Thursday, March 05, 2009

why the left is right (and pancakes & sausage on a stick is wrong).

last night, as i curled up to enjoy the Daily Show with my lady-friend (a post dinner routine we have), a thought occurred to me: WHY is there no poignant, intelligent humor coming from the Right?

let's be clear, even though Jon Stewart and his cohorts poke fun at quite a lot - the government, the media, Democrats, Republicans (of course),
Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick - it is perceived, by many on the Left AND Right alike, to be a very LEFT-leaning show. in fact,
TDS hardly denies such a thing (contrary to a certain political commentator host on the Fox News Network, which claims to be "fair and balanced").

i would go as far as to argue, that regardless of your leanings on the political spectrum, left, right, moderate, moderate right-leaning, moderate left-leaning, wookie, etc ...ANY fan of intelligent commentary/humor can ENJOY the Daily Show.

but still, WHY isn't this kind of humor appearing on the Right?
(warning...this is
where my post takes a hard left)

because a large majority of the stuff Jon Stewart + friends are spouting (in a quasi-intelligent, tongue-in-cheek sort of manner) about the right/media is TRUE. and there's hardly a plausible defense/counter-offense that can be offered by the Right.
a GREAT example of this is, most recently, TDS's recent coverage of CPAC:


people go on and on about a "liberal bias" in the media (completely discounting the fact that Fox News, who has 1/3 the research & media budget of CNN continues, to give Ted Turner's + James Earl Jones' cable news network of choice a run for their money), a point to which i'll somewhat concede. but doesn't that bias exists FOR A REASON?

the marketplace (of news + intelligent consuming viewers) demands and rewards that which caters to their media palette. i'm not defending American media (if anything, i am one of it's harshest critics), but if it does indeed lean Left, than perhaps it is because, in many cases, the Left side of the argument (from an "in practice" standpoint) is more in the moral right ("correct"...you know what i mean) than the Right has been in MANY recent years.

seriously. market forces would have to otherwise dictate that there is a audience who WANTS to consume a right-leaning, humorous, intelligent commentary on the left/media. but to my knowledge, nothing exists to the same level of prominence that the Daily Show does?
or am i so far entrenched in my lefty leftliness that i am just completely unaware of such a gem?

am i suggesting that America is a nation of mostly left-leaning ideals? despite our current political + economic climate, i would still argue NO (sadly), quite the opposite. but then again, those on either end of the spectrum usually argues in a paniced, Chicken-Little, call-to-arms, sort of way that the scales are tipping in "the other" direction. i'm just claiming that a majority of those that consume media IS left-leaning, and most of the TV-news coverage caters to that (albeit, either side of spectrum reporting in this country does it in a sensationalist, lowest-common-denominator sort of way).

in summary, i've really said nothing new (or of value) here. if anything, i've made a very sloppy argument that makes very little sense. but to be clear, i've just made my own opinionated observation.


the Daily Show is still quite funny, smart, and entertaining. you should watch it already. but make sure you get your ACTUAL news (with a healthy does of cynicism) from somewhere else. go READ it in print or online (and always from multiple sources). after all, reading takes more mental energy/thinking on your part...allowing you to make your own decision, VS being told what to think by the talking heads on the TV,

so what was the point of this post again? oh yeah, Jon Stewart is funny. i'd appreciate something just as good from the Right.

*(interesting anecdote on the side here. my dAd watches + enjoys BOTH the Daily Show AND the O'Reilly Factor. i have no idea how his head doesn't explode.)

9 comments:

  1. Some folks find the South Park funny. Ain't them boys Libertarians or somethin'?

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  2. now who is henry?!?

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  3. Raman-

    Thanks for the insightful post. I obviously disagree with you, given my strong Libertarian leanings with a smattering of conservatism. Let me offer some different points of view:

    We always hear about the "mainstream media" being Left-leaning because it is. 70%+ of the media vote Democrat or give to Democratic causes, and the rest don't admit it (much like the professorate). Viewership of every major media channel and readership of newspapers have been plummeting for years which is a common argument by conservatives for the bias. If viewership is dropping in a non-left-leaning country, doesn't that mean people DON'T want that point of view to be so pervasive? I am not going to deny Fox News is right-leaning, because it obviously is. I just would hope that all sources STATE their biases. At least we aren't in Europe where the government controls the media.

    As far as for the humor and why there is no "right-leaning" equivalents, I can offer two additional possible reasons besides the "humor lends credibility to the Left's truth" argument:

    1) The Right does have humorous commentary, but it isn't on TV. There are plenty of satire sites on the internet, internet TV stations, and radio shows that deliver Right-leaning humor. The sense of humor is a bit different because what might drive a Leftist into a rage on a right-wing radio show like Rush Limbaugh makes conservatives howl with laughter. Heard any of Rush's song parodies lately? Or Mark Levin's late night antics? The dearth of TV humor from the Right can easily be correlated to the lack of Right-leaning TV in general just as the lack of Left-leaning talk radio is because there's no audience for it. When the newspapers and the TV media are reporting from a Left-leaning perspective by and large (and Fox is reporting from a simplified/sensationalist POV), there isn't a lot of juicy material floating around for some one-liners about Obama or Leftists for Jon Stewart (plus its awfully hard to make fun of people you practically worship). Did you hear about Obama's 57 states remarks? Or the time he walked into a window thinking it was a door? Or Joe Biden's constant blathering? What about all of the corruption of Democratic Senators and Congresspeople? You don't HEAR about these things because of the media's bias, so its much harder to dig up one-liner ready material.

    2) On a more philosophical angle, I would argue that Left-leaning ideology (especially in the age of Obama) is focused on platitudes and simplifications. These generalizations are much easier to translate to TV humor because of their "soundbyte" nature. The worldview of a Leftist and Rightist are literally alien to the other, which is why if someone has a position on abortion one way or another I can probably surmise their opinion on climate change, educational vouchers, or solutions to the economic crisis pretty easily. The Left loves to point out hypocrisy, so that easily lends itself to humor as well, whereas the reasoning behind a lot of Libertarian or Conservatism is much more complex and requires thinking through cause and effect. Its hard for a Republican to win on "hope" and "change" because their positions require a little more explaining... let's face it, the world is a little more complex than "throw money at it."

    I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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  4. augh! with generic names like "henry" and "ben" i have no idea who half these people are (and i assume these people know me, but i know like FIVE bens!)

    BEN:
    first, thanks for your post (esp if you're who i think you are). i welcome a healthy debate & discourse (i think we need more of these sort of conversations to come to a better understanding of eachother). to your points:

    you said, "Viewership of every major media channel and readership of newspapers have been plummeting for years which is a common argument by conservatives for the [liberal] bias. If viewership is dropping in a non-left-leaning country, doesn't that mean people DON'T want that point of view to be so pervasive?"
    DUDE - correlation is NOT causation. i work in alternative media & marketing for the BIGGEST advertiser in the world, and i can GUARANTEE that the reason for viewership declines is NOT linked to the perceived left-leaning media punditry. quality of non-news programming (reality tv?) is plummeting, internet consumption is rising, and time-shifting is shaking EVERYTHING up. but if you look at the stats, traditional media (tv, radio, print) consumption is actually dropping more amongst those who are more left-leaning, and viewership rates are actually UP amongst those who are more right-leaning. they're just not watching the news.

    #1:
    the right's humorous commentary - i thought about writing about conservative talk radio in my post, but didn't want to touch that one with a 10-foot pole. i've listened to conservative talk radio, and between mike savage, sean hannity, and rush, there is really no INTELLIGENT comparison to jon stewart's brand of humor (which makes more fun of the ideas + statements made, and not the people themselves). mike, sean, and rush are hateful thugs and fear mongers. i'm sorry. that's just the way it is.

    does TDS deride the right? yes. and he derides the left quite a bit as well, and the total media as well (not just picking on Fox, but also MSNBC + CNN, and most recently CNBC). but none of this is NEARLY as perverse, hateful, and propaganda-esque as what is purported on conservative talk radio. a close (republican, former naval officer) friend of mine recently spent 2 weeks driving cross-country with no CDs, so spent the entire time listening to conservative talk radio during the days...and he was APPALLED, by what he heard...both from the radio hosts, as well as those who were calling in.

    my point? conservative talk radio might be comedy, but it is not the "intelligent" humor i was seeking. i'm not saying that the intelligent humorists don't exist on the right, i just don't think they've risen to as much prominence as their thuggish colleagues.

    and saying conservative satire exists in sites + internet TV, as popular as it may be, still doesn't come NEAR the viewership levels of [cable] TV programming (yet...remember my job, i could rattle off the #s, but then i'd have to kill you :). and all these sites/programs online don't add up to nearly the prominence that something like 'the Daily Show' has on a cable TV network (or on the web)


    #2: philosophically, i cannot concur that those on the right and the left can't see eachother's worldview, or that one is more complex than the other. the MEDIA has further pushed us into a culture war. i find it STUPID that ideological lines in the sand are being drawn along hot button issues (abortion, gay marriages, guns), which are NOWHERE near as immediately consequential as the bigger picture, long term issues - like healthcare, education, the economy, and the environment (whatever your left OR right-leaning solution might be). and believe me, i'm not diminishing the importance of civil liberties (either for gay couples OR gun owners), i (and many people on both sides of the fence), just think we're wasting too much energy on dividing each other VS talking + solving problems constructively.

    "the reasoning behind a lot of Libertarian or Conservatism is much more complex"
    ...and socialism & liberalism are not?
    "Its hard for a Republican to win on 'hope' and 'change' because their positions require a little more explaining."
    ...that's right, because concepts like "leadership" and "compassionate conservatism" are soooo complex (and hardly hypocritical)

    let's face it, the world is a little more complex than "cut taxes" & "trickle down economics"

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  5. Henry is Beau W. Beau W. is the guy who just got back from the IMAX version of Watchmen and was not surprised that he was not surprised that it was an alternatingly lackluster and frustrating experience.

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  6. bean!
    sorry to here about W. i shall wait to see it next weekend then..

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  7. Yes it is who you think it is. Thanks for the reply. I won't pester your blog with discourse any further if you don't want!

    #1
    I certainly understand the difference between correlation and causation. All of the possible reasons you state are correlative as well... it is impossible to tell which may have caused or if there is some factor we are missing, but it is undeniable that the mainstream media outlets of Newspapers and Television News (other than the outliers like FoxNews and NYPost, WSJournal Opinion page that are right) are veering Left and have been for a while. 70% or more of journalists claim to be Democrats, and journalist staffers give more to Democrats than Republicans by a massive margin. Even the most well-meaning person cannot be "neutral" when their worldview and social views paint how they perceive every story.

    As far as talk radio goes, we can go back and forth forever, but I think my point boils down as follows: The Left certainly loves to paint talk radio and many Right opinions as hateful. I mean, come on, why bother having a discussion with a hateful person? Aren't they not worth talking to? It's so much easier to label someone a hater or a racist, bigot, etc, than actually listen to their points. Yes, talk radio hosts can be extreme (Air America fits the bill as well), and they can make up names for various antagonists in government and media that they perceive. Does that mean they are hateful? Who do they hate? I can easily argue that the Left is just as, if not more so, hateful with a myriad of quotations and instances. I just don't assume that an every-day liberal holds hateful positions, but I hear often that those of conservative leanings, especially those of religious backgrounds, are hateful. Proposition 8 in CA was a classic example where all of those for it were labeled bigots.

    TDS doesn't deride the Left nearly as much, especially since the Left is now in power in all branches of government. You'd think they'd be nailing Obama on his inept vetting (there was an awful lot of "vetting" talk with Palin when McCain chose her... now I hear crickets) and his reactionary policies and Ivory Tower governing. He seems to have a halo of untouchability, be it for whatever reason, and its pretty tough to hear anyone making any joke about him that was made about Bush or Clinton or Reagan, etc.

    You may be right that there is no "intelligent" comedy on the Right on television. I frankly don't consider most of Jon Stewart's jokes to be "intelligent" myself since they tend to jab at things like Bush's perceived stupidity or McCain's age, etc. They also love to point out hypocrisy or play of some popular notion that is never challenged in the media.

    #2
    Sorry, I rambled, I'll keep this one more brief.

    I meant to say that the Left and the Right's worldviews are so different that it is very tough to find a middle ground. There are line in the sand points that are very black and white, such as some social issues, or economic issues, where middle ground is very tough. The sides tend to line up on issues down sets because of the underlying assumptions of each side.

    A religious person who believes abortion is murder certainly believes that is infinitely more important than economics. An environmentalist who believes man-made global climate change will destroy the planet if something isn't done doesn't care about economic ramifications of saving the planet. Obviously, this "culture war" as its been labeled is not some made up thing... some people have passion about issues and those are untouchable.

    I certainly wish we could come to some conclusions and some compromises. I have a hard time seeing what those might be on some of those "hot-button" issues. Where's the compromise on the bail-outs and Obama's huge budget proposal? Where's the compromise on stem cell research? Where's the compromise on gay marriage? Abortion? The environment? education?

    The world simply is more complex than these, I certainly agree. Politics has become a marketing/branding game instead of one of issues... it is obvious that Obama won because of his charisma and "brand" and not his actual beliefs. All politicians believe they need to treat the citizens like children with one-line soundbytes of policies... this is in reaction to the medium these bytes are played on (TV is the worst media possible to receive news IMO). If our culture had retained the need for real political dialogue in public, really well thought out conversations on forums hopefully like this one is, and if we even were close to debates like Lincoln-Douglas (9 hours each on ONE TOPIC) or even a Kennedy/Nixon compared to the laughing stock that is a Presidential debate today, the citizenry could be informed enough to think through issues.

    I believe, after thinking deeply through my positions, that I am right. I am sure you believe the same way. I have changed a few positions over the years, becoming far more Libertarian on most issues, and even waffling on some issues. We do agree on a lot of what's CAUSING the breakdown in discussion... maybe we can agree on what to do about it.

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  8. @tuttlebn @ramanx

    Going off topic on Point #1 but here goes:

    By stating that the cause of newspaper readership decline is a left wing bias since journalists are more likely to be Democrats and more likely to donate to Democratic candidates, you also state the same for the decline in church attendance.

    It's obvious that most churches have right wing bias (just watch some of the mega-pastors). They are more likely to support Republican candidates (look at their endorsements). Is attendance for church's declining because they are right leaning?

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  9. Harshal-

    You have a good point, but your facts are a bit skewed. Church attendance at mainstream protestant churches is going down because they are becoming more politically correct (I've attended many different ones and am a weekly church-goer myself). The "evangelical" churches, as portrayed by the media as the loony mega-churches headed by suave televangelists may also be going down (not quite sure). What is going UP, though, is church attendance at home churches, and non-denominational smaller churches.

    So I can argue that church attendance in mainstream protestant churches (using Episcopalian as an example even though its not quite Protestant) is dropping because they are becoming more Left socially.

    May I ask where you get your "right-wing" assumptions about pastorships in major churches? Any churches you've been to? It of course is one of those stereotypes by the media, generally hostile to religion because it stands up to the Left's social value structure, that is perpetuated even though its not really true. Religious participation is one of the biggest indicators of voting choices, but that doesn't mean pastors rant and rave about conservative fiscal policy. Would you say the Bible is right-wing?

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