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Bloggers Laugh Over Jon Stewart Study

With millions of sites floating through the blogosphere, who really has time to peek at even a fraction of them? Blogophile reads them for you and presents a weekly roundup of the buzz on must-read blogs. Blogophile appears new each Wednesday, and is written by's Melissa P. McNamara.

Bloggers fight back when a new study suggests Jon Stewart may hold democracy's future in his hands. And, campers have a new enemy: MySpace. Plus, when a cable repairman falls asleep on the job, bloggers can't stop clicking on the video.

No Laughing Matter

Is Jon Stewart ruining our democracy? Maybe, according to a new study. Maybe not, according to most bloggers.

Jody Baumgartner and Jonathon Morris, political scientists at East Carolina University, showed college students video clips of coverage of the 2004 presidential candidates and CBS Evening News campaign coverage. The researchers then tracked the students' political views before and after watching "The Daily Show." They found the students rated both candidates more negatively after a dose of Jon Stewart. They also expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media.

The researchers conclude that the students' cynicism could keep then away from the polls.

Interesting theory, but is Jon really responsible for the youths' cynicism, some bloggers question. Maybe the research is faulty, some bloggers say. Or maybe the media contributes to growing political pessimism, others suggest. Either way, bloggers were eager to weigh in, making news of the study the third most popular story in the blogosphere last weekend.

Rachel Joy Larris has conducted her own research on the topic, and says the study's focus on rising levels of cynicism misses the mark. "While the authors are willing to concede that 'a little skepticism toward the political process could be considered healthy for democracy' they go on to suggest that perhaps 'The Daily Show's' rip-roaring critiques might be just too pointed for young minds who don't know much else about the politics. It may make them lose all faith in politics whatsoever," she writes on

"Heavens to Murgatroid! We better make Jon Stewart less funny!"

Marty Kaplan on takes issue with the way the media has reported the study. He says the Washington Post, for example, looked only at the glass-half-empty elements, and buried the study's good news, that youth trust their political instincts more. "The more that young people learn the truth about the political process, the more they get their news from multiple sources, the more gatekeeprs there are for information -- the more they just might want to shake things up, throw incumbents out, and make Washington accountable for its hypocrisy, mendacity and incompetence," Kaplan blogs.

And is Jon single-handedly to blame for political apathy and cyncism, Adam Rawlings asks. "What amuses me is that this is supposed to be Stewart's fault. It seems American politics is the only place where the maxim, "If people judge you as x, it's their fault" is considered a universal law. Kant is spinning in his grave," Rawlings writes.

Perhaps the study participants weren't even being cynical, but were simply being realistic, other bloggers suggest. "That sounds about right; things aren't great, the political system took the country to war that is nearly universally acknowledged as a horrific mistake, and 2004 presented us with two wildly unappealing old white men as candidates, so why is it good for citizens to 'feel' good about the political system? How is that a test of civic virtue instead of simple delusion?" Matt Stoller blogs on MyDD.

But in the end, maybe we're all just over-thinking this. "My thinking? As they get older, they'll look for more news sources. Right now, they just want to laugh," Joel Keller at tvsquad writes.

Either way, Judi says social scientists should lay off the tv. "I fear for the future of the Daily Show, now that I see that it is the subject of scholarly study," she writes at Truth, Justice & Peace. "Is nothing sacred?"

Candid Camera

Surely, some have fallen asleep waiting for the cable repair person to show up. But, when a Comcast repairman fell asleep on customer Brian Finkelstein's couch, the customer got the ultimate in 2006 revenge: he took to the Internet.

Finklestein, the Georgetown law student behind the already well-known Snakes on a Blog site, shot a video of the sleeping repairman, edited it with witty text ("Thanks, Comcast, for everything") and sent it off to YouTube. The one-minute video shows the repairman napping peacefully to the tune of Eels' "I Need Some Sleep" from the movie Shrek II, which accompanies the one-minute video.

The incident began after Finklestein's tried to get his Comcast Internet repaired after he moved to a new apartment June 1. As he details on his blog, a Comcast technician who came to Finkelstein's home June 14 to replace the modem called the company for help. He was put on hold for 90 minutes, so what's a repairman to do but catch up on his sleep! Comcast, however, disagreed and fired the employee.

The clip was picked up by Gizmodo, and made its way to Keith Olbermann's program "Countdown" on MSNBC. Since it was added June 20th, the video has had nearly 250,000 views.

So, does this mean better service for Finklestein? Probably. After posting the video, Finklestein says he received a call on the next evening from his regional Vice President at Comcast.

"Comcast has reached out to the customer to apologize for his unsatisfactory customer experience," Beth Bacha, vice president of communications, said in a statement. In other words, one month free?

Jim Durbin at Brandstorming has a solution for Comcast in the future. "Comcast should have hired bloggers" to counteract the bad press from the video and to spread word about its services.

It may very well be too late.

Hello Mother, Hello MySpace

Add to the MySpace battles between teens, tweens and their parents, camps. As the New York Times reports, camps are increasingly concerned about being identified in photographs or comments on these social networking sites. In addition to fear that online predators could track children to camp, they are especially concerned that the camps' image could be tarnished by inappropriate Internet postings.

Some camps ban digital cameras, fearful that images could wind up in undesirable places online, the newspaper reports, and require campers – and counselors – to remove camp references from their personal Web pages. Bloggers are not happy about this development.

For example, one counselor was forced to remove a photograph from her website that showed her wearing a bikini and holding a beer. "Because, you know, we mustn't let on to kids that women wear bikinis — and that sometimes, horror of horrors, adults might even enjoy an alcoholic beverage. Seeing such things would surely poison the children's innocent little souls," Rogier van Bakel writes on Nobody's Business.

"Seriously, isn't this getting just a tad bit overblown?" Matt at The Blog Herald asks.

"Here's a word of advice to Summer camps: Get over it. Times they are a-changin ... Wait until camp season is over. There will be tons of photos posted online. Trying to stop those postings will be like trying to dam a river with toothpicks," a blogger on Wonder of the Web writes.

Did You Get The Memo?

Last week, the Washington Post published a "sensitive" cable from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which cast doubt on President Bush's upbeat assessment of the situation there. The cable continues to make news on the blogs this week, riling up bloggers opposed to the war.

The embassy memo came hours before President Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad's Green Zone, and paints a stark picture of the hardships facing the Embassy's Iraqi employees. The Post obtained the memo, which outlines, as the newspaper describes, it "the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government."

The memo, "Snapshots from the Office: Public Affairs Staff Show Strains of Social Discord," includes:

  • Another employee tells us that life outside the Green Zone has become emotionally draining. He lives in a mostly Shiite area and claims to attend a funeral every evening. He, like other local employees, is financially responsible for his immediate and extended families. He revealed that the burden of responsibility; new stress coming from social circles who increasingly disapprove of the coalition presence, and everyday threats weigh very heavily.
  • Some of our staff do not take home their American cell phones, as this makes them a target. Planning for their own possible abduction, they use code names for friends and colleagues and contacts entered into Iraq cell phones.
  • The Public Affairs Press Office has 9 local Iraqi employees. Two of our three female employees report stepped up harassment beginning in mid-May. Indeed, she said, some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative.

    "In the cable, you have the Embassy personnel relating the stories of how difficulty it is to live and work with Americans in Baghdad," Peter at An Analysis Of US Foreign Policy summarizes. "It's bad, and getting worse."

    "This one memo told me more about Iraq than watching a year's worth of the Mainstream Media," Dusty at Bring it On! blogs.

    The memo changed some bloggers' views of the situation in Iraq. Helena Cobban asks if the memo is the equivalent of the Vietnam War's Pentagon Papers. "... Things are even more precarious for the US position in Iraq than I had previously thought," she writes at Just World News. "It seems to me that Khalilzad and his staff there are hanging on by a hair. And what's more, he seems to understand this-- and to be eager to warn Condi about just how bad things are..."

    And Office of the Independent Blogger says, "I am a firm supporter of the War, and I want those poor people to have a better life. Reading this — something that very much suggests that to not be the case, and shows me a fool for believing it — is incredibly disillusioning to me, and it breaks my heart. I don't think I can be counted as firm a supporter as before, as I'm having trouble believing anything from the Right about Iraq because what I just read is Wrong, and disturbingly so."

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    By Melissa McNamara

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