Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tonight: Greed vs. Guffaws

"To watch CNBC today is to enter an alternative universe, where élites are populists, Wall Street is Main Street and bank executives are the oppressed."
-- Time Magazine, March 12

As all the web world is headlining, tonight cable channel CNBC's stock-pumper, Jim Cramer, will come to face to face with comedian Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's Daily Show. It's the culmination, some say, of a week of "back and forth cheap shots."

"Wow," says Expressions of Life, "finally a head-on collision."

Stewart's brand of comedy mixes adolescent frivolity with political indignation. Like all of the great comedians from Lenny Bruce to the late George Carlin, his humor is fueled by moral outrage.

By contrast, Cramer and the whole CNBC crowd, as one acute observer notes, "knows no moral code":

[W]hile most television coverage is built around a moral framework, business television has no sense of good or evil. That's what makes it starkly abnormal and, these days, vaguely repulsive. First came the vilification of corporate America. It took a long time for the vilification of corporate America's cheerleaders to begin.

The function of business television is simpleminded and austere. The genre sells the reporting of buying and selling and, to make viewers stay with it, the genre sells the joy of greed.

A lot of pundits and bloggers are predicting the comedian, Stewart, will annihilate Cramer, the buffoon. "Remember Crossfire?" the Spiral asks. "John Stewart killed it."

Indeed, he did. Jon Stewart is dangerous to bloviating hypocrites and shameless hawkers. In less than 15 minutes, his "excoriation of the show's hosts" administered the coup de grâce to that execrable TV political icon:
Criticizing Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala for "hurting America," he argued that political discourse, as constructed on most news shows, was overly simplistic, excessively confrontational, and exceedingly damaging.

So why would Jim Cramer, or CNBC for that matter, put themselves at risk? Because, as Barrie McKenna reports, Stewart's comedy news program "typically draws four times as many viewers as CNBC's top rated shows."

That's right. It's all about ratings. Gotta push that Viagra for your portfolio.

CNBC staff and most of their guests debase themselves on television every day. Why wouldn't they leap at the chance to do it before a much larger audience?

Even if Stewart "wins" the "debate" Cramer and NBC don't lose. As James Moore points out ["And a Comic Shall Lead Them"], the only real losers are the "reporters at the big TV networks and the major publications" who have long ignored the "crap" that people like Jim Cramer are feeding... into our culture... ."

If you've just returned from the planet Tralfamador and need to catch up, you can find the following clip almost everywhere on the web, so why not here, too?

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