Friday, March 13, 2009

Stewart/Cramer and a new name for terrorists

If you have not seen the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer exchange yet, please do yourself a favor and watch it. I’m going to post the whole exchange, the hype leading up to it and everything, but if you don’t want to watch 45 minutes of youtube videos then please do yourself a favor and at least watch the 3 part interview posted at the end. It is MUST WATCH!!! The analogy floating around is to the time when Jon Stewart killed crossfire, and I think the analogy is apropos.
While many things come out of this, the one I wish to highlight is how Jon Stewart appears to be modeling good journalism. He criticizes Cramer and CNBC for bad journalism and shows them, through his interview, what good journalism looks like. Imagine if CNBC had used a similar technique when CEOs went on to their shows. Cramer complains about Paulson lying in an interview. Why complain, why not expose him on air like Stewart just did to you? It’s what they do on Meet the Press. Use this exchange as a template. I would like to say that it would be unfair to make Cramer the fall guy. He was honest enough to come on the show and not make too many excuses for stuff. He should be admired for his bravery and thanked for acting as a useful prop. Without him this smack-down could not have happened.

However, before I post any of these things, I want to emphasize a story that may have flown a bit under the radar. The Obama administration is abandoning the “enemy combatant” label for people suspected of terrorist activities. This was a big deal in the debate community last year and rightly so. Bush in part used the label to carve out a legal grey area. Enemy combatants were supposedly neither criminals who have the rights of criminals nor soldiers who have Geneva rights. The label was also a symbolic move that helped hide the fact that our country was obtaining people, some innocent and some guilty, holding them without charge (or hope of release, or any ability to contact the outside world, a terrifying thought for those who ended up being innocent), and subjecting them to “enhanced interrogation” (a lovely euphemism for, among other things, torture). The Washington Post recognized the significance of this shift:
“Though dropping the term "enemy combatant" will have little practical effect, it is a symbolic move by the Obama administration to break with the past”.

This change is an important symbolic break. It is an acknowledgment that everyone is human, whether we suspect they are terrorist or not, and that everyone should be treated as such. It is a great relief for me. When I was a kid I always believed that if something terrible happened, if I was exposed to injustice, if I were confused with someone else, I could always count on my country to keep me safe. That was the great thing about America, my innocence would be found out. After all, you can’t treat me this way, I’m a human just like anyone else. This is a purely symbolic move, but it is an important one because it restores a bit of that childhood faith. It reassures me that there isn’t a different category of person, a category of person that isn’t just as human as anyone else. If for no other reason I wanted to highlight tat particular story.

Now, the Stewart/Cramer debate, set up first then interview. BTW, if you are reading a facebook feed of my note then the embedded stuff probably doesn’t work and you’ll have to go to to watch the videos.