The Trouble With The Daily Show

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The Daily Show started out as a vehicle to mock the media for being ridiculous. The scary graphics, the partisanship, the op-ed slants and overuse of rhetorical devices. But eventually the show realized the reason most media used those tactics was because it got them paid. Churches preach to the choir because its easy, and more importantly because the choir is where they get their money.  That’s why The Daily Show switched from lampooning the media to lampooning Republican candidates. There are millions of liberals in this country and the only thing they love more than being told how right they are for 30 minutes a day is being told how wrong the other party is. So The Daily Show switched focus, making Jon Stewart and his producers a ton of money in the process (Stewart makes a comparable amount to Mitt Romney – whose wealth he routinely mocked).

But the real problem with The Daily Show is that it pretends to be an outlet for smart people, not liberal people – even though it aligns itself with Democrats more than 90% of the time. It’s not in the business of mocking stupidity as it would have you believe, but instead mocks those who think differently than its audience. It’s basically the modern day community “yes man,” with Jon Stewart serving as court jester. Sure, it’s progress that he doesn’t just try and amuse an all powerful king but he is serving the same function as a jester.

How often do you see people posting or tweeting that a Daily Show clip changed their mind? Or even made them reconsider something? The answer is very rarely, because there is no money in doing that. It’s far easier to get a clip to go viral if people already agree with what you’re saying. And it will go viral even faster if it makes those people feel superior to others by making another group look dumb. That’s all The Daily Show is at this point. Its an outlet for people to feel smarter and more enlightened than another group without having to think or get up off of their couch.

This clip shows the easy rhetorical devices the show uses to pat its audience on the back. In it, the correspondent ironically says “stop and frisk doesn’t go far enough” and goes to Wall Street screaming for police to frisk bankers for evidence of White Collar crime.

That’s where the trouble happens. John Oliver then playfully debates her, saying you can’t group all white men as criminals that’s just a stereotype. The correspondent then comes back saying if they don’t want to get frisked, they shouldn’t dress in suits.

Many people probably found this witty and funny, but the problem is that it’s not intelligent. John Oliver gives the conservative point of view and the correspondent destroys that viewpoint and makes him look foolish – but it’s not actually a counterpoint. The Daily Show uses the point counterpoint rhetorically, effectively creating a point, but then the counterpoint just puts the ball on the tee for the correspondent to hit a home run. It’s basically a domination Don Draper / Megan role playing. It sounds like arguing but really the two are so in love with each other they can hardly resist jumping each other.

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The Daily Show is afraid of actually pointing out the flaws in their comedic analogy. The intelligent comeback to her stop and frisking wall street workers is not “all white men in suits are not bad.” It’s the following:

1. Stopping and frisking someone for evidence of insider trading is stupid. If you frisk a white collar worker you can find evidence that they’ve gotten to be a fat schlub sitting at a desk all day, but you can’t see if they are using devious accounting practices.

2. It ignores the fact that we do in a sense stop and frisk people on wall street. Since frisking white collar criminals is completely futile, it is done through other methods. Corporations have to spend tens of millions of dollars in audits and then release the results quarterly. The officers of corporation have to list all their holdings, salaries, etc. Companies must give out strictly defined statistics of their offerings and those prospectuses must be approved by the SEC before any sale may be made. The SEC even restricts what they can say about their corporation and when they can say it.

So basically instead of them being randomly frisked for impropriety, they have open up themselves at their own expense and announce to the world that they are not committing a crime.  We invade not only their freedom of movement, but also their freedom of speech. This obviously makes The Daily Show’s analogy of stop and frisk to white collar crime a horrible one. So why do they make it? Hint: it has to do with it being a “white collar” crime, but not for the “collar” portion.

Because the main criticism against stop and frisk is that it is racist. So in order to show that it’s racist, you have to include white men in your satire. Because white men are the only people capable of being racist. If you can’t implicate white men somehow, then who cares? That’s why the media invented the term “white hispanic” to defame George Zimmerman.

Going to Wall Street allows The Daily Show to show that stop and frisk is a bunch of white men being racist. That way it can rile up its audience and Jon Stewart can continue collecting his $15 million. It would be bad for business if they pointed out that stop and frisk is predominately aimed at ending violence towards minorities and saved an estimated 7,000 minority lives. Or that stop and frisk is not carried out by white people, as the majority of NYPD officers are now minorities themselves. No, it’s much better to pat your audience on the back. That way they continue to know how much smarter they are, and the checks can keep clearing.

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