In case you hadn’t heard, there’s been a bit of a brouhaha over at FOX News recently, one that began with a video clip of “gangsta rapper” (note: Common is not a “gangsta rapper”) Common reciting poetry and ended with The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart debating Bill O’Reilly this past Monday night. What the hell happened, and who won that debate? Read on for our take on the situation, my gentle Examiner readers…
A little over a week ago, hysteria erupted over at FOX News (shocking!) when it was revealed that Common– a just-so-happens-to-be-black recording artist who the network immediately labeled a “gangsta rapper” (note: Common is not a gangsta rapper, jackasses)– had been invited to the Obama White House for some sort of poetry recital. At the time, this seemed like just the latest example of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly getting their panties wadded over nothing, but as the week went on, the “Common Situation” developed into a gen-yoo-whine cause celebre: people were addressing this issue as though it were a real issue. No, really, you should’ve seen it, it was adorable.
By week’s end, just about everyone had weighed in, including The Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart and The O’Reilly Factor‘s Bill O’Reilly. During Stewart’s brilliant, openly-mocking take on the situation, the Daily Show host called out Sean Hannity in particular for being wildly hypocritical about his stance on Common’s invitation to the White House: How, Stewart reasoned, could Hannity declare Common’s years-old poem about guns, Bush, and society “inappropriate” and “violent”…when, on a previous installment of his special-needs news program, he had already defended Ted Nugent’s right to bark violent vitriol in Obama’s direction? Seemed a touch hypocritical.
The balls-out serving (see Urban Dictionary to learn what “serving” means, you Righties) that Stewart dealt to Hannity was almost instantly legendary: he showed a series of incriminating clips from Hannity’s own show, each clip immediately followed by one where Hannity seemed to contradict himself. Indeed, the clip wherein Hannity supported Nugent’s right to say whatever he wanted (in this case, that he wanted to stick a machine-gun into the President’s mouth) was followed by a clip wherein Hannity expressed apoplectic outrage over Common’s use of gun-related imagery in a poem from 2005 (note: And Common wasn’t even threatening anyone in particular, as he is not a “gangsta rapper”). This was just one of several pieces of flip-flopping footage that The Daily Show put together, but on the whole, it was incredibly damning. Stewart concluded by saying that Hannity’s utterly transparent hypocrisy and attempts to foster outrage amongst the FOX News faithful “(weren’t) even fun anymore”. Then he rapped. That part was kind of embarrassing, but what came before it was solid gold.
Of course, this drew the attention of Bill O’Reilly (here acting like Hannity’s protective older brother, a fact that only makes Hannity look like an even bigger asshat in retrospect), and so O’Reilly challenged Jon Stewart to a debate on his program this past Monday evening. We’ve embedded the video of the first portion of the debate over there on the left (be sure to watch it before you go on). It’s with that debate that the “Common Situation” seems to have been brought to a close, but if that’s so, we must now determine the most important part of any debate: who won? Well, they’ve airing the debate in several “parts” now– one night just wasn’t enough– but we think we’re prepared to call it as is.
We’ll get to “why”, but first, let’s make a few notable observations: for one thing, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show writers aren’t “news people”. Time and time again, the FOX News rank-and-file mistake Stewart and Co. for journalists, and time and time again, Stewart must remind them all that he’s “not a news guy”, that he’s “making a comedy show”. See, it’s easy to forget this, as Stewart and his team are master satirists who deliver their skewed take on the day’s news nightly to an eager crowd of (generally) left-leaning viewers. Because so many of these viewers side with Stewart’s massively sarcastic take on politics, FOX News– and, specifically, people like O’Reilly and Hannity– seem to think that this elevates The Daily Show from “trenchant socio-politcal faux-news comedy” to “snarky news”, which isn’t the case. Viewers do not equal validity. It’s kind of surprising that Hannity and O’Reilly haven’t also sparred with Weekend Update’s Seth Meyers.
Hannity, by the way, makes the same mistake about his own show, so this is to be expected. Hannity isn’t any more of a genuine news anchor than Jon Stewart, but because Hannity delivers his enormously-biased take on the news with a straight face (and no small amount of vitriol), he seems to think that this puts him in the same club with, say, any newsperson who doesn’t have their own show on FOX. FOX News and the people who subscribe to its frequently hysterical, always-bloviating, endlessly-transparent style of “reporting” will continue to make this mistake for the forseeable future. Cry about it all you want in the comments section, Cap’n, but the truth remains: Hannity and Glenn Beck aren’t “newsmen”. Only O’Reilly seems to have a firm grasp of what, pray tell, he is, and– believe it or not– your humble Comedy Examiner admires that about the guy.
Secondly, let’s also note that I’m biased here. I’m probably not the right guy to make the call on who did or didn’t win this debate, but it’s not for the reason you might suspect (read: because I think Jon Stewart’s awesome). No, I’d consider myself biased here because I agreed with Stewart’s take on the issue from the very beginning. Of course, I couldn’t ever express my thoughts and feelings on the “Common Situation” as eloquently as Stewart and his team of writers did (most people can’t, which is why Stewart and the Daily Show team have a wildly successful faux-news comedy show and we don’t), but I know the-sky-is-falling bullsh-t when I hear it. The posturing outrage that Hannity and O’Reilly manufactured in response to a “gangsta rapper’s” (note: Common is not a “gangsta rapper”) invitation to the White House seemed flimsy and borderline-hypocritical from the start, but Jon Stewart picked it apart– piece by piece– until it didn’t just “seem” flimsy and hypocritical: it was proven to be so, to me and a million other viewers. In other words, I know who won this debate before it even began, mainly because I know which side of the issue I fall on– I don’t see anything wrong with inviting Common to the White House.
So. Who won the epic Jon Stewart/Bill O’Reilly showdown on Monday night?
Jon Stewart. Are you surprised?
Here’s another surprise: no one won this debate. Here, let me explain.
O’Reilly and Stewart worked there way through each hiccup in the entire situation– why it’s OK for Bono or Bob Dylan to write a song with violent, political imagery and accept a White House invite while it’s not OK for Common to do the same; why one might defend Nugent’s behavior while condemning Common’s; and so on from every imaginable angle– but, in the end, the only detail that O’Reilly seemed able to cling to was this: Common supports two people who were convicted in the deaths of a pair of police officers. It’s not that he wrote a violent song or that he may or may not have made some idle threats towards George Bush in a 2005 poem: it’s that he showed support for a pair of cop killers. Nevermind the fact that these “cop killers” might have been wrongfully accused– once the jury delivers that verdict, the deal’s done (also nevermind the fact that DNA testing has revealed that people get wrongfully accused of crimes every day, some of them prisoners on death row).
It’s an interesting point, and one that I’d give to O’Reilly…but it’s also one that could only get him so far. This point feeds into that whole “guilt by association” debate that’s been swirling around Obama since he was campaigning for office, back when people were losing their sh-t because Obama was revealed to be a friend of William Ayers and Reverend Wright: Obama has some controversial friends, the thinking goes, and by inviting them into the White House, he’s sullying the good name of the Presidency. One has to wonder how many people buying into this line of outraged horsesh-t don’t know anyone that ever got arrested, committed a crime and got away with it, did drugs, or did something really, really stupid when they were younger. If Obama had been associating with, say, a group of neo-Nazi skinheads, or an al-Queda terrorist support group, or Saddam Hussein prior to (or during) his Presidency, I could see the point. But William Ayers? Reverend Wright? Common? These are the boogeymen that are coming to destroy our country, one White House visit at a time? I’d be more concerned if the President were hanging out with Glenn Beck, Star Jones, and Spencer Pratt.
So, here’s why no one won this debate: in the end, people are going to side with whatever side they’ve always aligned themselves with. We’re way past the point of anyone actually listening to a debate and evaluating both sides to determine a “victor”: the majority of people will look at the Stewart/O’Reilly debate and just agree with whomever they usually fall in line with without hearing all the facts. Most will be unable to concede the fact whenever their usual opponent makes a point (see also: the bit above, where I pointed out one of O’Reilly’s “wins”), rendering the debate useless and hollow.
For years now, politics in America has been nothing more than pro wrestling, and the O’Reilly/Stewart debate on Monday evening was just the latest heavily-promoted match. And so, no one wins, because when you get right down to it, a) the issue at the heart of the debate is stupid to begin with and b) the people cheering the debate on at home aren’t giving credit where credit’s due. Many of ’em are aggressive in their determination to stay ignorant of the facts. But even once the facts crystalize, I find myself unable to care. I don’t care what Reverend Wright has said in the past, and I don’t care about Ted Nugent ranting and raving on a stage. I don’t care what William Ayers did almost half a century ago, and I don’t care that Common sympathizes with a few cop killers. Doesn’t effect my life, doesn’t change the way I feel about politics, doesn’t make me wonder if Common’s visit to the White House will suddenly cause the entire world to hate the United States, babies to cry, and the skies to part. This is a stupid, stupid, stupid thing to be arguing about in the first place.
Sound off in the comments section if you’ve got anything you’d like to add, folks, and stay tuned for more on The Daily Show, Sean Hannity, and FOX News as the hysteria grows.
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