Stewart, Maddow and the real problem with cable

During the Rally To Restore Sanity Jon Stewart focused on how America’s media in general, and cable news in particular, exaggerate partisan divides to an absurd degree.

“The country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems,” said Stewart, “But its existence makes solving them that much harder.”

Conservative pundits largely ignored this criticism, because it adds nothing to their “us vs. them” narrative. Liberal pundits didn’t feel they had that luxury.

Terrified of being lumped in with the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, MSNBC’s liberal talking heads quickly went on the defensive. As an olive branch, of sorts, Jon Stewart appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” to clarify his points. Here is the full, uncut interview:

I like a lot of what Stewart says here. His inability to not control the way his creation is interpreted reminded me a lot of adventures I and my friends experienced in college.

But I don’t think the focus on left-versus-right controversies is the problem with the American media. I think it’s a symptom of a deeper issue: the almost complete non-existence of international political news on those channels.

American news networks do cover the rest of the world, occasionally. If there’s a natural disaster, for example, or if America’s president/army is visiting/invading a given country.

Beyond that, though, international news is a novelty here. You’ll certainly never see an in-depth discussion of Nigeria’s economic policies, unless of course they have a direct impact on gas prices here in America (and you can bet the gas price narrative will be what dominates the story.)

Changing this would help in two ways. First, covering a planet’s worth of news leaves little time for the sort of talking head nonsense Stewart is complaining about.

Watch CNN International, then contrast it with CNN’s American broadcast, and you’ll quickly know what I’m talking about. Even better: watch Al Jazeera English right now. I guarantee you’ll see more substantive reporting in a half hour on Al Jazeera than you will watching CNN, Fox or MSNBC for two full hours.

So covering international news reduces the amount of time a network has for nonsense. Beyond that, though, international news could give Americans context for news happening in America.

Learning about international politics puts one’s own nation into perspective. Lacking this perspective, Americans tend to look at their policy choices in a vacuum. It is this vacuum, I believe, that allows the political environment to become so toxic.

Calling Obama a communist and Bush a fascist seems silly when you compare them to the way real communists and real fascists are behaving right now. Real international coverage could help point this out.

Overall I thought Stewart did a very good job of expressing his point of view, both during the rally and in this interview. I just wish he, and the rest of the American media, did more to tell Americans what’s going on outside their comfortable bubble of a country.

‘Digital Drugs’ and the sad state of TV journalism

Yep, this video is hilarious, and not only because it’s completely out of touch with reality. It’s hilarious because it parodies contemporary journalism better than The Onion or Stephen Colbert could hope to. Here’s why:

  • Several of the people interviewed hadn’t heard of the phenomenon before being interviewed, but got to talk about it on TV anyway.
  • Everyone interviewed came to the conclusion that this “drug” is harmful and will lead to real-world drug use.
  • No context whatsoever given to binaural beats, a technology that dates back to 1839.
  • No explanation about how binaural beats even work. Seriously, at least read the Wikipedia entry.
  • The sentence “I heard it was, like, some weird demons and stuff through a iPod or something” was filmed. At some point the producer decided to include this sentence in the story, and that producer wasn’t working for Comedy Central.

It’s pretty obvious the team behind this story has no idea how to use the Internet, but if you haven’t come to the conclusion check this out:

Yep, that’s right: they’re using IE 6. You can clearly see YouTube telling these people to upgrade or switch their browser, but they don’t know what that means…and are too busy using the amazing power of journalism to rid the web of virtual drugs.

Good job, News 9 Oklahoma City! You’ve demonstrated in three minutes just how close Idiot America‘s come to taking over our lives.

How to stop the internet from mocking your kid

The Internet can be a harsh place, particularly if you’re an eleven-year-old girl with a penchant for talking trash. So if – after your lovely offspring decided to spend 5 minutes of her time cussing out the entire Internet – your address and phone number are leaked onto the web, and you start receiving pizzas and prostitutes at your door, you might think the best thing you could do is wait for your daughter’s harassers to get bored.

You’re wrong. Here’s how to handle the situation:

As you can see, there’s a number of things this father got right here. In summary:

  • Be angry. The only thing the web respects is anger, so it’s important that you not appear too level-headed.
  • Alert the culprits that the authorities are after them. The Internet being a well-regulated place, such threats are extremely credible and will be taken seriously.
  • While you’re at it, be sure to mention the “cyber police.”
  • Throw in some kind of nonsense sentence, such as “the consequences will never be the same.” This will show how angry, and thus how serious a potential threat, you are.

As you can imagine, Jessie’s problems with the Internet stopped after this video was released. Learn from these simple steps and the web will never tease your kid again!

Or you could, you know, make her stop saying stupid stuff on YouTube. If you want. Whatever.