Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jon Stewart versus Chris Wallace

I happened to find the link to Jon Stewart’s appearance on Fox’s Chris Wallace show and watched the entire interview. Before I start let me say that I’ve watched Stewart occasionally and enjoy his show. I even went to watch him when he performed at UConn several years ago and laughed at most of his material.

Overall I though Wallace did a fair job challenging Stewart’s claims about how biased Fox News is. When challenged Stewart hid behind the “I’m a comedian” shield. Although to be fair (and balanced) Stewart admitted “the bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict and laziness.” While I partly agree with his assessment I don’t agree with his denial that the mainstream news outlets don’t have their own political agenda. (See more below.)

NewsBusters’ analysis covers most of the points I would have made so instead of repeating them here I’ve provided the link.

And in the interest of being objective here is the link to PolitiFact, “a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in politics.” When you look closely they have their own bias but I’ve found some useful analyses. They take Stewart to task over his claims about Fox.

I find it interesting how much ire Fox stirs among the left. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “How dare you call yourselves fair and balanced? You’re biased!” By implication they’re saying that the mainstream news media outlets are paragons of objectivity. Stewart provides a prime example when Wallace presses him whether The New York Times is “pushing a liberal agenda.” His answer: “Do I think they're relentlessly activist? No. In a purely liberal partisan way? No, I don't.” For an analysis check out Their conclusion: “The way Stewart phrased the comment, it’s not enough to show a sliver of evidence that Fox News’ audience is ill-informed. The evidence needs to support the view that the data shows they are ‘consistently’ misinformed -- a term he used not once but three times. It’s simply not true that ‘every poll’ shows that result. So we rate his claim False.”

I’d say Stewart is too intelligent and informed to make a “mistake” like this. I think he threw this claim out to see if Wallace would challenge him on it. Unfortunately Wallace let this claim slide. I gather he was more interested in drawing Stewart out regarding the bias of other news media rather than getting bogged down in refuting Stewart’s claims about Fox.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When Government Jumps the Shark and FannieGate by Walter Russell Mead

Mead’s insightful analyses explain how the housing mess imploded our economy and how various government “entitlement” programs evolved through various stages until they grow to be too large to dismantle and so charged that they become the “third rail” of politics (meaning, untouchable unless you want to be electrocuted). However, like the mainstream media Mead misses a moral point: the welfare state depends on the moral premise that people are “entitled” to benefits regardless of the consequences. I put the word entitled in quotes because I disagree with this designation. To me saying I’m entitled to something means I can morally demand that someone else provide it to me against their will.

Mead points out that most programs like Social Security start out small then grow to the point that many people depend on its continuation while being supported by a declining base. In addition a continent of special interests consisting of politicians, lobbyists, etc. sprouts to cater and foster this group. The scope and target population of these programs expands in order to increase the “customer base” (i.e., potential voters who will support the politicians who curry their favor) until they become an increasing burden on those who foot the bill.

Here is another way of putting it by using a different animal metaphor. After decades of welfare statism (and crony capitalism) the chickens are coming home to roost. Unless we acknowledge and deal with the trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities which loom in the future I’m afraid that the unrest we’re currently seeing in Greece will turn into a feeding frenzy of unsupportable demands that spread to Europe and the U.S.

In any case I highly recommend reading Mead’s two essays.