As tension and violence in Iran escalate following its own "stolen" election, I am struck by the truth in the humor of THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart (6/22/09). Stewart's satirical jabs at mainstream media are both humorous and painfully accurate. As his show has so deftly done with the Bush administration's war in Iraq, Jim Cramer at MSNBC and their whitewash of the financial market's meltdown, Fox and Friends, and countless others, media coverage of Iran's civil unrest falls deep within the show's piercing satirical glare. Stewart nails the American media self-obsession, followed by "Senior Foreign-Looking Correspondent" Aasif Mandvi poking fun at both Iranian leaders' Western paranoia and our own sense of self-importance in international matters. Jason Jones follows with three humorous interviews with moderate Iranian civic leaders who were jailed within the past week, including Iran's former foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi, whose plight has been largely ignored by American mainstream media. Yazdi's son gives a poignant and moving interview to Jon Stewart.
Which begs the question: Why is a satirical news show on Comedy Central, which airs at 11 p.m. EST, once again doing the real journalistic work of mainstream media? My mind drifted back to Bruce Balshone's recent blog about disdain that traditional news organizations have for "blogs." Have hard economic times and corporate consolidation created a processed news product? Shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, though comedic, carry on the great traditions of Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut to perform the duties of mainstream media, which have lost much of their journalistic integrity as a sacrifice to circulation counts and Nielsen ratings. A blogs like Pacifica Riptide has evolved into more than a "companion" piece for the Pacifica Tribune; I daresay I find Lionel Emde's Riptide reports more timely, comprehensive, and accurate than many of the fluff pieces I read in the Tribune.
Some fault lies with editors, who kowtow to the bottom line and corporate bosses. Some of the fault also lies with the lazy American public, whose viewership propels self-inflating and often polarizing mainstream media. Most blame lies with corporate media types who provide a product high on style and low on substance. I wonder if the great media empires will soon see the same fate as the recording industry giants, who followed the same path.
As much as I may disagree with people on Riptide, the argument is better than silence, and I feel the future of social and political education will come from forums like Riptide. Good work, Maybury.