The Role and Impact of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Taking Satire Seriously On A "Daily Show" Basis

By Matthew E. Popkin
2012, Vol. 4 No. 09 | pg. 10/12 |

Moreover, The Daily Show suggests a substantial difference between the way conservative commentators discuss Democratic candidates and Republican candidates. The four main commentators that were mocked in the above clip completely flipped their positions in order to convey their support for the Republican candidate to their audiences. The Daily Show thus calls into question the integrity and consistency of the news media with the implication that the discussions are disingenuously presented as analysis. Perhaps the commentators’ motives are to not present each candidate equally. Perhaps it is the sheer need for constant commentary on the twenty-four hour networks. The former being a problem with the individual commentator and the latter being a problem with the system itself. Neither, however, excuses the faulty analyses and comparisons that occur. Regardless, the inconsistent commentary only does a disservice to the people that are attempting to learn about the candidates for whom they will be voting to lead the country.

Another example of The Daily Show’s expert video clip usage to expose hypocrisy occurred during the 2010 midterm election season. The Republican Party was expecting a huge victory based on the current political climate and claimed multiple times that it had become a party of new ideas and change:89

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Postcards From The Pledge

The segment first establishes the fact that the Republican candidates were attempting to rebrand themselves. Stewart plays clips of Republicans pledging their new ideas, which Stewart then convincingly asserts sound “exactly like their old ideas.” To further convey this consistently hypocritical nature, and to justify his assertion, Stewart compares Republicans on September 23rd, 2010 during their pledge stating the same idea that Republican politicians uttered years before, with virtually identical word choice. John Boehner’s word-for-word remarks mirroring those of the John Boehner from 1998 are the icing on the cake. The Daily Show therefore argues that the Republicans are misleading voters by falsely saying that they have changed from their old selves.

Without The Daily Show’s video archiving and juxtaposition of the very similar, if not identical, statements, there is only a weak case that the Republican Party has not shifted to the extent described by its leaders. The show clearly presents the lack of change that has been branded as a new platform. Stewart further ridicules, “this thing isn’t even a sequel, it’s like a shot-by-shot remake,” following up with Boehner himself affirming that the party will not be any different now, a stark contrast to the goals that Boehner put forth a year earlier.90

From the above examples, it is evident that much of The Daily Show’s hypocrisy criticism has been directed towards conservatives. Despite the show’s liberal bias, Stewart and The Daily Show team seek to hold accountable political figures from both sides of the aisle.

For example, in 2009, there was particular conflict over the discharge of Dan Choy, an openly gay Arabic translator in the United States military. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy has been a political controversy since its implementation in the 1990s, but it has received significant criticism in the past few years. In a clip on May 14th, 2009, Stewart, demonstrating the hypocrisy of the American political system, criticizes the fact that amidst the notion that it was essential to do whatever is necessary to keep America safe, including the possible use of torture, people were still not ready to allow homosexual individuals to serve openly in the military:

“Amazingly, in this time of national crisis, when we are marshalling every tool at our disposal to fight this insidious enemy, Dan Choy is one of 54 Arabic translators dismissed due to their sexual preference. So it was okay to water board a guy over 80 times, but God forbid the guy who could understand what that prick was saying has a boyfriend.”91

Given this discriminatory policy, many people were looking to President Obama to put it to an end. Stewart creates his own dialogue with video clips of Obama by inserting his own questions:

Stewart: “Candidate Obama, what do you think about linguists like Dan Choy?”

Candidate Obama: “I have stated repeatedly that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell makes no sense. Why would we not want able men and women, who are willing to sacrifice on our behalf, why would we tell them no?”

Stewart: “Makes sense. President Obama, what are you going to do about Dan Choy?”

Anderson Cooper of CNN: “The White House today confirmed that President Obama will not intervene in current cases against men and women who admit they’re gay.”

Stewart concludes, “Let that be a reminder, always check the fine print, people.” The screen then shows Obama’s campaign slogan “Yes We Can” and zooms in on fine print that The Daily Show mockingly added to the slogan: “But That Doesn’t Necessarily Mean We’re Going To.”92 Thus, Stewart shows the hypocrisy between Obama’s campaign statements and his actions once in office.

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