and finally relates it to my generation by throwing in a Lion King reference. If you ask me, it’s absolutely brilliant how Jon Stewart can throw in his political information while being on the side of an adulterated comedy.
But within this humor-based show does he really convey political news? I’d sure like to think so. This goes back to one of the first things that we talked about this semester. Political communications and political news is really anything where the host, in this case Jon Stewart, relays some sort of political information to his viewers…is he doing this?? Of course he is! Like I said earlier he likes to convey that he is solely a comedian, I’m not buying it. Here’s why I think he implores ploys such as this one; if he were to claim to be a source for political news source then they would lose a lot of views around my age demographic who tune in to get the lighter side of politics. I’m sure as heck not going to tune in if I thought his show was solely news based, there’s plenty of other ways I could get that information. You draw people in by saying it’s a comedic show and then you show your political views once you’ve got them all tuned it…it worked with me.
Is he biased? Of course he is. Watch this video and tell me he isn’t leaning one way more than the other.
He has opinions and that’s one of the reasons these sorts of shows are entertaining, they appeal to us, they seem more real. I’d much rather watch someone with an opinion than someone who is by the book and basically takes on the role of a robot.
And is he good for political participation and the ever growing knowledge of the US when it comes to politics? Absolutely! Like I said he appeals to my generation with his comedy and low blow punch lines. Anytime you can appeal to my generation in regards to politics you’re doing something right. Whether people agree with him or not they’ve engaged in some type of political activity!
People normally don’t like hearing the opinions of other people, especially if the line of thought contradicts your own. Walking past speakers circle on any given day you can hear people preaching to you on a number of subjects, and most of the time we just put our heads down and keep walking. It’s human nature to not want to listen to things different from what we are used to, so why should that change with the news we consume? When it comes to news agencies the pillar of the Right is Fox News and the bastion of the Left is MSNBC. Both channels claim the other of hypocrisy and of spreading misinformation. With hard-core Republicans getting their news from Fox and hard-core Democrats getting news predominantly from MSNBC, what does this mean for the country?
In my opinion people getting their news from just one source is a bad thing, whether it be just from Fox, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, or The Daily Show. I believe that people need to diversify their news over many outlets and genres. The more different types of news people consume the more well-rounded they will be on a subject, and thus be able make a sound decision at the polls. When watching partisan news networks one has to be carefull not get too drawn in to what they are saying and keep in mind where they are coming from. Just look at how the two sides reported the protests in Wisconsin.
As seen above, Fox News makes the protestors look like thugs who will kill people who get in their way while ruining the United States. MSNBC made the protestors look like David fighting Goliath for the right to have a say in their lives against corporate greed. If a person just watched one of the above channels for all of their news it is easy to say that their view of the world may be a bit skewed.
In the end I think that the politically charged rhetoric from news sources is bad not just for individuals, but for our country as a whole. People like Bill O’Reilly and Rachel Maddow increase partisanship and decrease compromise. In my opinion it is best for people to get their news sources from a plethora of places and keep an open mind on subjects.
Here are some commonly accepted truths: first, that the Earth is a sphere and spends much of its year rotating around the sun, second, that no matter what teams play, the best part of the Super Bowl always has and always will be the commercials, and third, that Democrats hate Fox News and Republicans hate MSNBC and I, frankly, hate both.
Fox News, bastion of conservatism and entertaining, if more-than-slightly off-the-rocker, TV personalities such as Glenn Beck, and MSNBC, anchor for liberalism and not-so-ironic paneled discussions that debate such vital issues as Obama’s decision in pets, are used as the stereotypical, unparalleled examples of Liberal and Conservative bias in the media. While the presence of that bias in-and-of-itself is a separate discussion, there’s no debate that Republicans, on the whole, turn to Fox News for information while Democrats, as a whole, turn to CNN, MSNBC, or NPR.
The question then is–does it actually matter?
Here’s the thing you’ll learn in any middle-to-upper level political science (or even psychology) course: people consume that media which reinforces their existing biases. That is to say, whether or not Fox News or MSNBC offer biased accounts of political coverage is hardly a concern. Whether or not the Republican and Democratic mainstays presented balanced coverage, viewers would still only really consume that information that reinforced what they already believed in.
In my opinion, this, subsequently, makes forced consumption of opposing sources less than effective. Here’s the deal. It’s pretty obvious what my political ideology is. I choose not to consume CNN or MSNBC because, frankly, both stations irritate the hell out of me. However, when comparing information from CNN to information from Fox, I will always be more inclined to believe CNN because Fox is my ideological opposite. Fox can report breaking news to me and I will be skeptical of it until I hear the same information reported from the New York Times or even Jon Stewart.
In that manner, it doesn’t really matter if Republicans get their news from one source and I get my news from another. In an ideal world, both Republicans and Democrats would get their political news from both left and right leaning sources. But in reality, and in my opinion, there’s little point in forcing a Republican to watch Democratic sources and a Democrat to watch Republican sources if neither the Republican nor the Democrat are going to believe the source or retain the information.
As there are fact-checkers, keeping those sources legitimate, as long as the possibility to explore the other side still exists, there’s really no harm and no foul in letting Republicans and Democrats gravitate to those sources that support their ideology. Hey, it makes political debates that much more entertaining, right?
Either way, my solution is to force everyone to watch the Stewart-Colbert line up. Of course, inevitably, someone will believe that Colbert’s bias isn’t blatantly obvious satire and that he actually believes the things that he says and I’ll have to laugh at them. It will be a desperate, sad sort of laugh. But you know. Small steps! xoxo!
Is it an issue if Republicans get their political news from certain sources and the same for Democrats? No there is no issue and it shouldn’t matter. Any person that is part of a political party can turn on their television and go to a channel that is specifically catered to their party or the opposite party. Examples: cut on the television and go to Fox News or MSNBC. It is as simple as picking up your remote.
You want to go on the Internet and find political news? It is simple as clicking your browser and typing in CNN or going to Google and typing in conservative.
Why should it change? It is simple and not difficult whatsoever. It is the PEOPLE that are lazy and don’t want to switch up their political news sources. There is no need to form the two or it being wrong that there are two separate sides for political news. There is nothing in our laws that says that you CAN’T go to both sides…Nothing AT ALL. So our system works it just people are apathetic or they are simply not wanting to go to see what the other side is saying.
Honestly people need to get over this gang warfare between the parties and attempt to see what the other side is saying to help themselves be more informed.
Democracy. Not dictatorship. We have the ability to choose and see. Let’s do it.