“The Daily Show” on Presidential Debates -Bryn Stotmeister   Leave a comment

I will be analyzing an episode of The Daily Show that aired on September 26 and describing which controversies and what strategies Jon Stewart uses and how they relate to Jones’ claims about the show.

The episode starts out by reporting on the Republican Presidential candidates gathering in Florida for yet another debate. He states that the Fox News Google Debate is “the 83rd such debate so far this year.” This statistic, as Jones would probably agree, is one that other news sources would probably not comment on showing that a fake news source can be a source of information that you wouldn’t get from other real news sources. This number also points out the rediculousness of having so many debates, a point he drives home when he asks what we can learn about the candidates through yet another debate and answers himself, “Probably nothing.” This is also an example of what Jones claims about the show, “Stewart offers not just the facts, but also draws conclusions from those facts.”

Stewart then covers a debate question asked by a gay soldier on the issue of “don’t ask don’t tell.” But instead of taking the normal reporting route, he chooses to comment on a certain audience member’s reaction to the question, screaming “boo” loudly. This is another instance where Stewart reports on something that other real news sources would not find newsworthy. He shows next Rick Santorum’s response to the question where he says “sex is not an issue.” Stewart comes back, as Jones would predict, with his own opinion and draws his own conclusions when he responds, “What planet do you fucking live on? Where sex is not an issue?” Here he focuses on the candidate’s rhetoric and breaks the show of usual un-bias reporting by clearly giving his own opinion on Santorum’s answer.

He again focuses on a candidate’s rhetoric, as Jones showed he did when reporting on a speech made by Bush. Stewart does what Jones calls “illuminat[ing] the contradictory nature” and “returns the focus to the [candidate’s] rhetoric…” when he shows a clip of Perry stumbling through a response in another debate. Perry tries to show the fickle nature of his opponent when he says no one knows “which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with,” and goes on to fumble through an illustration of Romney’s opposing views. Stewart draws his own conclsuions stating that after 3 botched debates Perry is “demonstration an incredible unlearning curve.” He goes on to give evidence of this opinion and supports his conclusion by playing a string of clips where others also say how much Perry is failing. In another clip from a different debate, Stewart again focuses on Perry’s rhetoric and “illuminates the contradictory nature” of his argument when he points out the discrepancy of Perry’s views. Stewart reminds his audience of Perry’s stark pro-life stance and then immediately plays a clip highlighting his great use of capital punishment.

Stewart uses a rhetorical analogy when he reports on the issue of Chis Christie possibly joining the Republican candidates. He compares the increasing numbers and ridiculousness of the Republican Presidential candidates to a season of American Idol in reverse. “Every week you just add some other idiot,” says Stewart. This analogy is a clear rhetorical device used by Stewart that appeals to the pop culture that his audience most likely knows and aligns themselves with, making this analogy very effective. This is also another example of Jones’ claim that Stewart draws conclusions beyond simple reporting, an educational characteristic that you only find on a fake news or op-ed piece of journalism but nowhere in traditional t.v. news sources.

Finally, Stewart uses another rhetorical strategy when he speaks directly to the camera and appeals directly to an audience in a conversational manner. However, I don’t think he appeals to his audience exactly. He appeals and talks to the Republican Party, an audience that probably watches his show in few numbers.  He comments on the increasing candidate numbers while stating, “First you wanted Bachmann, then Perry, now Christie… have you ever considered that maybe you’re the problem? Maybe It’s you? You’re unrealistic.” Here Stewart does what Jones calls asking the viewer to step outside the staged event and make an assessment based on information excluded in other news sources. Stewart tries to get his viewers to look at the whole picture, why are there so many Republican candidates? He again draws his own conclusion and gives his answer, that the Republican Party doesn’t know what they want, and that what they actually do want is unattainable. He explains that the “Republican base is at war with their own talking points,” and goes on to describe all the opposite characteristics that are wanted in their candidate. He parodies, “I want someone who is going to cut taxes and balance the budget, someone who’s a skilled orator but doesn’t talk all fancy…” As Jones claims, he points out the artifice of things, going a step further than real news sources who just report, and he delves deeper into the reasoning and cause of things to give his audience a lasting message that informs on the issue but also educates on the impact. He ends his report with a message of his own directed to the Republican audience he criticizes. “You need to take a long hard look in the mirror, and not come away thinking, there’s something wrong with this mirror.”

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Posted October 18, 2011 by brynstotmeister in Uncategorized

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