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Journalism By Way Of Comedian

Anyone who is paying attention knows that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are far more informative than cable or network news. We have several polls and studies to prove it. I think it’s funny that they’re perceived as partisan liberals. They may be liberals, but they’re not partisan. They’re comedians, so neither of them has ever left a joke on the table because of loyalty to democrats. They’re perceived as partisan because republicans are batshit crazy, and therefore more funny. Democrats are not batshit crazy. They’re also not quite as corrupt as republicans (yet). So when Colbert said that "the facts have a well known liberal bias", he was being earnest.

Picking on republicans more isn’t partisanship. It’s sentience. The funny thing is that Jon Stewart, who owns both Daily Show and Colbert never set out to change the world. He never had an agenda, and never intended to play a partisan role in politics. In fact, he actively worked at staying in his comedian lane until he took the path of media watch dog.

I think Colbert is more inclined to use his influence to affect change. That whole thing he did with his PAC was genius. But by and large, Colbert also stayed in his comedian lane. Oh, except for that one time when he said everything that I’ve always wanted to say to George W Bush at the Correspondent’s Dinner. That was awesome. That was also (I’m not kidding) the first time republicans realized he wasn’t one of them.  

Here comes John Oliver. He really does seem intent on changing the world. From dropping millions of people on the FCC to going after big tobacco, it’s clear that he doesn’t plan on just being funny. He’s an activist.

I felt that on Sunday, he went even beyond activist and became a journalist. He did an interview with Edward Snowden. Everyone is talking about the ‘dick pic’ part of the interview, where Oliver figured out that the only way to get Americans to give a shit about their privacy, was to frame the issue around their dick and said dick’s privacy. That was hysterical and clever, but that wasn’t the part of the interview that struck me.

The part that I found fascinating (and awesome) was the ten minutes that preceded the dick pic bit. The interview starts at about the 15:00 mark;

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At the 19:40 minute mark, Oliver starts to ask Snowden some seriously tough questions. He asks Snowden if he’s read all the documents before he turned them over to the press. Snowden replied by saying, "I have evaluated all the documents that are in the archive". Oliver comes back with, "You’ve read every single one?" Snowden replies with, "Well, I do understand what I’ve turned over." And then Oliver shoots back with, "There’s a difference between understanding what’s in the documents and reading the documents." And then he punches Snowden hard with a sarcastic, "Right cause when you’re handing over thousands of NSA documents, the last thing you want to do is read them."

This interview was outstanding, and it was conducted by a comedian. I’m going to let you watch it because it gets even better from where I left off in relaying it to you.

To be clear, my position is that Edward Snowden is an American hero. He is a patriot who did what true patriots do; tried to make the country better by exposing something the government was doing in total secrecy.

That said, John Oliver is the first person to ever hold his (Snowden’s) feet to the fire on how he did what he did. He held Snowden accountable for a New York Times fuck up (watch the interview) in improperly redacting something that was actually harmful to national security. I loved that. I loved watching Snowden consider his own culpability for the unintended consequences of his actions.

Why did I love that? Because I’m a supporter of Snowden and what he did, and watching him being challenged helps me to reassess my support with more information. I am so sick to death of the stenography that happens in our "news". When a journalist actually challenges a politician on something they said, that’s the news. Everyone was talking about how George Stephanopoulos challenged Mike Pence over his hateful attempt at legalizing discrimination. It’s like everyone wanted to give Stephanopoulos a cookie for doing his job.

Our media sucks at this, and some of them are proud of the poop they sling every day. Chuck Todd proclaimed that it’s not his job to correct falsehoods. He also said that if he challenges guests on his show, they won’t come back. I have news for you Chuckie; you’re an overpaid stenographer, and if you can’t do an entertaining and informative show without having guests on, you’re a shitty broadcaster with no talent. Remember when Lara Logan was outraged that Michael Hastings committed the crime of journalism by reporting on what he saw when he was embedded with General McChrystal? When she told me she was a hack, I believed her so when her entirely unbelievable Benghazi propaganda piece came out in 60 Minutes, I wasn’t at all surprised.

Since we clearly can’t have journalists that do journalism in America, I hope we get more political comedian-journalists. Here, watch everyone on freaking Morning Joe, completely in awe of Oliver’s journalism. No really, click on that link and watch it.

Yeah, that happened totally unironically.

Here’s the thing about John Oliver – he’s also a flaming liberal who doesn’t do his job through a partisan lens. When a right wing hackneyed douchebag like Scarborough heaps praise on Oliver, that’s proof that you can be strongly politically oriented without being a partisan hack.

Media Matters is a partisan website. That doesn’t mean they’re not reputable and that they lie. Lying means they lie and unless you can prove that a media outlet lies, you can’t dismiss them because they’re partisan. Fox News lies. It’s the lies that make them unreliable, not the partisanship. Wanna know how I know they lie? Cause Media Matters and Right Wing Watch post videos of them lying every day. The fact that I don’t like Fox doesn’t make them liars. The fact that I can demonstrate they lie, makes them liars. "Partisan" does not mean "unreliable.  

I’m going to side track for a minute. You know that whole, "liberal media" crap we’ve been hearing about for twenty years? Well that was all started by Roger Ailes whose head exploded over the coverage of the civil rights movement and MLK in the 60s. He was pissed off that the media aired events like the brutal beatings on the Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma on Bloody Sunday. In Ailes’ twisted and bigoted mind, showing America what segregation and bigotry looked like was liberal. Reporting on the endless and pointlessness that was going on in Vietnam was liberal. Never mind the fact that it was endless and pointless. Never mind the fact that discrimination is abhorrent. Both of those "liberal" positions were the correct positions morally and historically. But they were liberal, and Ailes didn’t agree with either position. And that’s when the words "liberal media" were foisted on America for the purpose of making journalists afraid of presenting the facts. Facts don’t have two sides. They’re facts. Evolution and creationism are not two sides of an issue. One is science, and the other is purely faith. There is no "side" there. There are no "sides" to the issue of climate change. 99% of scientists are telling us what they’ve found, and Exxon has a handful of "scientists" they’ve paid to say that it’s all a fiction. Those are not two equally valid and compelling "sides". So now we have a media who creates false equivalencies so as not to seem like they’re too liberal when they’re on the right sides of issues like showing you what happened in Selma. But I digress.     

John Oliver is the best journalist we’ve seen since Walter Cronkite. I say that as someone who wants to see my heroes challenged. How the fuck else am I supposed to know if they’re worthy of my respect if no one ever challenges them? Anyone who uses the phrase, "gotcha question" needs to stop talking. Seriously, shut up and stop talking now. There’s no such thing as a gotcha question, since there’s an easy way to avoid them; don’t get got. And if you’re a lemming who doesn’t want to see your government officials "gotchaed", I urge you to stop spending time on politics. Perhaps sports is more your speed?

You should want your position challenged as often as it can be. You should learn to address someone who opposes you directly with facts and citations to the facts you base your opinion on. You shouldn’t talk past people. Someone brings up a point, you should address that point before introducing one you like better. That’s how you form sound opinions; by testing your beliefs. Now that journalists aren’t doing that, we’ve all forgotten how legitimate disagreement and debate is done. Don’t point somewhere else in order to distract from something someone said. Address it head on. If you can’t do that, you need to reassess your position.

I’m hoping that John Oliver will bring back the antiquated notion of critically looking at issues. I’m hoping that more comedians take his lead and fill the void left by our media.                  


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