Archive - Mar 16, 2009

Stewart Won The Battle, Cramer Wins The War

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Memo to Jim Cramer's enablers: YOU ARE DUMB.

I was hoping to avoid discussing the Jon Stewart / Jim Cramer thing from last week, because if you actually watch the series of events leading up to the interview, followed by the interview itself, it's completely self-explanatory. Stewart did a bit on CNBC as sucky corporate shills, which they are. The rest of the media gave Cramer a chance to defend himself, because being a sucky corporate shill is regarded as the noblest of professions. Ant then came the interview.

The reason Stewart was able to hand Cramer his balls on a silver platter in that interview is because Stewart is that he followed a pair of long-forgotten journalistic tenets. The first is that the person you're interviewing is not your friend, and is not there to give you information. There is no journalistic purpose whatsoever to inviting a public official on your show and asking them questions so that you can hear their answers. Not only do they lie, as millions before them have lied through the ages, but modern media awareness means that most interviewees are more skilled at getting what they want out of the interview than the dipshits asking the questions are.

Which leads us to the second rule. Never ask a question you don't already know the answer to. Elementary stuff, but since Cramer works for a cable business news network, he was completely unprepared for it. So Stewart asked him a question, he spun and dissembled, then Stewart aired footage of Cramer doing exactly what Cramer had just denied ever doing. And that's when Cramer curled up into a little ball and cried.

Unfortunately, even that reaction was the product of modern media awareness. Cramer could throw the fight on Thursday, because at that point, both for appearances sake and the nature of sweet mother Comedy, Stewart will be forced to pretty much move on once Monday rolls around. And in the meantime, the news media could spend the next three days pretending that one of the greatest indictments of modern media of the past two decades never happened.

It started the day after the interview, where MSNBC staff were told not to mention the interview in any way, shape or form. Keep in mind, by the way, that MSNBC is supposedly the "liberal" network because it has one hour hosted by a liberal, one hour hosted by an angry centrist, and one hour hosted by a potato-headed Obama fan. You would think the liberal network would revel in the whimpering footage of nutjob Obama critic Cramer, but it seems that corporate brotherhood is more important than ideology in cable news. Shocker!

On Sunday, CNN felt free to bring up the interview... by having MSNBC's Tucker Carlson comment on it. Now, I can understand asking Tucker Carlson specific questions about this. After all, thanks to the Crossfire Incident, Tucker Carlson knows what it's like to be shown up as a vapid fool by a basic cable comedian. But the artist formerly known as Bow Tie would, in any actual journalistic context, be disqualified from discussing the interview for that very same reason. Instead, Tucker's half-decade long sour grapes got passed off as fine wine. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Can you imagine Jim Cramer sitting there and taking a sanctimonious lecture from Jon Stewart? Yes, I mean, Cramer was craven and sweaty and pathetic, I'm sure his wife was ashamed of the behavior, the butt-sniffing he gave Jon Stewart. But Jon Stewart, let's be honest, this was a partisan attack. He went after Cramer the moment Cramer criticized Obama's budget. That was the mortal sin. That's what kicked off this entire feud... He criticized Obama's budget, and that's what started this, because in the end, Jon Stewart is a partisan hack." - Carlson, on CNN's most ironically-named show, "Reliable Sources".

What Carlson did here was provide The Excuse. When people deeply invested* in a worldview, and are presented with evidence contrary to that worldview, they will look for any life preserver tossed to them. They just need a plausible-sounding excuse to hang a rationalization on, and then they can go on pretending the evidence that contradicts their worldview doesn't count. It happened five years ago, when Stewart humiliated Carlson by exposing Crossfire as a pile of bullshit. Crossfire left the air, but Crossfire-style punditry thrives to this day, because they found an excuse. And thus, Cramer didn't go on television and get exposed as a liar and a fraud. Cramer was the victim of a partisan attack in retribution for criticizing Barack Obama. Move along, nothing more to see here.

And Cramer himself? Cramer was on the air the next day, laughing the whole thing off, because when he shook Jon Stewart's hand and promised to be a decent human being, that was an act. An act designed to put him back on his show, attacking Obama as a socialist, giving out corporate-friendly stock advice to casual rubes, and pushing his magical funny noise button. The status quo cannot be changed by a single person exposing individual facts during a one-time event. The day goes to Stewart, but the war was lost a long time ago.

*In every possible meaning of the word, naturally.