13 October 2006
The Daily Show Effect
I KNEW IT! Recent studies have found that viewers of The Daily Show and other "fake news" programs are not cynical and disengaged, but informed and savvy. In many ways, this is common sense: In order to "get" satire, you have to have a decent understanding of the material being parodied, right?
- In a May 2006 study entitled "The Daily Show Effect," two political science professors from East Carolina University found that while college-age viewers of Stewart's show may be cynical about politics, they were nonetheless better informed and more confident in their ability to understand politics than viewers of traditional news media.
- Mary Zeiss Stange, a professor at Skidmore College, wrote a piece for USA Today last month that argued that the "Daily Show Effect" is not so much about cynicism as it is about critical analysis. "Based on my experience with them, I can attest that the current college-age generation is generally, and increasingly, media savvy when it comes to critically 'consuming' the news," she said. "I would further argue that this is more so because of shows such as Stewart's, The Colbert Report, and Web sites such as that of the The Onion newspaper."
In fact, the Daily Show generation is not only apt to be more concerned about current events, says Zeiss Stange, but also more likely to be spurred to do something with that concern. "In other words, Stewart's watchers could actually become more active voters," she said.
Her notions are shored up by a 2004 election survey from the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center that found Daily Show viewers to be better informed about campaign issues than consumers of other late-night television programs, newspapers, network news, or cable news
I KNEW IT. The viewers of fake news -- because they understand the real news -- see through all the "truthiness" and talking points floating around out there. For those who don't watch The Colbert Report (which is a parody of The O'Reilly Factor), truthiness is "what you want the facts to be, as opposed to what the facts actually are; it's what you feel is the truth as opposed to what the truth actually is."
Truthiness is pervasive at places like Fox News and on almost all syndicated talk radio shows that subscribe to the notion that if you say something loudly enough and repeat it often enough, people will believe it -- even when it is completely untrue.
For instance, Delusional Phone Sex Enthusiast and Wicked Big Narcissicist Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly called viewers of The Daily Show "stoned slackers" and "dopey kids" who "don't know what's going on in the world." However, Nielsen Media Research shows that Stewart's viewers are not only smarter, but more educated than O'Reilly's. Daily Show viewers are 78 percent more likely than the average adult to have four or more years of college education, while O'Reilly's audience is only 24 percent more likely to have that much schooling.
O'Reilly may really believe that he is relevant and important but his audience is -- in fact -- comprised of old & senile men who wear their pants too high. However, short term memory is required of his bible-thumping public because bible thumpers tend to get outraged over dirty sex. Two years ago, the bleedingly self-righteous O'Reilly paid $10 million to a 31-year-old Fox staffer to keep her from going public with phone recordings of him telling her she had "spectacular boobs" and that he wanted to "soap them up with his loofah mitts." After the big pay-off, he took zero accountability. Instead, he just blamed the non-loofah mitt-wearing democrats. It's happening again now with the Foley/Page scandal. Everyone's blaming the democrats for their own twisted horniness.
But you have to feel sorry for these repressed white guys. They are probably not shirking responsibilty out of fear or malice or even politics but sexual frustration. From what I can see, these morally superior men love dirty sex but nobody wants to have dirty sex with them.
That said, it's getting harder to tell the difference between a fictional Daily Show skit and an actual cable news segment. The line has been blurred, which is why we're seeing Stewart/Colbert '08 t-shirts and why Keith Olbermann, through his inspiring special comment segments, is becoming the Edward R. Murrow of cable news -- even though his show, "Countdown," is considered more of an entertainment program. These guys are smarter and much more grounded and sane than the others. When asked about the popularity of the Stewart/Colbert '08 shirts, Jon Stewart said it was "sad. " "Nothing says I am ashamed of you, my government, more than a Stewart/Colbert t-shirt," he said. Yet more evidence that he gets it.