Stewart Responds to PoltiFact Responding to Stewart Responding to Fox

Throughout history, the humorist has been to some degree revered in virtually every culture, and rightly so.  Humor is a way of seeing reality with its masks stripped away, and it’s safe to say that Mark Twain is quoted far more often than Immanuel Kant. Court jesters were prized by their employers not only because they provided diversion from the tedium of attending royal feasts and ordering beheadings, but also because their foolery frequently contained valuable insight and implicit sage advice, often expressed more bluntly than anyone else dared.

In the contemporary era, there are few humorists more astute and audacious (and therefore more hilarious) than Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. They speak boldly and hilariously not only to political power but to media power. But I repeat myself.

Recently, Stewart was a guest on Fox “News” and pointed out that Fox’s viewers are the most misinformed segment of the American population. Host Chris Wallace naturally  protested. And he received some backup from a rather unlikely source: the nonpartisan fact-checking organization PolitiFact. They said Stewart was wrong, because Fox viewers rate supremely ignorant only in some studies, while in others they’re just somewhere near the bottom – which even if perfectly accurate doesn’t negate the observation that they’re the most misinformed overall.

Stewart responds as only Stewart can. Feigning humble ignorance he “apologizes” for his mistake, then casually points out some of the lies Fox has spread. And then some more, and then some more until he is visually buried under a mountain of them. But bear in mind that by no means is he listing ALL of Fox’s recent lies; he’s just enumerating SOME that PolitiFact itself has pointed out. These include two lies PolitiFact awarded its Lie Of The Year honor in 2009 and 2010 (“death panels” and “government takeover of healthcare” respectively). In other words, in order to challenge Stewart, PolitiFact had to challenge itself. Utterly surreal.

When the foremost propaganda arm of a major political party successfully masquerades as a news organization; when in fact that propaganda arm is the most popular among “news” networks in the country; when even nonpartisan watchdog groups can’t be relied on anymore, there’s only one thing to say.

Thank heavens for the comedians.

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21 thoughts on “Stewart Responds to PoltiFact Responding to Stewart Responding to Fox

  1. You walk a fine line on this site wrt becoming the subject (“those who want to do your thinking for you”).

    Stewart claimed support from every study on a consistent basis. Yet there probably is no study ever performed that was designed specifically to measure the political knowledge (or otherwise) of the consumers of various news sources. The ones that ostensibly support Stewart the most (PIPA) suffer from acute cases of selection bias.

    • Stewart may not have been 100% accurate, but he was damn close. He was not talking about being uninformed (even the most diehard Fox fans might know that John Boehner is Speaker of the House) but about being misinformed (believing, for instance, that Barack Obama is Kenyan or that Sean Hannity knows more about global warming than thousands of scientists.) Fox consistently misinforms, and the polls show it.
      I eagerly await specific illustrations of how I’m trying to do anyone’s thinking for them.

      • Stewart may not have been 100% accurate, but he was damn close.

        There’s no poll or survey data that reasonably demonstrate it (I explained why in brief and you haven’t addressed the point). So Stewart can’t be close. He may well be right that Fox viewers are misinformed but no survey data provide a reasonable foundation for his claim. But he claimed it anyway.

        I eagerly await specific illustrations of how I’m trying to do anyone’s thinking for them.

        NP.
        1) You want people to believe that it is right to revere humorists.
        2) You want people to believe that to challenge Stewart on its Fox News claim that PolitiFact had to challenge itself.

        You’re calling Fox a “propaganda arm” presumably because they put out opinion along with the facts (the baseball scores are usually right). No opinion in what you write? If you’re not writing so that others may read (and thus receive your influence) then there are better ways to do it than posting it on the Internets.

        Please note that I have humored you with my response. I said you were walking a fine line. Your challenge would have been appropriate if I had said you crossed the line. So there you were doing it again (walking that fine line).

      • There are in fact several such polls. See a few of them described at http://mediamatters.org/research/201106220022.
        I simply stated that humorists have always been revered, and that there are good reasons why they should be. And I simply pointed out the inescapable fact that PolitiFact more or less contradicted its own findings in criticizing Stewart. I don’t “want people to believe” those statements if they don’t want to. I have no personal stake in them, and I’m certainly not going to lie or distort facts to support them – which is what would make them propaganda.
        And that’s what makes Fox a propaganda machine as well – not merely “opinion”, which is everywhere. And I don’t believe I’ve ever claimed there is no opinion on this blog. Opinion, by some semantic standard or other, is probably unavoidable (of course, that could be just an opinion). I only claim, rightfully, that opinion is not the focus of this blog. And I might add that there is also far less of it than many people would probably think.
        You, my friend, are yourself walking a fine line: between entertaining silliness and annoying impertinence.

  2. These include two lies PolitiFact awarded its Lie Of The Year honor in 2009 and 2010 (“death panels” and “government takeover of healthcare” respectively). In other words, in order to challenge Stewart, PolitiFact had to challenge itself. Utterly surreal.

    Yeah, about that. Stewart credited those “Lie of the Year” awards to Fox News, didn’t he? Kind of cutting corners on the truth, wasn’t he? PolitiFact pinned the first on Sarah Palin and the second one to several figures from the right (Fox News not among them), but Stewart proceeded to call Fox News the New England Patriots of lying. But if I repeat the same two supposed lies that won the awards why don’t I have just as good a claim to being the New England Patriots of lying?

    The fact is that Stewart was lying. For comedic effect, no doubt, but the end result is (dare I say it?) propaganda of the sort you might want to criticize.

    It’s also interesting to note the role of the Pulitzer Prize in this. PolitiFact reminds readers of that award on its electronic masthead–communicating (propaganda again?) its reliability. But this past year a Pulitzer Prize was given for a collection of editorials that, in part, criticized PolitiFact’s second “Lie of the Year” award. Does that mean the Pulitzer Prizes end up arguing against themselves?

    • And the distinction between Sarah Palin and Fox is…??? Sarah didn’t originate that lie, either, by the way – she just parroted it the way her network did. And her network did it over and over again – far more often, no doubt, than its original source. Doesn’t that give them squatter’s rights to the lie or something? How exactly is Stewart lying by correctly pointing out that Fox deliberately and repeatedly promoted lies?
      The Pulitzer, by the way, is not a test of “reliability” but of quality writing. That often includes highly opinionated writing, and the awarding of a Pulitzer (for which I have all due respect) in no way validates any opinions expressed.

      • And the distinction between Sarah Palin and Fox is…???

        Sarah Palin is not a 24 hour cable news outlet. Fox News never wears its hair in bun. I led you to a fine comparison. I explained that if I repeat the same LoTY statements that Fox News supposedly repeated then I ought to have an equal claim to the championship comparison that Stewart bestowed on Fox News. Some championship if millions can claim it. It’s obviously propaganda by Stewart.

        Hey, I like this one:

        How exactly is Stewart lying by correctly pointing out that Fox deliberately and repeatedly promoted lies?

        Your question offers an irrelevant premise (a time-honored propaganda technique in its own right). It isn’t that Stewart is lying for claiming that Fox News has knowingly and/or deliberately repeated lies. He’s lying because he claims poll support that doesn’t exist. Or, more properly, he’s just wrong. He may well believe it and therefore he wouldn’t be lying in the commonly understood sense (note that Stewart made no effort to draw any such distinctions). And I’ve explained why his “New England Patriots of lying” talking point was just silly.

        The Pulitzer, by the way, is not a test of “reliability” but of quality writing.

        Of course all Pulitzer works are expected to meet the highest standards of journalism. Quality writing hardly exhausts that set of standards. The point is the way PolitiFact uses its award. I mentioned how they announce it up in the electronic masthead, right? People in general take it as some sort of proof of reliability, and PolitiFact takes full advantage of that perception.

        People who use PolitiFact stories in order to push their own agenda like to do the same thing. That’s why the string “Pulitzer-Prize-winning non-partisan PolitiFact” turns up so readily in blog posts and discussion threads. Propaganda.

      • And you didn’t hear about Sarah being on the payroll of that 24-hour cable “news” outlet? You also are not (I’m assuming at least) a 24-hour cable “news” outlet yourself, so your repeating the same lies a billion times still wouldn’t give you the same kind of propaganda clout Fox has.
        Stewart’s “poll support that doesn’t exist” does indeed exist.
        The Pulitzer committee offers awards in journalism under several categories, including public service, commentary, local reporting, and even cartooning.Obviously, there are categories in which neither factual nor perceptual accuracy is a determining factor. But for whatever reason a person or organization receives the award, it is in some sense deserved, and therefore the recipient is entitled to advertise it. That PolitiFact does so is no more propagandist than the San Francisco Giants billing themselves as World Champions. How people interpret the significance of the honor is up to them.
        It’s very interesting, by the way, that you seem to be trying to hold Stewart (who has not tried to pass himself off as a journalist) to higher journalistic standards than the folks at Fox (who have).

  3. There are in fact several such polls. See a few of them described at http://mediamatters.org/research/201106220022.

    See them debunked (for Stewart’s purposes) here:
    http://subloviate.blogspot.com/search?q=mooney

    I simply stated that humorists have always been revered, and that there are good reasons why they should be

    And Fox simply stated “blah blah blah (fill in what you like).” So what’s the difference between you and Fox News other than you don’t wear your hair in a bun? Get real. You didn’t “simply state” it. You put it out there to be read by the public. Internets. Remember? You want people to read your opinion and receive your influence. Otherwise you write a note at your desk and leave it at that.

    And I simply pointed out the inescapable fact that PolitiFact more or less contradicted its own findings in criticizing Stewart. I don’t “want people to believe” those statements if they don’t want to.

    If the facts are “inescapable” then what choice do we have?
    🙂

    I’m certainly not going to lie or distort facts to support them – which is what would make them propaganda.

    I trust that you sincerely would not intentionally mislead anyone, but when you try to say that any study we have (or all of them) is sufficient to support Stewart’s statement you are simply wrong and thus you end up distorting the facts. If you know the methods of political science you will recognize the problems of selection bias in the studies Hamsher and Mooney have cited. If they were designed to figure out what media outlets mislead the most (or even which viewers readers end up that way) then the studies’ design flaws preclude them from adequately supporting that claim. But they weren’t really designed for that and the fact is that the PIPA studies even stipulate that the source of misinformation cannot be assumed (so much for trying to rehabilitate Stewart’s claim by saying his point was that Fox misleads its viewers).

    And if you locate any studies I have not yet debunked as to their support for Stewart’s claim I will delight in subjecting them to analysis.

    • Quoting your own blog to “debunk” research? How convenient.
      There are plenty of inescapable facts that people choose not to accept.

      • It’s as though you aren’t aware of the genetic fallacy.

        Employing it sure beats dealing with the nuts and bolts of the criticism, doesn’t it?

  4. And you didn’t hear about Sarah being on the payroll of that 24-hour cable “news” outlet?

    I guess that makes her her own boss if there’s no difference between Palin and Fox News. Next thing you’ll tell me that Palin was employed by Fox News back when she made the “death panels” statement. Maybe it doesn’t matter that she hadn’t hired herself yet.

    You also are not (I’m assuming at least) a 24-hour cable “news” outlet yourself, so your repeating the same lies a billion times still wouldn’t give you the same kind of propaganda clout Fox has.

    It seems to me that Stewart’s reasoning on the New England Patriots of lying line had nothing to do with cable clout and everything to do with PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year” awards. You can correct me if I’m wrong, but we can do without the red herring.

    Stewart’s “poll support that doesn’t exist” does indeed exist.

    You should refrain from claiming that if you can’t back it up. And you can’t back it up.

    The Pulitzer committee offers awards in journalism under several categories, including public service, commentary, local reporting, and even cartooning.Obviously, there are categories in which neither factual nor perceptual accuracy is a determining factor.

    You want to explain that to the Pulitzer Prize folks? I can refer you to the qualifications for entry at the Pulitzer Prize site if you like. Not that it matters. “National Reporting” (the prize given to PolitiFact) doesn’t appear on your list.

    That PolitiFact does so (advertises its Pullitzer) is no more propagandist than the San Francisco Giants billing themselves as World Champions.

    The Giants didn’t even play a team from the Japanese professional leagues. Great analogy. If you think about it, advertisers are “entitled” to say quite a few things about the products they’re hawking. And they might use justifications similar to yours about how they aren’t really responsible for the false conclusions people draw from the things they’re told. Would you buy it? Seriously?

    It’s very interesting, by the way, that you seem to be trying to hold Stewart (who has not tried to pass himself off as a journalist) to higher journalistic standards than the folks at Fox (who have).

    That’s funny. I’m not holding Stewart to any journalistic standards at all. I’m just pointing out that he’s wrong about the surveys and that he’s engaged in propaganda. You don’t have to be journalist to do those things, and neither are they the exclusive purview of journalists. It’s interesting that you find interesting something that isn’t happening.

    My comments are awaiting moderation. Heh.

    • If Sarah wears her hair in a bun, then Fox wears its hair in a bun, or at least part of it.
      No, the Giants didn’t play a team from Japan, and perhaps it isn’t fair that they’re allowed to call themselves World Champions. But that’s the title that applies to the winner of the (North American) World Series, whether we like it or not. And their use of it is not propaganda, nor is PolitiFact’s boasting of a Pulitzer nor is Stewart’s calling out Fox, nor is anything I’ve said on this blog. None of the above uses deception to persuade. You, however, are another matter.
      Sadly, that takes care of responding to the most intelligent and relevant statements you’ve made.

      • You will be allowed one more opportunity to contribute something of value to the discussions on this blog. Neither I nor my readers have time to deal with sophomoric solipsism.

  5. You will be allowed one more opportunity to contribute something of value to the discussions on this blog. Neither I nor my readers have time to deal with sophomoric solipsism.

    I expect that’s because you’re so busy producing it. Let’s refresh your memory:

    It’s very interesting, by the way, that you seem to be trying to hold Stewart (who has not tried to pass himself off as a journalist) to higher journalistic standards than the folks at Fox (who have).

    I held Stewart to no journalistic standard. I’ve simply noted his inaccuracy and the term we apply to his type of misrepresentation (propaganda). The perception came from your head and then you put it to electronic print. I’m a bit surprised you haven’t deleted the older posts in order to hide the fact. Time for that later, I suppose.

    No, the Giants didn’t play a team from Japan, and perhaps it isn’t fair that they’re allowed to call themselves World Champions. But that’s the title that applies to the winner of the (North American) World Series, whether we like it or not. And their use of it is not propaganda, nor is PolitiFact’s boasting of a Pulitzer nor is Stewart’s calling out Fox, nor is anything I’ve said on this blog. None of the above uses deception to persuade. You, however, are another matter.

    Double standards are great.

  6. Tell you what. You want productive I’ll give you productive. Delete the previous two posts from me if you like. We’ll go productive step by productive step. I have provided a substantive criticism of the poll results people have used to try to justify Stewart’s claim. I’m charging the studies with a selection bias problem. Specifically, the studies select questions that are not broadly representative of the political knowledge about which Fox News viewers supposedly lag behind others.

    So, I have two related questions for you setting the stage for further productive discussion.

    1) Do you know what “selection bias” is?
    2) Do you see how selection bias creates a problem for the studies people have used to try to support Jon Stewart?

    I encourage you to add to your answers with further commentary. Then it’s my turn again if you’re willing to face the truth of the matter about which you’ve pontificated.

    • Sorry. you blew it. Your “substantive criticism” amounts to nothing more than denial. Repeating the same irrelevant statements over and over will not make them any more relevant or more true. And enough is enough. But congratulations. You may have inspired another post.

      • If I was a betting peorsn, my money would be on “women dream more often of sex than they did 40 years ago”. Why? I think there are more sexual images readily available than there were 40 years ago. If you watch any amount of television or listen to music, you are bound to hear about or see someone else having sex. Arousal anyone?I’m a woman and I welcome sexually interesting dreams. It adds a little spice to life. I estimate that I dream about sex in some form about 50% of the time. The rest of the time, I’m dreaming about the whole semester’s reading I forgot to do in English Literature class.

  7. Note: This individual wants you to believe that Stewart’s claim should only be interpreted comprehensively rather than (as obviously intended) cumulatively. If you’re not sure what I mean by that, stay tuned.

  8. Okay, the new post on Stewart/ PolitiFact/ Fox is up. And by they way, here’s my tally of Bryan’s rhetorical sins above:

    False Conclusions: 9
    Misreading: 7
    Patronizing/ Presuming Control: 7
    Tangents/ Straw Men/ Red Herrings: 9
    False Claims: 8
    “Witty” Juvenile Ripostes: 4
    Projection/ Transference: 3

    (There is some overlap.) There are probably more that I overlooked, and if you’re a serious student of forensic flimflammery, you might find it useful to do your own tally. Some of these tricks are tried and true propaganda tactics that we’ll be examining in more detail in the future.

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