Column: 'The Daily Show' Should Not Be Regarded As Valid Political Discussion

This story was written by Anish Mitra, Brown Daily Herald


A significant amount of politically interested Brown students, if not the majority, are fans of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." For those who are unfamiliar, comedian and author Jon Stewart runs a joke-ridden "fake news" show Monay through Thursday on Comedy Central at 11 p.m.

According to the show's Web site, Stewart's official mission is to take a "reality-based look at news, trends, pop culture, current events, politics, sports and entertainment with an alternative point of view."

While the show may provide some laughs for its viewers, it is ultimately dangerous and misleading. Fortunately for civil society, "The Daily Show" has a limited future.

While "The Daily Show" itself has been around since 1996, it was not until 1999 that Stewart took over as its anchorman. The show's politically driven focus began with Stewart.

He launched his "Indecision 2000" campaign to highlight the Florida recount controversy involving candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore and has since used the show as a jeering vehicle to attack President Bush.

Throughout the course of Stewart's nine-year tenure as the show's host, he has taunted various members of the Bush administration, including but not limited to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice. The show's structure makes it painfully evident that once Bush leaves office, the show's future will leave with him.

According to Neilsen Media, "The Daily Show" has an average viewership of 1.5 million viewers per night, typically ranging from 18 to 49 years old.

I presume that these viewers probably lean left and will stop tuning into the show when Bush fades from power and Stewart runs out of fodder.

What exactly will Stewart talk about after the 2008 election? While Stewart can still poke fun at McCain, he will have to be more restrained if he wants to get away with mocking a former prisoner of war and current senior citizen.

On the flipside, if Obama claims victory in November, Stewart will have a tough time humiliating his viewership's idol. Even if either candidate commits an eye-dropping scandal (Lewinsky times 10), Stewart would only be able to ride that wave for so long before his young viewers grab the remote and change the channel.

But Stewart has more serious problems than an inevitable lack of material. His show has also failed to live up to its own contradictory principles. While Stewart claims he runs a "fake news" show, albeit a "reality-based" one, he rarely ever avoids talking about real, current events.

"Fake news" is more within the realm of The Brown Noser and The Onion. Instead of taking a "reality-based approach," Stewart adopts a rather cynical, pointed and overtly liberal approach that is anything but objective.

Stewart has packaged his snarky style and markets it as cool and hip on his television show. This is especially dangerous because young trend-followers take after Stewart, and their laughs will translate into misinformation at the voting booth.

My fears have already been partly validated. According to data collected by Nielsen Media during the 2004 presidential election, "The Daily Show" received more male viewers in the 18 to 34 year old age demographic than Nightline, Meet the Press, Hannity & Colmes and each of the evening news broadcasts.

I worry that the most avidStewart fans at Brown do not realize that adopting political views because of a hip, popular television show is cheap, mindless and perilous.

As the most important election of our time runs near, I am afraid that young people nationwide will do the "cool" thing at the voting booth instead of the "right" one. Now more than eer before, the words of James Madison ring true: "Democracy is the most vile form of government."
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