There's hardly a day that goes by that I don't watch a clip from Jon Stewart's Daily Show.
I began this habit years ago after listening to a lecture on The Daily Show's influence with Generation Y. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who in my mind is the country's foremost expert on communication trends, had done a study showing that a rising percentage of young people get much of their news from Stewart's 30-minute parodies. The comedian's mix of news and comedy matched well with the post-Boomer generations' upbringing in a culture steeped in irony.
While all generations from the Boomers on have been weaned on television, the messages beamed into our living rooms every night were profoundly different. The Boomers had the Waltons and The Dick Van Dyke Show, weekly reinforcements of the American myth of goodness, charity and middle-class happiness and stability. The generations that followed mine were presented with Homer Simpson and Seinfeld, South Beach and now reality television---deeply ironic shows that refuse to bow to someone's vision of what our culture ought to be like and instead told us what it is.
None of this could have happened if we didn't also live in the Culture of Bullshit. We are so accustomed to being spun by politicians, lobbyists, news commentators and celebrities that the blurring of the truth is something we accept as normal. We're so weary of the lies that we don't really even hear them anymore.
My generation tuned into Walter Cronkite every evening, a man who would have submitted to the tortures of the rack before he would have expressed a personal opinion. So legendary was his commitment to journalistic neutrality that his one foray into personal expression---his famous commentary suggesting that the Vietnam War may not be winnable---is credited by historians with turning the middle-class against the war.
All of this brings me back to Jon Stewart, The Daily Show and Jamieson's keen insight.
Last night I watched Stewart's side-splitting comparison of the speeches delivered by Barack Obama and John McCain after Tuesday's Democratic primaries. I came to Stewart's clip after watching 24 hours of commentary on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and CBS.
Of all the analysis on all the news programs, none nailed it as completely as The Daily Show. By tapping into the culture of Irony, where nothing is what it seems, Stewart has become the real truth teller. His show actually awakens from its slumber what we reporters once called our "bullshit meters," that intuitive sense that we all have when confronted with fakery. It's no wonder that Generation Y gets most of its news from Stewart.
In a world of spin, one comes to trust anyone---even a comedian---with the magical ability to pull back the veil.