MSNBC’s Maddow Makes Stewart’s Point For Him

Rachel Maddow’s interview with Jon Stewart on Thursday will doubtless be sliced and diced over the next 24 hours, but the MSNBC host made Stewart’s point for him — unwittingly — in a way that had much more to do with style than substance.

Ultimately, “The Daily Show’s” main criticism of the modern media — and cable news in particular — has to do with tone, excess and proportionality. And while the two conducted a very civil, thoughtful discussion, the mere fact that Maddow devoted the entire hour to the conversation — complete with a blackened set that looked like Charlie Rose’s show — seemed excessive.

Is Stewart that big a “get?” Because MSNBC treated the interview like they had landed a genuine newsmaker. Stewart doesn’t see himself that way — and pressed the case, repeatedly, that he doesn’t think MSNBC should either.

Maddow’s main beef seemed to be that Stewart has equated MSNBC’s left-ward model with Fox News Channel’s right-ward one. But he countered that with a very salient argument — that MSNBC wouldn’t exist, in its current form, had the channel not found success made Keith Olbermann, then realized a whole primetime lineup of Olbermanns might be a way to make even more money. After all, it works for Fox.

As for criticizing MSNBC and CNN along with Fox News — who, as Stewart noted, occupies a special place in his heart for its willingness, as he has stated before, to doggedly pursue a “narrative” — Stewart basically said just because I agree with you about certain things doesn’t mean I don’t want you to do better in your role as a “news” network.

“We have a tendency to grant amnesty to people that we agree with, and to overly demonize people that we don’t,” he said.

Stewart also noted, rightly, that the 24-hour news cycle is “built for a very particular thing: 9/11. … You have to elevate the passion of everything else that happens, that might even be somewhat mundane,” to justify that sort of urgent, around-the-clock treatment. “The language then has to become sharper, louder, to cut through more and more of the noise.”

It was an intelligent interview — and good television.

But the full hour of Maddow’s show? By itself, that says everything about the 24-hour nonstop conflictinator Stewart spoke of at his Rally to Restore Sanity that you need to know.

 

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