Remember that study about how the Daily Show kills civic pride? Well, it’s getting more pickup. Which means it’s time for a pick-apart.
First, methodology: They compared the responses of young people watching The Daily Show to those of young people watching comparable clips from the CBS Evening News. Surprise! The Daily Show viewers came away with a more sardonic slant on what they’d seen. Um, perhaps because they were watching a comedy program, not a news broadcast? Ah, but the study has an answer for that: They also compared responses to people who watched late-night comedians like Leno and Letterman, and Daily Show viewers still came away with a comparatively negative perspective on politicians, politics, and government in general. Well, I’m sure they did. Stewart (pictured) makes politics its sole target, and does not shy away from a point-of-view, unlike the softer and more desultory jabs of late-night comedians aiming for mass audiences.
But let’s move on to the findings, namely that Jon Stewart’s oversimplified, set-’em-up-and-knock-’em-down approach to Washington foibles has created a certain dismissiveness in his fan base. The most interesting observation: Fans of TDS aren’t particularly well-informed, yet believe they are. This last one I believe. And I believe the same of those who depend on Fox News, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, and friggin’ EW.com for that matter. Expand that study beyond Daily Show viewers (a minuscule fraction of news viewership) and I suspect you’ll find legions of poorly informed Americans with strong opinions (our most important currency nowadays) and not enough time on their hands to average 17 different competing sources and suss out "the real story."
So is Jon Stewart creating civic apathy among the young… by exposing them to civics? I seem to recall gripes about the decline of citizenship among the young long before Stewart came on the scene. What’s more, Stewart didn’t create the sort of person, young or old, who takes one comic/pundit/politician’s word as gospel. They’ve always been with us, they’ve always been susceptible to demagoguery. Now at least it’s cool to think you know something about government — even if you don’t. That in itself, I suppose, is an improvement.
What say, citizens? Did Jon Stewart erode your democratic instincts? Are you now or have you ever been a pot-smoking couch Commie in dire need of an O’Reilly beatdown? Or, at the very least, a gentle loofah-ing?