Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I just thought I'd do my version of the hottest story on the weekend: the dust-up between Jon Stewart and the hosts of CNN's crossfire. (For those who don't know yet, Stewart called Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson "partisian hacks" and then called Carlson a "dick").

The first thing about Stewart is that he's funny (intentionally, i think) even when he's being dead serious. His earnest "Why do you argue?" was hilarious. When he told Begala and Carlson to "Stop", I was in splits. And when he said "coz they're h-h-hurting us ..", I was almost rolling on the floor laughing. And of course, there was the way he pulled Carlson's leg about his bow-tie. ("How old're you?" "Thirty-five" "And you wear a *bowtie*!!!!") .

Whether Stewart had any business telling the hosts of Crossfire to stop "hurting America" when he himself runs a faux comedy news program is something I am still confused about. Yet the fact remains that his main strength is as a comic. And he is severe on politicians and "hacks" simply by being funny. What is sure though is that Tucker Carlson made an utter fool of himself on the show. Paul Begala wisely tried changing the subject. But realizing that Stewart meant business, he restricted himself to giving a half-hearted defence of his program. ("I think of it as debate.". Stewart retaliated by calling it "theater".) Carlson, on the other hand, tried taking the attack to the other side. But he ended up in the laughable position of comparing CrossFire to the Daily Show. The striking thing about Carlson was how querulous he managed to sound. He was angry - and showed it in the most childish way imaginable. (" Do you go to people's homes for dinner and lecture them like this? Man, I wouldn't like to have dinnner with you". "I'm sorry Jon, I think you're funny on your show, I just don't think you lecture very well". "You need to teach at journalism school, I think." To each of these remarks, Sttewart replied with unbelievable ripostes.). This may seem strange but Carlson reminds me somehow of that epitome of phallic male narcissism: Tom Cruise. What Carlson probably resented that day about Stewart was not his criticism of CrossFire but rather his own loss of face. That probably was the reason he took to the attack and came off worse in the bargain.

It also seemed to me that Carlson and Begala were a trifle condescending to Stewart, which must have probably incensed him more. (Carlson: Be funny. Please, please, be funny. Stewart: I'm not your monkey). I also disliked Carlson's in-your-face confrontational style ("Couldn't the Democrats find anyone better than Kerry? Was he *all* they could come up with?"). I thought that he was using this style to strike the jokes up a notch but apparently this is how he speaks. And now I know why Stewart called Crossfire pure "theater". This is no way to conduct a rational debate. Which is what we need today.

Postscript: Incidentally check out this page with Carlson's response to Stewart's criticism. Frankly, it bothers me that these hacks cannot even respond constructively to criticism. If journalists don't, then how on earth do we expect our politicians to act on the criticism they receive?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On The Daily Show the following Monday, Jon Stewart devoted a couple of minutes to spinning his appearance on Crossfire. The highlight of the spin: "They told me I wasn't being funny. I told them yes, but tomorrow I will go back to being funny, while your show will still suck."