31 thoughts on “Anyone see this in Jobs for Philosophers?”

  1. It’s completely ironic that John Stewart is belittling political pundits though.

  2. Andrew,

    Stewart, you may notice, hosts a comedy/satire show. Despite his having definite opinions, he’s not a pundit.   Aside from this, it wasn’t Stewart in the spot.

  3. jcasey,

    Do you really believe this?  Comedy is just another ploy with which to keep what is essentially political propaganda from being critically analyzed.  Let’s not pretend that those opinions don’t stick, or that people aren’t sadly using late night shows for their news.


    I’m not defending half the crap that appears on Fox News.  But as a resident of New York state, I see first hand just how many people mindlessly repeat Stewart’s punch-lines as undeniable political truths.  He is a pundit, and he knows it.

  4. Andrew,

    Are you saying that you are unable to see the difference? These “pundits” are posing themselves as serious commentators. The fact that satire can be effectively used for political puposes scarcely justifies equivocating it with posturing hypocrites who set themselves up as legitimate public intellectuals. Deflating the childishness of such self-important, self-declared experts is one of the few really meaningful steps that can be taken toward critically examining issues on their logical merits, rather than merely regurgitating manufactured histrionics.

    As for your New York (state — not even the city!) residency: do you also play a doctor on TV? I mean, that is a rather substance free comment to make, don’t you think? Anecdotal evidnce, hasty generalization, weak analogy, ad vericundiam, for starters. One might add a genetic fallacy to the list: simply because Stewart said it does not make it untrue or even unjustified.

  5. Not all pundits are bad. Just most of them. Even if it were granted that Stewart was a pundit, he would not fall into the same category as, say, Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. One reason for this is that Stewart does not LIE on TV, nor does he yell or verbally abuse his guests. In fact, Stewart seems more erudite than any major pundit on the cable networks, and when he enters into “serious” territory with some of his interviews, Stewart is adept at both thoughtfully challenging the claims of his guests and, at the same time, remaining civil and amiable.

  6. I’ll address Jem and Gary’s comments separately.  Let me start with Jem’s, as they were at least attempting to be honest.

    “nor does he yell or verbally abuse his guests. In fact, Stewart seems more erudite than any major pundit on the cable networks, and when he enters into “serious” territory with some of his interviews, Stewart is adept at both thoughtfully challenging the claims of his guests and, at the same time, remaining civil and amiable.”

    You and I have very different interpretations on what civil is, or maybe we’ve just chanced to view different episodes.  The key with Stewart is that he uses his audience to bully people of differing views during interviews.  he has the ability to use a quick one liner to get his audience to cheer, and he can get them to quiet down when he needs to.  Watch the obvious cues he gives his audience and when he does and does not demand that they treat his guest with respect.  Maybe you’ll see why I disagree with you.

    Come on.  You start your comment by implying that my opinion is derived from a lack of ability on my part.  “Are you saying that you are unable to see the difference?”  If you want an honest discussion, let’s not use backhanded comments like that.

    That said, there is a difference between a pseudo-news pundit and a Stewart’s comedy-news punditry.  While you have correctly identified the dishonesty and faults of news as propaganda, you make an assumption.  That assumption is that news is different from the rest of television because people give it more credit than non-news programs.  I wish that were true.  Sadly, it appears that isn’t the case.  People are much more impressionable than they want to believe (you and I included.)

    No, I don’t play a doctor on TV, but that’s just the thing.  In that commercial the actor told the audience straight up, I’m no doctor, just as Stewart says his show isn’t really a news show.  However, the actor wore the uniform of a doctor, just as The Daily Show has the trappings of a news broadcast.  You don’t have to pretend to be a news anchor to be a pundit, you just have to be a pundit.

  7. Oh and as an aside Gary:
    “One might add a genetic fallacy to the list: simply because Stewart said it does not make it untrue or even unjustified.”
    Scarecrow argument.  I never even said I disagreed with Stewart.  I just said he was a pundit with a political agenda to push.

  8. OK, well if you want to be honest, how about answering the question?

  9. Agree to disagree, I suppose. But I doubt you and I have a different opinion on what constitutes civil discourse. Stewart always treats his guests respectfully, and I’d like to see an instance in which this is not the case (I’m not sure what the audience has to do with it – if the guest is afraid of booing, which Stewart never initiates and will typically quell immediately, then they lack the strenth of their own convitions). If anything, Stewart is overly respectful with conservative guests, but because the Daily Show is primarily comedy and satire, this is understandable. It is not news. People give more credit to news shows because there is an expectation, and an explicit duty, that the news is supposed to be unbiased and fact-based. Sadly, this is not the case. And sadly, people are too impressionable. The burden is not on Stewart to be unbiased, even though he is, ironically, often more trustworthy than Fox (or MSNBC or CNN for that matter).

    The difference is Stewart does not pretend to be a legitimate news source, while many pundits who are featured on legitimate news organizations do pretend to be legitimate sources, when they in fact are not. It’s little wonder that people seem to be so impressionable when they are constantly fed a steady cocktail of misinformation and infotainment masquerading as objective journalism. At least with the Daily Show the audience is aware of the illegitimacy of the source, and if they aren’t, then so much the worse for them.

  10. Andrew,

    I think there is a very clear distinction between the satire of a left-leaning comic and the pretended expertise and sophistical arguments of a newspaper or TV pundit.  Just because both involve politics in some way does not make them the same.  Besides, I think if people mindlessly repeated Stewart’s punchlines as political truths, they–not Stewart–are worthy of satire.

  11. One last point – simply being influential does not make one a pundit. Why even bother trying to argue that Stewart is a pundit? Maybe he is, or maybe not. However one wishes to classify comedic cable news is immaterial to what is really at issue: the dishonesty and overall abhorrent behavior of our news-making institutions, characterized by a reliance on talking points, feigned objectivity, uncivil discourse, bad arguments, and a superficial reporting of the issues. I don’t think the Daily Show can be criticized on these same grounds.

  12. I think I figured out where the problem is: as posed, my original question is a complex question. My apologies.
    Andrew, are you saying there is no difference between a satirist and a pundit? (This is the question that remained unanswered, granted that it was poorly asked.)
    It seems that you have to make such a claim in order to advance the assertion of irony. If you are not making such a claim, then the assertion of irony is puzzling. Yet the distinction is one that seems so manifest that it is hard to understand how one would argue against it.

  13. I’m a bit confused jcasey.  I’m having trouble pinning down where we disagree, though it’s obvious that we do.  We both seem to agree that Stewart is a pundit, though a very different sort of pundit than the kind you see on Fox and MSNBC.  I will give you that from a factual stance that he is much more honest and has more integrity than the other pseudo-news type.

    So why shouldn’t I like him then?  Because he represents a short-cut to believing one is objective and skeptical.  He helps to perpetrate the false dichotomy of American politics, and he’s obviously MUCH more critical of FOX than MSNBC, when both are two sides of the same rotten coin.  There’s a very clear message in his program, “The right lies, the left lies, but the right lies a hell of a lot more.”

    His show isn’t false news, it’s false skepticism.  It’s putting opposing views under a stiff skeptical analysis, and only playing at doing it to your own.  It’s making your point, not through the assets of your views, but the weakness of an opposing view.

  14. Gary,
    Sorry i was writing my last comment when you posted yours so I just now saw it.  A pundit vs a satirist?  Certainly they’re distinct, just as a poodle and a german shepherd are distinct from one another, but they’re both still dogs.  I find the similarities of using political pandering to gain a loyal audience and an agreeable studio audience to create a space where you’re views can then be dominate by virtue of a home-court advantage to be just two similarities between the two.  So do I think they’re distinct?  Yes.  Different?  No.

  15. Andrew–

    This is an instance of what someone calls the “fallacy fallacy”:

    His show isn’t false news, it’s false skepticism.  It’s putting opposing views under a stiff skeptical analysis, and only playing at doing it to your own.  It’s making your point, not through the assets of your views, but the weakness of an opposing view.

    I’m not sure Stewart is guilty of this–just because he points out the failings of shallow punditry, does not make him either (a) a pundit like the ones he criticizing; or (b) guilty of claiming his view is right because the other’s view is wrong or poorly supported by reasonable argument.  On top of this, I don’t know what Stewart’s views are–he doesn’t talk about them very much, and he doesn’t often offer arguments in favor of any specific agenda.  This is not to say he doesn’t occasionally seem to advocate positions of his own or that it’s not obvious that he is somewhere on the left.  In any case, this wouldn’t make him guilty of the same kind of punditry as the spot critiqued–i.e., the fact-free sophistical kind.

    So no, I don’t agree with you that Stewart is a pundit.  Stewart has a comedy/satire show with a political perspective and a political edge.   You’re certainly free not to like him.  It’s a comedy show, after all.  If it doesn’t make you laugh, then you probably just don’t like it.

  16. Andrew, I would just add that you seem to be criticizing satire on account of its being satire. Can you give an example of political satire that you “approve” of?

    In any case, it would seem that your argument is the (specious) claim that they are “different” but the ultimate claim that the difference is not relevant. Yet in order to deny the relevance of the difference, it is necessary to collapse all forms of political commentary into punditry, so that you can create the equivalence between Stewart’s satire and the punditry of the political bloviathan that he satirizes.

    Even if this could be reasonably maintained it would be irrelevant: there is nothing notably ironic (beyond the deliberate irony which is altogether characteristic of satire) about satire satirizing itself. Part of the <wink> of the satirist is the look in the mirror. Holding up a mirror is precisely what satire does.

    Which, of course, is why it is not reasonable to maintain this equivalence: the fundamentally relevant distinction is precisely the challenge satire poses to those who would have themselves taken so seriously. Was Chris Matthews being satirical, or the individual he so roundly tore into for his ignorance about the nature of appeasement? Is it even possible to imagine a world in which Sean Hannity is ever satirical? Were he and his “guest” laughing at themselves and the whole silly punditry mess when said “guest” began calling Hannity names? Conversely, the only irony in Stewart satirizing the pundits would be if Stewart was not being either satirical or ironic.

    Obviously I’m being rhetorical with the above, but the rhetoric serves a purpose in highlighting the weaknesses of your assertions.

    (1) The overt presentation of ideas is indisputably different between Stewart’s satire and the pundits he satirizes. You deny that this difference is relevant, but that denial is enormously disputable, since it would seem to be predicated upon:

    (2a) Assigning motives and intentions to the satirist that, quite frankly, you have no possible access to. You simply do not get to legislate other peoples’ intentions.

    (2b) Complaining about the satirist’s “false skepticism;” yet that is precisely the point and method of the satirist. The satirist is a critic. But that criticism is generated by a self-reflexive method of caricature that is altogether beyond what any self-important pundit would ever imagine engaging in. (Which, of course, is why the difference you agree is there but whose relevance you deny is altogether the most relevant point.)

    (2c) Finally, you also complain about how YOU INTERPRET other people taking Stewart’s satire. Your interpretation might be correct, but you’ve not offered any reason to take your interpretation at its face value. Moreover, this would appear to be  rather akin to those people who would fault Darwin for how, say, Hitler manipulated and abused the ideas of evolution and natural selection. If people are using Stewart’s satire badly, how is that Stewart’s fault? The only way you can assert that the interpretation by Stewart’s fans is Stewart’s fault is by — once again — presuming to legislate his underlying motives and intentions (see 2a), or by faulting his skill as a satirist.

    Obviously I don’t find this position supportable. It might clarify things (for me, at least) if, per the top of my comment, you could:
    (3a) provide an example of specifically political satire that did not commit the sins you ascribe to Stewart and
    (3b) give concrete evidence of how you are not committing the fallacies described above in (2a).

    I think I’ve given a fair presentation of the issues in the above. And, of course, if I’ve failed to present my own position clearly, (which is certainly a possibility) let me know where I’ve not expressed myself adequately and I will try to reframe things more effectively

  17. Per:

    # Jemon 15 Jan 2009 at 5:34 pm
    Gary, are you saying that you stopped beating your wife?

    Gary replies: THHHHHHPPPPPP!!!
    Thus I refute Jem.


  18. And one more thing about the Fox/MSNBC reference.  MSNBC has two fairly liberal, but not crazy by any stretch, hosts for 2 hours, and 3 hours–3 hours–of Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman and definite conservative–that’s 3 hours of a conservative and 2 hours of two separate liberals and they are compared to Fox. See here for more on that.

  19. Okay.  It looks like I’ve got four things to prove here,

    1) Stewart often makes his own political views very clear during his show, and uses satire intermixed with legitimate logical arguments as well as opinionated statements and emotional appeals.  (Thus showing that he’s a pundit and not simply a comedian.)

    2) That Stewart claims that his show should not be scrutinized or held to journalistic standards because it is a comedy.

    3) That Stewart either believes or knows that his show is taken seriously as a news source despite its official classification as a comedy.

    4) A point at which someone can be satirical and not a political pundit.  (Easiest thing ever, now which comedian should I chose?)

    My attempt to show evidence:
    1) Here’s a video link. video available here

    2 + 3) Here are two articles which show that People do take the Daily Show seriously as a news source:



    Now the questions concerning this are:
    – Is Stewart unaware of the fact that his show is a primary news source?  Obviously.
    – Does knowing this mean that he has an obligation to think of himself as a journalist and not simply a comedian?  I think so, though you’re free to disagree with me here and we can go into that further.

    4) Most of the stand up of Bill Cosby.

  20. I would repeat that having opinions as a comic about politics and the media and so on does not make one a “pundit” in the sense of the original Daily Show spot in question.  This does not mean, (a) people can’t agree or disagree with him; (b) he is immune from criticism of any variety.  You seem to think Andrew that people here affirm (b).  They don’t.  Criticize Stewart all you want.  Just criticize him for things he does, not things you think people who watch him do (repeat “mindlessly” his punchlines, for instance).

  21. It seems to me that Jon Stewart does many things with his show. Sometimes he is just a comedian, sometimes he is representing his own views directly, sometimes he is probably representing the views of his writers, sometimes he is representing his own views indirectly, sometimes he is arguing explicitly for his views, sometimes he is using comedy to offer an implicit argument for his views, sometimes he is just playing and entertaining.

    We could analyze the implicit logic of many of his bits and show that often when he is being funny he is not adhering to the standards of reasoned discourse. This, it seems to me, shouldn’t come as a surprise. (Humor seems to work in part by distortion–it is not a “truth-adhering” discourse, even if it may involve assertions and implicit inferences).

    What I think is most interesting about Jon Stewart is not that he is a “news source” but that he is engaging in some of the clearest media-criticism around. His criticism involves poking fun–as he does in the video above–and may not be entirely fair if we represent it as reasoned discourse.

    Translated the “assertion” of the video above seems to be that news shows treat pundits as experts when often (typically) they are not. Outrageous assertions sometimes have more to do with success as a pundit than truth. If the video contained an argument, it would not be a very good one. Only one good piece of evidence is given–the documented case of ignorance the video begins with, though there is an appeal to “experts” in the interviews with the “pundit school.” Then the evidence is rounded out with a few examples from Ann Coulter and Hannity, both of which we might read as “illustrations” rather than claims either that everything that Coulter and Hannity say or do is the same as the Chamberlain-guy. There’s a bit more to it than this, but judged as an assertion with some weak evidence trotted out, and given the fact that the video is not making a very strong assertion (i.e. it’s not claiming–“All pundits are ignorant” or even “Many pundits are ignorant”) the sort of “argument”  it might be read to be making is “we should not presume that pundits are experts.”

    I think that this is something that Jon Stewart would endorse as a view that his audience should hold both about him and his show. Thus, I can’t say that I see any irony here.

  22. Andrew,  you’ll kindly notice that Comedy Central was simply reporting the fact that a British newspaper had ID’d Stewart as a pundit.   The opinions of CC on the matter seem wholly undefined.   Moreover, if you’d fallow the links in that peice, you’d see that the author was simply making the point that since Stephen Colbert was included as a “pundit” on the list, that the reader should expect to see Stewart on the list as well.  Once again, the opinions of the author, and of CC generally, are left unsaid.  It simply a report of the opinions of others.  What is more,  I fail to see why you persist in proving a point already shown to be moot.

  23. Because my original statement (that John Stewart mocking political pundits was ironic) was objected to as having no sound logical basis.  And as I argue based on the definitions provided (by those who disagree with me) as to what a pundit is, I am continuously met with a moving goalposts.  Colin has basically said that the entire show is an ironic play on political punditry and news broadcasts, yet said that my finding irony in his show’s criticism is unfounded.

    The very language of the argument is being distorted, as if the definitions of ‘irony’ or ‘pundit’ were not clearly defined.  (jcasey, this does not apply to you.  We obviously disagree on how fair we have seen him be in interviews, so our disagreement is understandable.)

    I am perhaps taking this argument too seriously, but that is because I worry about what I see as a new evolution in political propaganda from an appeal to authority based on misplaced respect from emotional and passionate (though logical bankrupt) statements, to misplaced respect based on false modesty.and the pretense of fained critical self-analysis.  I fear that we are simply replacing one form of charismatic punditry with another, and John Stewart for me represents the epitome of that fear.  Infere whatever biases you might conclude about my position as you will.

  24. Andrew,

    1.  I would repeat that you seem to define “pundit” as anyone on TV with an opinion.  I guess in that sense Stewart is a pundit.  That’s just a rather broad notion of “pundit,” one which doesn’t square with its usual usage. 

    2.  A number of people have suggested that Stewart is really up to something else–political and media criticism.  One has to be a rather well-informed and reflective person to get his jokes, so for that he ought to be applauded. 

    3.  If you think people ape Stewart, then I guess the burden is on you to show that.  Living in New York State, whatever that means, doesn’t amount to evidence of that claim.  I’d really be curious to meet the mindless Stewart-ditto-heads.  I wonder what they would believe.

    4.  Besides, to repeat, even if unthinking people repeat the words of Stewart like some used to repeat the words of Empedocles, then that’s their, not his, problem.   Someone saying citing Stewart’s authority as having any kind of weight on any matter ought indeed to be laughed at. 

    5.  You fail to appreciate the sense of “irony” in Colin’s comment–it’s different from yours.  You think it’s ironic because Stewart is a pundit (on your definition).  Colin calls the show ironic because it’s a comedy news program with more serious intellectual content than the actual news.  It’s satire.

  25. I think that this might be interestingly compared to the case of Rush Limbaugh. Back in the 90’s around the time that “Logic with Limbaugh” came out, Limbaugh was fond of responding to any criticisms of the truth of what he asserted on the show with the claim that he was “just an entertainer.”

    I thought that that was disingenuous at the time and would certainly want to hold Jon Stewart to the same standard as far as possible. That said, I think that there is some difference between presenting yourself as an expert about politics or policy and being a comic or an entertainer.

    Again, jokes often have a logic and often a laugh conceals a really bad inference. This, I think, may be part and parcel of comedy. My memory was that Limbaugh was being criticized for outright falsehoods. But, it’s clear from Logic with Limbaugh that he could also be criticized for bad logic.

    I’m not at all clear on how to draw the line, and identify why I find Limbaugh’s defense disingenuous while I am willing to cut Stewart slack if he were to be loose with argument and evidence in making a joke. (I guess I don’t think that his intention is to deceive, but to be funny, while I am not so sure about Limbaugh. But I could imagine someone plausibly judging the two cases opposite to me.)

    Anyway, I think John is right that we would need to look at some actual cases, perhaps we should start a Jon Stewart Watch like our Krugman watch a few years ago.

  26. Infere whatever biases you might conclude about my position as you will.

    I infer nothing from your position.  One, because it’s as yet unclear what exactly it is, and secondly because I, unlike you, am not in the business of psychoanalyzing my interlocutors.

  27. Well the Daily Show has already made it clear that they’re willing to criticize Obama now that he’s president.  I guess I stand corrected.

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