Satirists and Syria

Friday, September 06, 2013


On the Media's own PJ Vogt wrote a story for our new blog TLDR about the difficulty outlets like The Onion and The Daily Show are having finding humor in the situation in Syria as it becomes more complex. Bob talks to PJ about what the outlets are doing wrong, and how they can improve.


PJ Vogt

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [9]


It's funny listening to this segment after a diplomatic solution, albeit imperfect, has been reached, because if this piece by OTM had been fair in any way it would have included the fact that along with Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart was not saying don't act, they were saying act in conjunction with international law. Wait for inspectors to do their jobs and in the mean time try like hell to find a diplomatic solution. You have done a grave disservice and misrepresentation to Jon Stewart in this segment, who does not always get things right in my opinion, but on this occasion was completely on the ball.

I would also like these media analysts safe at home to maybe go and ask the mothers who have seen their children torn apart by cluster bombs whether they should be thankful they weren't gassed to death. Stewart's point on this is valid - an atrocity is an atrocity. There is no legitimate way to kill civilians, and those advocating missile strikes should remember that.

Sep. 18 2013 03:14 PM
Daniel Bennett from Internet

and the link:

Sep. 09 2013 09:17 AM
Daniel Bennett from Washington, DC

Dear OTM,
You have put me in the difficult position of agreeing that Jon Stewart was not at the top of his game. Perhaps, it was the three months away or, more likely, crying when he heard that CNN brought back that piece of crap Crossfire show ("you are hurting America"). (the amazing viral video that blew Crossfire off air: )

However, like a one-two punch, Colbert did the deed of both pithy political analysis of the Syria issue and was laugh out loud funny (LOL/ROFL for those under 40). Where ever one might stand on the issue, Stephen Colbert took apart how our culture handles issues of war and news pieces. It was OTM worthy.

Perhaps OTM can look back at the movie Wag the Dog, and how Clinton brought back democracy to Haiti (and later how Bush ended it). There is a difficulty in bringing tough issues in non-provocative and heartfelt methods. We have a President that had a history of pro-disarmament policies and desire to try and fit the executive branch into a legal framework.

Stephen Colbert cracked the code in a comedic way, but even so, I think that his satire is so good, that the cathartic laughter diminishes its political power. However, it should be up to OTM and other serious journalistic efforts (few as they seem to be), to find and bring Colbert's insights into the public realm.

Sep. 09 2013 09:16 AM
Maggie Hohle

"having finding humor"? Try editing.

Sep. 09 2013 09:00 AM
Charles Cates from Rural central Texas, hot and dry

On the Media is becoming a media giant like Martha Stewart. Who I can't get out of my mind now that she admitted she engaged in three-way sex. Which I hope is not something encouraged by OTM.

Sep. 08 2013 10:03 PM from Austin

Still after being completely proven wrong, so called "experts," some of who are actual war criminals, are still asked without any irony what they think as if they have credibility. But hey, now we know that Pj has the secrets to what is funny and what should be considered satire. I guess when I was bent over laughing at the Daily Show segment I was wrong.

Pj's assessment of Stewart's satire is crap which really fits well with the lukewarm and surface analysis done by On The Media in general. This show pretends to have an adversarial role with corporate media which really obfuscates its true intentions of media apologists. Today, I was not surprised. Still hate it. Might i suggest Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting or Democracy Now? Much better at doing what On the Media works so hard not to do.

Sep. 08 2013 11:10 AM

Fact check the jokes and not President's policies when we disagree with him?

The beloved and beyond reproach king does something the peevish loyalists disagree with so they blame the court jesters instead?
The progressive news media obeys the rules of intellectual honesty?
Now that's funny.

Sep. 08 2013 10:45 AM
Dan Phiffer from Brooklyn

I don't know if it was necessarily *funny*, but this piece on The Onion is actually quite good:,33662/

Sep. 08 2013 10:24 AM
Tom Roche

This piece is just wrong, on at least 3 levels. (There are more, but commenters are enjoined to "be brief.") Firstly, you're wrong aesthetically. Stewart's bit about organic, free-range lead ordnance *is* funny, which may be due to my anti-US-intervention position on this matter--but even given that, I'd hafta say, the Onion's bit about Obama's chagrin @ Syrians gassed on the White House lawn is funny, too. I suspect you're forcing your conflictedness (the motivation for which bears commenting upon, but one must be brief) to override your sense of humor. More fundamentally, you're missing the point of these channels, which is to ... wait for it ... deliver satire! Empirically, satire is made by angry people convinced of the illegitimacy of their targets. ("Gentle satire" is usually poor satire. This is an empirical claim, so feel free to contradict.) When Swift made "A Modest Proposal," he was mocking the evil of English pretense and policy in Ireland--not pretending to give "fair and balanced" advice. You might have better argued that Syria is not fit for comedy, though you'd still be wrong. (*Everything* is "fair game" for the human sense of humor.) Instead, you seem to argue that Stewart and the Onion should deliver both satire *and* the on-the-nth-hand-ed journalism of the conflicted, which is simply a category mistake. Thirdly, when PJ claims (and Bob obviously agrees) that "maybe we don't want to live in a world where tyrants are allowed to gas their own people, and maybe it's worth intervening for that reason," your reasoning is seriously flawed. (Note that one of the ways in which the corporate-funded media (CFM) coverage of Syria is so very like its coverage of Iraq (contrary to the Fisher interview on today's show) is the repetition of deceptive arguments.) Usually, CFM first makes the claim (very likely empirically true) that chemical weapons were used in Syria (you omit this, but obviously consider it true), then leaps to the conclusion that Assad used them, then further that the US must therefore attack Assad--conveniently omitting several premises in the "syllogism" :-) Since you demand brevity, I'll just note the most significant open question, did *Syrian government forces* commit that attack? There is no public evidence on that: as Rumsfeld--oops! I mean, Chuck Hagel--says, "that's classified," and there are good reasons to doubt the secret evidence. (Hear Gareth Porter's piece in this week's CounterSpin.) For a more complete deflation of your position, see the angry, unconflicted Alan Grayson on Democracy Now! (transcript, audio, and video @ ): "It’s not our responsibility, it’s not going to do any good, it’s expensive, and it’s dangerous."

Sep. 07 2013 01:32 PM

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