Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fake News

I was asked recently on this here blog whether I use The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as my primary news sources. Of course, the answer is no. However, I have to wonder - just how bad of a thing would that be?

I can't help but be reminded of when I was on my high school newspaper's staff, and I wrote the Horoscope. Since even back then I understood astrology for the foolishness that it is, I didn't do a "real" horoscope. I basically just wrote silly little, mocking entries like "You eat too much cheese and everybody hates you for it." (Probably not an actual entry, but they were along those lines. Sorta like what The Onion does in its Horoscope section.) One time, for some reason I had another staffer write them. I figured that she'd do them like I did, but she instead wrote the kinds of things that you see in actual horoscopes. When I complained about it, I remember a friend of hers saying that mine were stupid because they weren't "real." Ummm...and hers were?

The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are often defined (especially by themselves) as "fake news." While this is certainly a fitting description, there isn't anything more "fake" about them than The O'Reilly Factor or Hannity's America. The major difference is that Stewart and Colbert want you to laugh at the news. O'Reilly and Hannity want you to be angry and scared. I'll take the laughs, thank you very much.

Where do I get my news? I read the paper. I read the headlines on my homepage. I make things up in my head. (No, wait, that's what Bill O'Reilly does.) I'm certainly not a news junkie by any means, and I'll even admit that on certain days, my only exposure to the news is through the comedy shows.

Still, I'd argue that even if I only got my news from them all the time, it would be better than if I only watched "real" shows like O'Reilly's and Hannity's. Why?

1. There are no sacred cows. They'll pick on anybody, and the Democrats get skewered pretty hard just like the Republicans.

2. There's intelligent discourse. Now, if you tune into them for actual debate, then you're looking in the wrong place. However, Stewart will actually have conversations with his guests, be they from the left or the right. It's much more intelligent than the conversation one sees on Hannity and Colmes. (But then again, my dog and my cat debate one another more intelligently than anybody does on that piece of shit of a show.)

3. They show the folly of "real" news by pretty much doing the same thing, only emphasizing the ridiculous parts. Something called satire, don't you know. (A concept, that I woefully realize, many people simply do not understand.) For one of my favorite examples, check out the following clip. Colbert, back when he was on The Daily Show, did a piece on "The Summer of the Shark." If you don't remember, there was quite the hysteria in the news about how shark attacks were supposedly on the rise. Turns out that they weren't - and the year that they actually were, the media was busy with OJ Simpson. Yeah, that's what you get with "real" news. (To be fair, 20/20 did a story on this as well - but Jon Stossel isn't funny.)

So, don't just watch fake news, but sometimes it actually is better than real news.

And I should end by once again mentioning the study that showed that Stewart's viewers are more informed than O'Reilly's. Do check it out.

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