De-Douching America

Jon Stewart Sean Hannity

This weekend, I’m catching up on my Daily Shows & Colbert Reports that I missed while in SF. I just watched Wednesday’s Daily Show, and was blown away by “So You Think You Can Douche”, taking on the talking heads on cable news networks. It’s not that it was so much better than the typical Daily Show bit, but just that it seemed to encapsulate perfectly the ways in which TDS is an essential corrective to today’s media.

The segment made me think of Duchamp’s prediction that “the artist of the future will simply point his finger.” Although comically brilliant, there’s actually very little “comedy” writing in this piece…. it is its own absurdity that make it art. Stewart is simply putting a frame around the everyday, and pointing to our complacency (and complicity) with media that resorts to audio/visual stimuli and rhetorical tricks to subvert reason and present us with a version of reality that is almost Pirandellian.

What is Stewart pointing to, exactly?

* Hannity’s use of edit room technology to subvert reason and appeal directly to the emotions – exactly what news is NOT supposed to do. After showing Hannity’s montage of seemingly random Obama sound bites set to menacing background music, Stewart points out, simply: “That made no sense. Yet, still, for some reason I am angry and afraid. It’s as though anything you set to grainy footage and the soundtrack of The Omen seems menacing.” He then presents clips from “Dora the Explorer” with the same production trickery. Point made.

* He brilliantly deconstructs the language Lou Dobbs uses for the way it makes political inferences while disguised as unbiased reporting.

* Glenn Beck’s overt hypocrisy in saying Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people“, followed literally a minute later by the statement, “I’m not saying that he doesn’t like white people“. It seems almost too easy – yet Beck seems to be relying on the short attention spans and unwillingness of most Americans to actually THINK about the stories they are told. In this way, Stewart implicates all Americans in the douchery.

THIS is exactly why the Daily Show IS news, not “fake news.” My Oxford Dictionary defines “news” as:

“newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events”

If we accept this definition, then certainly exposing the way the media twists the day’s events into propaganda is NEWS in and of itself – but who reports news on the news? Media CANNOT be exempt from the “events” that news is supposed to place under the microscope of critical examination. But isn’t it entertainment? Absolutely. But in this case, it’s not only that it informs AND makes us laugh (the “hybrid” model), it informs precisely BECAUSE it makes us laugh (an integral model?). By exposing the absurdity, it informs. If we don’t laugh, if we don’t “get it”, then we have not been informed.

I’ve said enough. Just watch the clip… it’s amazing.

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