Saturday, May 20, 2006

Make Them Eat Their Words

Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart regularly uses a very simple and effective rhetorical trick. They play a clip of a public figure making a statement, followed by a clip of the same person completely contradicting himself. After such an undeniable unveiling of hypocracy, Jon Stewart only has to flash his winning smirk to drive the dagger home. Easy, right? Effective, yes?

So why don't mainstream television news shows do it? I have never heard of cable or network news trying this trick. Is it another example of the mainstream press not wanting to be too rude? The press is supposed to be rude! It's supposed to reveal lies, malfeasance and hypocracy. Jon Stewart recently used this trick on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Now Rumsfeld would never appear on the Daily Show, but he would appear on NBC's Meet the Press. Imagine if Tim Russert played for Rummy clips of him saying, "I didn't say we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were" and then "We know where the WMD's are" on the air. Yes it would make awkward television, but it would also make government more accountable, which should always be a chief aim of the press.

4 Comments:

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Davefordemocracy said...

I don't even call it a trick. I call it the truth. When I hear politicians speak, I often say to myself, 'didn't he say something sort of like the opposite of that' and then I forget about it. When The Daily Show does this it sticks in my mind.

Russert does something similar. He takes an outspoken quote from somebody, reads it to him, and then says, 'do you still take that position?' He's very good at getting people on the record with their stands... or their waffles. Occasionally he'll read two seemingly contradictory quotes and ask, 'which is it?'

The difference is Russert always does it when the person is there to defend himself. Of course, the administration has such a loud mouthpiece that they can always defend themselves, but rarely do they do so convincingly.

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger Freedom Fighter said...

Yes that would be fair. But it would only be fair if the news agencies would also eat their words when they were proven wrong. Hypocracy is an equal opportunity condition these days. There is no better cure for that than the humility of saying to the same crowd that I was wrong. The press, who you want to use to show hypocracy in the current administration is also rife with it and just as stubborn when caught.

 
At 2:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The defense against all such attacks is: "you took my words out of context." The thing about that defense is that it's quite possibly true.

However, it is indeed an effective trick when the audience is predisposed and not particularly thoughtful.

 
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