Washington City Paper, one of DC’s weekly alternative papers, have a little fun with their press guidelines for their staffers attending faux-anchorman Jon Stewart’s mock rally this weekend:
TO: WASHINGTON CITY PAPER STAFFFROM: MICHAEL SCHAFFER, EDITOR
RE: STEWART/COLBERT RALLY
At a time of grave concerns about our economy and our national security—not to mention a period of tumult in our industry—it is obviously crucial that all media organizations develop appropriate guidelines for staff attendance at mock-political public appearances by cable-television celebrities. After significant consultation with Washington City Paper’s expensive outside team of professional ethicists, we’ve settled on the following guidelines. Please read and follow them closely:
1. You may attend the rallies in a non-participatory fashion.
2. However, because the rallies are comic events, you may not laugh.
3. The act of not laughing, though, can be just as politically loaded as the act of laughing. Therefore, staffers are advised to politely chuckle, in a non-genuine manner, after each joke.
4. To avoid any perception of bias, please make sure to chuckle at all jokes, whether or not you find them funny. As journalists, we must make sure to not allow our personal views of “humorous” or “non-humorous” to affect our public demeanor.
5. Likewise, it could be devastating to our impartial reputation if our staffers were seen laughing at something that was not intended as a joke, thereby appearing to mock the entire event. If we are lucky, the comedians will have a drummer on hand whose rim-shots may be used as a cue for when to politely chuckle.
As Orrin Judd writes, “They’re liberals — they won’t be laughing, they’ll be crying for their lost country.”
But then, there is often little room for humor when the faithful gather.
Speaking of Stewart, at the Daily Caller, Jim Treacher adds, “Call it Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off. After this Saturday, Jon Stewart is gonna need a whole roll of duct tape to keep that clown nose in place:”
As for being nothing more than a comedy gimmick, it’s a bit late to make that claim now that the President of the United States is endorsing it and appearing on the Daily Show this week. If Beck’s rally was a political event, so is this.
The standard line among Jon Stewart fans is: “He goes after both sides equally!” No he doesn’t. And it’s okay that he doesn’t. You do yourself no favors by pretending he does.
Stewart has been playing this game for years, most notably back in 2004 when he comment-trolled my future boss, called him a dick*, and said he’s ruining America. Then, he responded to the ensuing discussion with, “You guys do know I’m on Comedy Central, right?” Stewart wants you to take his political opinions seriously, but then when you try to engage his argument, he draws back and says, “Whoa, I’m just a comedian!” Yes, you can be a comedian and yes, you can be a pundit. You can even be both over the course of the same conversation. But Stewart plays the two roles against each other to deflect criticism, and it’s dishonest.
Call it Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off. After this Saturday, Jon Stewart is gonna need a whole roll of duct tape to keep that clown nose in place.
*Which I got a kick out of at the time, and which was one of the first things I mentioned to Tucker when he said he wanted to hire me. He did anyway!
Actually, I’m not all that surprised.