Honing my zen with political knowledge

My evaluation of Jon Stewart’s “fake” news can hardly be unbiased. I think he’s brilliant. I discovered him when I moved to college and first had access to cable. My friend Jennifer Fitch got me hooked and by April 3, 2004, I was in the third row of the Benedum Center looking up as he did his stand-up shtick. He’s short. He’s also much more vulgar without the TV censors.

So, I’m saying it hardly felt like course work to be “forced” to watch two episodes of The Daily Show. I watched episodes from Monday and Tuesday online today because once again I am living without cable. Then, I headed over to Google News and browsed the information board that definitely was not static.

I didn’t stop to read the full text of a story until I got to “The Artistic License of Social Network” from the Guardian. I’m interested in seeing this movie sometime. As in, I haven’t seen it yet. So, truthfully, the story was just lots of literary references that never told me if I should see the movie. However, the word “anti-bildungsroman” baffled me. I opened a new tab and searched out the definition. Apparently, this I should know this word. I certainly have read enough coming-of-age stories.

Back to the fluid information board I went. The next story was a brief on Brett Farve that also told me nothing. The final story allowed in my time slot was a story in Huffington Post about Glenn Beck sending out Mormon battle cries. Weird. So weird that I had to open another tab and do research on the Mormon wiki about the White Horse Prophecy and on the author of the column. It’s apparently all legit.

So, oddly, my results don’t mimic the results of Xenos and Becker because I didn’t seek out political information or further my knowledge of the topics Stewart talked about in those episodes. However, I would agree that it was impossible for me to watch the two episodes and learn nothing. I did learn that Rich Sanchez had been fired from CNN and I would probably be able to recognize the face of Rahm Emanuel’s replacement. I was primed so that the next time I see a reference to it in the news, I’ll have more background information.

While this wasn’t classic gateway theory, I also participated in something I’ll call Duncan-gateway. When I read something that has political or historical context, the Internet makes it so much easier to delve into the deep-down crevices of that subject. When I was weirded out by the Beck story, that was a gateway for me to learn more about Mormon prophecies and about the employment history of the author. It gave me knowledge that I needed to better decide what weight to give what I was reading.

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  1. #1 by sadiecone10 on October 10, 2010 - 8:20 pm

    While I find “The Daily Show” entertaining, I don’t think it causes me to seek out more information about the topics he discusses. I think it is the way in which it is presented (comedic and laughable) that makes me view this show as less informative than traditional news shows. I agree with you about the Internet serving as a quick means of providing deeper and more abundant political and historical information. I love being able to open a new window or tab to Google something that I read about in an article that I wasn’t sure of or wanted more information. Some may say this is “information overload,” but I wonder if people would search for more information about something they read if they had to look it up by hand in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or almanac? I don’t think I would!

  2. #2 by Shine Lyui on October 12, 2010 - 1:57 am

    There is a satirical and comedy program in Taiwan called “全民最大黨” “Public – The Largest Political Party” (forgive me for the awkward translation) in which these celebrities (or comedians to be accurate) imitate a lot of political figures combing with the most up-to-date events. I am not following the show personally, but when people watch it, they don’t really focus on the political events involved in the show, rather they were looking to be entertained. So I guess the impact of soft news on apolitical consumers is very little. However just like you said, we all “learn” something from these shows no matter if we seek out further information or not. But I think to those people like me who are not interested in political stuff, the “knowledge” we gain from the shows are really short-term that we might totally forget it the next day.

  3. #3 by Christina Locke on October 12, 2010 - 12:29 pm

    Wow…you learned some odd new words! I will admit, but only here and never again, that I was in fact in love with Jon Stewart in the 1990s when I was devoted watcher of The Jon Stewart Show. That show was way different than The Daily Show. When The Daily Show came out I thought I would love it, but I didn’t. He is too smug for me on that show.

    I do agree that the Internet makes reading and news-watching a broader experience, because like you said, you can just open a new tab/window and fill in the gaps where you may not already know of a particular reference or allusion.

  4. #4 by Xuerui on October 13, 2010 - 11:12 am

    It is cool that you actually got the chance to see Jon Stewart in person. I was there with you when you said this wasn’t a classic gateway theory. I found this political comedy show entertaining, too. But from my view, I only watch it for entertainment. That’s it. It was no differences to other entertainment program except other program probably make fun of celebrities other than political figures. A person with little political interest could not just simply become eager to political knowledge. That’s just not what they are. But information provided in the comedy show does give the audience brief background knowledge about some political events happening.

  5. #5 by Kayley Thomas on October 13, 2010 - 9:19 pm

    Though it doesn’t serve as a traditional gateway for you, you do point out the importance of recognition – if you later encounter a news topic that Stewart addressed, you’ll have some knowledge and perspective on it that may help you to further engage with the topic. In addition to later sparking recognition, which may or may not lead to further searching for information on the topic, the show also has the potential to spark curiosity. Though it was the Glen Beck article that sort of disturbed you and inspired you to do further research in order to understand it, certainly The Daily Show might do that too – in one of the clips we watched, Steward emphasises absurdity as a topic of exploration, and were one of his segments so absurd, we might be inclined to search out more information; we also saw this in class with the Sarah Palin example, with some people wondering from SNL skits “did she really say that?” and then doing the research to find out. As some people in class brought up, however, not everyone searches out the information. The Internet makes it so easy for us to do that research and expand on the pieces of knowledge The Daily Show can offer, but I’m not sure how many people are actually inclined to do so.

  6. #6 by joneelauriel on October 13, 2010 - 10:17 pm

    As we discussed today in class, a lot of the viewer’s of “The Daily Show” are politically motivated, informed and knowledgeable. So, you have an interest and idea about the issues he discusses, if you didn’t you wouldn’t be entertained by the show because you wouldn’t posses the cognitive ability to get the joke. Your “thirst for knowledge” so to speak makes you more likely to seek out more details about and issue regardless the media or medium and this isn’t limited to just political knowledge like the authors mentioned. So while I think you may learn something that could be useful in your daily life, the effects would be limited and since your so motivated to see out knowledge anyway you would probably do that whether you were watching Jon Stewart or not.

  7. #8 by paulacunniffe on October 14, 2010 - 3:58 pm

    I read that Glenn Beck article too! It was weird, do you think he was really sending out secret Mormon code or is he just partial to that phrase? I feel that story could be slanted either way!

    I agree with you, my results differed from Xenos and Becker’s findings. But I definitely did learn something from The Daily Show. It may have been wrapped in ‘low cost content’ but I still felt I had gotten some news that day! Plus the way news is structured here is so different from Ireland that I find it hard to take newscasts serious anyway. The anchors seem to use so much opinion! At home they read the news and correspondents comment on stories etc. The newsreaders do simply what their name suggests – they read the news.

  8. #9 by caseyawilson on October 14, 2010 - 11:56 pm

    I agree that it’s hard to watch the show and come away with no new knowledge, or at least awareness, of the issues that come up. You didn’t necessarily seek out articles about topics covered by the show…but if you were watching a news broadcast and they switched segments to something mentioned by Jon Stewart, do you think that having some awareness might cause you to pay more attention? That is, if you have less control over your selections might your results change slightly? I think that the news venue is an important factor here — you could select the articles and jump around instead of having to watch or read in a linear order like might happen with CNN or MSNBC.

  9. #10 by Mindy McAdams on October 17, 2010 - 2:19 pm

    Ah, your mention of bildungsroman took me back to my own grad school days, when I was forced to read European philosphers in several of my courses. My dictionary became my very best friend.

    “When I read something that has political or historical context, the Internet makes it so much easier to delve into the deep-down crevices of that subject.” I think a lot of us do this now — and not only while reading online, but also while watching TV. I tend to watch at least a couple of documentaries each month (history, nature, foreign countries), and they often send me to Google.

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