Sunday, March 15, 2009

Conservatives Miss the Point

Editor & Publisher has an excellent (although unintentional) example of how the conservative movement, and by extension the media outlets that report on it, completely miss the point about the current shift away from right-wing ideology.

In their article
Jon Stewart Wrecked Cramer, Did He Elect Obama?, E&P attempts to draw a corollary between The Daily Show host's dismantling of CNBC's frequently-erroneous squawking head Jim Cramer and how Stewart's past interviews may have influenced Americans to vote for Barack Obama instead of John McCain.

Revisiting issues like Stewart's damning on-air castigating of bow-tied Tucker Carlson (that led to his dismissal and the eventual cancellation of Crossfire) to his thrust-and-parry with Bill Kristol (who lost his column at the New York Times) to the Roomba of cable news Chris Matthews (he seems to just bounce off of things and head in a different direction until his battery runs out), E&P posits that Stewart's forays beyond mere harmless comedy into biting social commentary and throwing daggers of accountability somehow influenced the ballots that were cast last November 4th.

Remove Stewart from the equation and the true root cause becomes evident - Carlson was (is?) a superficial talking-points commentator, bereft of deep thought and even more shallow when it came to providing evidence to substantiate his off-center claims. Kristol had been so consistently wrong (even before his NYT gig) that more column inches were seemingly devoted to Kristol corrections than to Kristol kudos. And Matthews can be counted on to say the wrong thing about the wrong person at the wrong time - that's what's so
right about him.

The downfall (or comeuppance) of these folks was less about Stewart than it was their continued incompetence. Stewart just happened to be holding the flashlight so people could see. Conversely, the interviews with Barack and Michele Obama were less about lobbing softballs for them to smack out of the park than they were platforms for them to be genuine and demonstrative, without the filter of some media outlet advising on the true meaning of what was being said. People watched, and liked what they saw, so they voted for it.

There's a distinct undercurrent running through this country of competence over posturing, ideas over ideology, and reality over political theater. The rise of Stewart and the Obamas, even Joe Biden (who although gaffe-prone is recognized as effective) over the before-mentioned cast of characters speaks prominently to this shift toward substance over style. Stewart is but a symbol, albeit one with a microphone and an audience.

Editor & Publisher should try reading beyond the front-page headlines. Some of the best stories are buried in Section B.

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