VIDEO: Jon Stewart Explains Fox News to Fox News, Fox News Denies Itself

Jon Stewart, that brilliantly funny man, went on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace this week. You can read a version of the major highlights over at the Huffington Post, whose coverage mostly proved Stewart’s thesis about the mainstream media (see their sensationalist headline that doesn’t reflect the real discussion at all). Stewart and Wallace mainly discussed Stewart’s vehement criticism of Fox News as a “relentless agenda-driven 24 hour news opinion propaganda delivery system.” Obvs Wallace thinks that all the other major news networks are just as bad as Fox, just liberal. Stewart’s counterpoint was more nuanced. His basic thesis about the mainstream media is that they are simply lazy and sensationalist, not doggedly pursuing a liberal agenda – in fact, the only reason Stewart has been as successful as he is is the general attitude of lazy sensationalism, in which a comedian can do news reporting without even really standing out. Watch the whole thing here, or if you really want, HuffPo’s weirdly edited version at the above link. (Sorry it’s in two parts!)

 

I have to say I agree with him. After spending four years earning a journalism degree, I got out of the industry in part because of the sensationalist mainstream publications and programs. When Anthony Weiner is the lead headline for two weeks, something is wrong. Stewart is right, though, in pointing out that it’s a different flavor of sensationalism than the one peddled by Fox News. That network is anything but lazy. Stewart’s point is that Fox’s sensationalism is not driven by a lack of desire to chase the harder story, but by a desire to sell a certain agenda to their viewers.

Stewart is correct when he admits that yes, many many journalists are of the liberal persuasion. But most of them try really hard to keep that in their personal lives rather than indoctrinate their readers. Actually, a professor once gave me a really elegant explanation for the large presence of liberal reporters: journalism is about questioning the status quo. A huge part of the job is being a watchdog, asking why the government is doing what it does, and uncovering situations that require change. The ethos of conservativism is about upholding the status quo, while liberalism is usually about advocating for all the ways the system can be changed. Given that, it makes a lot of sense that journalists are liberals. It’s rather hard to have the right sort of questioning nature if you aren’t. A large number of liberals translates into a “liberal bias” in a sense, mostly in deciding what to pay attention to. But it isn’t the kind of bias that Fox News accuses everyone else of. Stewart argues – and I agree – that at this point Fox’s journalism has become so tied up with their political agenda that they can’t imagine everyone else isn’t doing the same thing. Or as Stewart puts it: “You can’t understand, because of the world that you live in, that there is not a designed ideological agenda on my part to affect partisan change because that’s the soup you swim in.”

Stewart obviously explains his point much more eloquently than I ever could. Can we just pause for a minute to consider how amazing this guy is? My own personal love for him was always pretty strong, but man, he’s making himself almost irresistible with his recent flurry of super intelligent takedowns on Fox’s own airwaves. He might just be the smartest man on television these days.

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Sarah lives in Chicago with her partner and her big white Great Dane. She is a lawyer by day and a beer brewer/bread baker/knitter by night. She & her partner are currently learning how to grow their own food, and eventually they hope to move to a small farm outside the city. In 2009-2010, before jetting off to law school, Sarah was Autostraddle's Managing Editor.

Sarah has written 131 articles for us.

51 Comments

  1. Yes to all this. There’s a great C-SPAN video of him developing this argument further in front of an audience consisting mainly of journalists. It’s stellar.

    The man is bloody eloquent. I love that in anyone.

    • Anyone who has actually sat down and watched his show will see that it is shockingly accurate and you will get more information from his show than any other news show on t.v. Yes he delivers it in a comedic way but it is not made up. I’d rather watch his news show than any other news show on television because I know I am not being lied to

      • but john stewart has made this point himself more than anyone. his show is based on current issues, but it’s a comedy show, not a news show. don’t get me wrong, I like watching the daily show, but it’s not discussing issues ( although it does, in it’s own way ,bring serious issues into a bigger spotlight)

        if you like the daily show i would encourage you to listen (podcast) or watch (hbo) real time with bill maher. you get comedy and a lot of debate about current issues. and he does try to have at least one republican on (it varies, which is a good thing)

    • The Daily Show is satire. It doesn’t portray itself as a serious news source, it portrays itself as political comedy, which is precisely what it is.

      Fox News, on the other hand, attempts to project the image of a news network, and to convince its viewers that it is more trustworthy than other networks. The important distinction is that Fox does not present news, rather, they use news as a vehicle for certain ideas which they continually rehash. Look at Glenn Beck — he draws those nice little chalk-board charts, where he takes some current news-byte and connects it to a spiderweb of irrelevant things until he reaches the point he wants to make. And yes, I have watched his show. It was hilarious, but it wasn’t intended to be. Jon Stewart is also hilarious, and that’s his primary goal.

      That said, I loathe other mainstream media as well. The mainstream media absolutely is, as Stewart said, focused more on sensationalism than anything. Unfortunately, sensationalism boosts the ratings more than matters of actual importance. But I can say one thing in their favor: networks like ABC, NBC, the NY Times, and so on achieve this sensationalism by blowing an unimportant issue out of proportion, rather than by constructing complete lies.

      Anyway. I hate Fox, I hate the mainstream media, I like the Daily Show but because it is above all things a comedy show, I don’t look there for my news. Alternative news media, my bros, is where it is at.

  2. The REAL story of this interview, which is not getting reported, is that Wallace submarined Jon Stewart with a trumped-up false smear of Diane Sawyer — in fact, the clip he showed of her 2010 report was 100% correct, and Wallace’s complaints about it were totally bungled. Full details are here: http://foxnewsproblems.wordpress.com

  3. This was really interesting. There was a lot of Chris Wallace jumping around and trying to delegitimize Stewart from a lot of random angles, but one thing that he absolutely could not dodge was Stewart said, “[You have] the most consistently misinformed media viewers… in every poll.” All Wallace could really do was put up a Comedy Central clip from 2005 about Pamela and Tommy Lee. It was the equivalent of throwing a sock at someone then running away crying: Bizarre, not on topic, and kind of sad.

  4. God, listening to people as biased and close-minded as this makes me want to repeatedly rake my head against something sharp yet serrated.

    PS: South Park really IS brilliant…to people who can figure out why

  5. I… wow. Chris Wallace really is living in a totally different universe than Jon Stewart. I had to stop watching in the end because he was making me want to chew my own arm off and bash him over the head with it.

    Interesting that every time Jon actually tried to answer his questions or address his points, Chris wanted to change the subject. And I’m not sure how Jon managed to resist comparing Diane Sawyer’s opening with Chris’s “After disconnected phone numbers…” opening. Talking about bashing and bias.

    • Jon Stewart thinks that NBC is an honest and unbiased news station? Why then were they caught editing out the words ‘under God’ during the pledge of allegiance at the U.S. Open? The New York Times leased out their newspaper to attorney Jeff Anderson while he was in court with the Church and even Noam Chomsky condemned the NY Times as biased in his documentary, “Manufacturong Consent”. Remember Jayson Blair, the hotshot NY Times reporter who was literally writing fiction at the NY Times? Jon Stewart is a bit unmanly, on his show he airs what he takes as Chris Wallace concession that Fox is not fair and balanced but he himself flat out and it’s at the end of this show that in fact he has an agenda. Stewart’s distinction between his bias and that of Fox News is trivial and down right silly, he admits that he has a bias but he has it for a different reason.

      • He never claimed that NBC was honest or unbiased. Stewart also admits that his own ideology does influence his material, but that he is primarily a comedian, and his intent is to – paraphrasing here “lambast the absurd.” That’s his agenda: Poking fun at the absurdity of politics, not supporting a partisan cause.

        Also, “unmanly”? I’m laughing, but you’re welcome to unpack that if you want.

      • name calling someone “unmanly” wow I never thought I would read a comment like that on this site. When your attempting to argue your point on a website primarily for women its best not to use an insult that is misogynistic and anti-woman.

      • I think the difference is that leaked memos shows Fox News has daily themes and talking points handed down to reporters and they set an agenda for the message they want to push that day. Fox on more than one occasion has created news stories. The entire Tea Party movement was launched and promoted on Fox News. You are going to find individuals with a bias anywhere, but I don’t think it’s the same coordinated, deliberate effort permeating the entire news organizations the same way it is at Fox.

  6. This is amazing. Thanks for posting this. It’s so refreshing to hear Jon Stewart just flat out defending his position and state of being, basically. His sense of difference between Comedy Central and Fox News is (of course) so great, and I wish Chris Wallace could understand it. Sometimes it boggles me the things that people don’t understand.

  7. Not everyone who is gay/lesbian is a liberal. Not everyone who is gay/lesbian is a moderate either. Some actually are conservative on different issues. I come to audostraddle for lesbian commentary on TV shows and the like– not for political views. Does this make me less gay?

    Also, Chris Wallace is a good interviewer… so what if you don’t like the questioning? Jon Stewart doesn’t go on Fox News as a joke. He is on O’Reilly on a regular basis to discuss topics. I don’t hate the guy- I just don’t see his point of view on much. He goes on Fox because he can talk to a much larger audience than he would on CNN or MSNBC. Come on now. Oh, and some people actually watch Fox for the news and not just commentary.

    • Hey Mareesa, I’m not sure if you’re getting the gay=liberal thing from the comments or the article. But I definitely didn’t mean to imply that our readership is all liberal or that liberalism makes you a better gay person.

      Actually, I don’t even think I’m taking much of a political stance in this post. I was mostly trying to say something about the state of journalism, which isn’t a partisan issue, it affects everyone.

      I also don’t have major problems with Chris Wallace. Stewart gave him a lot of credit in the interview, actually, and not knowing a lot about Wallace, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

  8. i really wanted jon stewart to call out chris wallace for watching EVERYTHING EVER ON COMEDY CENTRAL and the best thing he could come up with to “debunk” something jon stewart wasn’t interested in debunking to begin with was that random clip from 2005 from some random show, i don’t know which show, and the other clip Chris Wallace used to “prove a point” was from like 2009 or something? Whereas turn on Fox News right now and you’ll get 10 examples of what Jon Stewart was talking about before sunset.

    • that’s what killed me in this interview. it’s like he was trying to compare fox’s morality to comedy central’s. really fox news? really?

      i guess the difference is comedy central is upfront about their moral stance, but fox dresses itself up like clark kent to hide its ugly.

  9. can we talk about how chris wallace tried to prove that there is liberal bias by suggesting that jon stewart works at a network that makes penis jokes?
    what?
    or was it that john stewart has no grounds to stand on as a comedian because he works at a network that makes penis jokes?

    no?

    or i get it: penis jokes cannot = real news therefore fox news=no penis jokes= real news.

  10. Almost seemed like they were speaking 2 different languages,from 2 different planets.If Wallace doesn’t get South Park he won’t get anything Stewart is about.

    South Park is all about getting by the loud clatter and obnoxiousness to get to the real not always obvious satirical point.Which is exactly what Fox News is trying to avoid.There is no message beyond their loud sabre rattling and sensationalism.It is almost impossible for a Fox journalist to really get South Park or Jon Stewart.

    Stewart was literally stunned that he didn’t get South Park and I always am too when I talk to someone who I think is is intelligent and it always stuns me when they don’t get it,because they can’t get by the obviousness and crassness of it to get the message.This is of course what Stone and Parker want because they want you to THINK.

    • I’ve watched South Park. I think it’s stupid and the humor is extremely juvenile. I know the South Park guys are trying to make a point on their show, but to me they come off like sanctimonious, hypocritical douches. I’m pretty sure they are as self-important and arrogant as anyone they lampoon on their show. They make fun of other celebrities — how original and cool.

      • I get why Stewart compares himself to South Park and other obnoxious/faux subversive comedy outfits; these are the people who have power in his world, it wouldn’t make sense to break ranks with them.
        Yet people who don’t enjoy South Park’s attempt at satire certainly aren’t simply ‘those who don’t get it’. South Park fails for several reasons. For every attempt they make to challenge right wing agendas they insert other homophobic/racist/misogynist content that defeats the whole purpose. This is evident in the fan reactions to the material. Do frat boys learn from SP to challenge their own homophobia or do they just walk around parroting impressions of Tom Cruise as a fag? I wish it was the former. Team America may mock the right wing ‘America=freedom’ narrative but it also reinforces racist stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims, and presents Kim Jong Il as Fu Manchu 2.0. I won’t even get started on the whole Mohammed fail.

  11. Chris Wallace thinks Daily Show:Fox News Sunday is to Comedy Central:Fox News. Really? When he played that clip of the Pamela Anderson roast, that was just embarrassing. O’Reilly has these same arguments with Jon Stewart on his show and it’s always obvious they really like Jon Stewart. I think it’s hilarious that a comedian hosting a fake news show is public enemy No. 1 for these guys. They never stop talking about Jon Stewart. Newsflash: Jon Stewart isn’t the only one that thinks Fox is a propaganda wing for the GOP.

  12. As awesomely satisfying as it is to see people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert call journalists out on their bullshit like this, I’m just so depressed that comedians are pretty much the only ones doing this. It’s infuriating. This country is so fucked up.

    • Comedians and satirists have always – all the way back to Middle English plays written in witty criticism of the Church – been at the forefront of this kind of thing. Humor being a primary avenue for political commentary isn’t specific to this country or, indeed, this era.

      Comedy offers a free pass to say things that others can’t or won’t. Maybe it’s a little sad, but at least it’s getting said by someone.

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