Putting Away "The Daily Show" and Other Childish Things
I used to watch "The Daily Show," stopping around 2004 when the mockery and one-sided nature of the interviews became too much for me.
I knew enough about the world to know that "The Daily Show" was editing interviews to make people look like idiots. I noticed it first with people talking about traditional values -- but I realized that it was the basis for every single sketch, er, interview on the show -- of people whose views I shared and people whose views I loathed. Whatever else my faults, I knew that contributing to such a culture was wrong and beneath me. I'll watch a "Daily Show" bit if recommended, but I try to keep in mind the editing weaknesses of the show.
Here we are, 10 years later, with an entire culture built around this bullying and mockery and discount prestidigitation (and the scourge of comedy -- things that "smell like jokes").
Yesterday, Denny Burk wrote about refusing to be on the show:
Last May a producer from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” contacted me about being interviewed for the program. He said that he wanted me to talk about my perception of anti-Christian bias in the mainstream media as it relates to “homosexual marriage and gay acceptance in America.” It was to be a produced piece in which they interview people from different perspectives, and then after that Stewart would do his thing.
From the get-go, I couldn’t see any upside to doing this. For starters, I had no interest in turning a serious topic into a laugh-line for Stewart’s show. Also, even though I am not a regular viewer of the Daily Show, I had seen enough of it to suspect that they might manipulate footage to lampoon Christianity. So I decided pretty quickly that this would not be something I was interested in doing. Even after talking to the producer on the phone and receiving assurances that they would be fair in their treatment, I still couldn’t see it. Those assurances seemed pretty thin to me.
I just found out today that my suspicions were entirely justified...
The man who ended up being used by the program's ace production team, explains how the show invented what they couldn't get out of him.
Programs like “The Daily Show” are not merely giving you a humorous spin on the news. They are selling a distortion. In the end, it’s nothing more than an entertaining form of propaganda...
A few years ago, I was speaking with someone who had once been a personality on "The Daily Show." I heard horrible stories about how much work was required to find dupes to be exploited, how much energy went into building trust with the interview subject, how many hours upon hours of taping were required to get one snippet that could be used to make fun of the target.
In the end, it was too much for this personality, who had to leave the show out of guilt over this exploitation. This person is one of the more liberal people I've encountered. This wasn't about politics -- indeed, none of the examples were political, but just about basic decency.
Luther's Small Catechism has an explanation to the Eighth Commandment that I've found helpful:
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.
We can all use this reminder of how we fail our neighbors. Let's all endeavor to put the best construction on our neighbors' words and actions (and who are our neighbors? Everyone!) and speak well of them.
And for the love of all that's holy, Christians and conservatives should never willingly be exploited by "The Daily Show." Cultural engagement is important, but being a dupe in a propaganda film is not the way to go about it.
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