Last night Jim Cramer was “interviewed” by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. By all accounts, Stewart “won” the encounter. Of course, Cramer will most likely also win-his appearance on the show and his “battle” with Stewart will no doubt boost his ratings as well. After all, the success of a pundit does not seem to depend very much on getting things right. Rather, it seems to be a matter of putting on the sort of show that people love or at least love to hate. Having good soundbites and and overall “big idea” help as well.
One aspect of this situation that is interesting is that it is a comedian who seems to be providing the most serious criticism of the role the media folks played in the crisis. Stewart and his colleague Colbert have also taken up the role of critic in other contexts as well. In fact, they often present some of the most serious criticism that we see in the media. Of course, this should not be surprising. As Veidt says in Watchmen, only the best comedians can open our eyes. Further, there is the long tradition of the court jester-only the comedians can speak truth to the king. In America, the people are king. There is also the fact that comedy serves quite well as a defense against libel charges. After all, an established comedian can always say that she is only joking and make that claim plausible.
Of course, Stewart and Colbert also serve to show how tame the rest of the media folks seem to be. While I do not buy into the idea of a liberal media conspiracy, I do accept the idea that the media is mostly a tame lion and rarely roars-even when it should do so. Perhaps the success of Stewart and Colbert will motivate the real news folk to do their jobs a bit better. To be fair, some real news folks do a good job-and they deserve praise for that.
Another aspect of the situation that is interesting is that Kramer, who does a zany business show, is the man being called onto the carpet. While he was involved in business, his main role now is sort of a business show clown. As such, it seems to say a great deal that he gets to be the one in the chair-seemingly called to atone for the sins of many. Because of this, I have to say that it took guts (or the hope for a big ratings payoff) for Kramer to appear on the show and subject himself to Stewart’s critisms. If only more of those who were significantly involved in the c0llapse were called to task. Of course, it is fun to watch the clowns fight.