Some would call it snide and crude. Others would call it immature name-calling. We would call it magic.
Last week on CNN’s Crossfire, a daily left-right debate program, John Stewart of The Daily Show appeared and offered resounding words of wisdom to two hotheaded know-it-alls.
“What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery. You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably,” said Stewart to co-host Tucker Carlson.
Throughout the entire program Stewart persistently attempted to address the shortcomings of mainstream media, telling both Carlson and co-host Paul Begala that their show is merely a façade for informed debate.
“To do a debate would be great. But that’s like saying pro wrestling is a show about athletic competition,” Stewart said.
Stewart is right. “Debate” shows that amount to nothing more than repetitive partisan attacks are detrimental to an electorate already jaded with ubiquitous name-calling in the political world.
That’s not saying that shaping and polarizing issues is necessarily a bad thing. Media can present issues to the public, express their importance and spark debate. But when members of the press stoop to ad homonyms while presenting the news they do nothing to raise the level of political discourse. Rather, news transmogrifies into partisan banter that leaves a viewer or reader with nothing more than an arsenal of names they can throw at a member of a competing political party.
Or, they can literally throw pies. On Thursday two men threw pies at conservative author Ann Coulter, known to be a venomous Republican. Coulter was speaking at the University of Arizona, and made mocking remarks about Sen. John Kerry and liberals in general. Coulter is primarily a columnist and should be opinionated, but opinions should be grounded largely in evidence and insightful support – not baseless banter.
Election Day is a week away, and the small but critical patch of undecided voters need a stream of useful information that will facilitate their decision. As Stewart mentioned, news shows like Crossfire cannot continue to look toward Comedy Central for their “cues on integrity” and must rise above the monkey work politicians love. Most importantly in the waning moments before Election Day, those outlets similar to Crossfire must do listen to Stewart, and “stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.”