Sunday, March 15, 2009

Please Kill These Three Talking Points

You know something's really stupid when Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson and Howard Kurtz all say it. And in the aftermath of Jon Stewart's brilliant slicing-and-dicing of Jim Cramer, you would think even this unholy trinity couldn't come up with talking points. But boy did they. (Scarborough and Carlson do it out of craven dishonesty, whereas Howie is just kind of a doof.) Please, media, kill these three talking points. If someone says one of these two things in your presence and you don't shut them down, you are part of the problem.

1. "Jon Stewart didn't attack Cramer until Cramer criticized "his guy" Barack Obama"

Okay, Jon Stewart has criticized CNBC lots of times over the years, and did so again last week. Jim Cramer chose to squawk about how unfair this was to him. That was when the focus shifted to Cramer. Had Cramer kept his idiot mouth shut, the storm would have blown right over him, without exposing his potentially criminal activities.

2. "Hey, you can't expect someone to accurately predict the stock market."

Again, this didn't start out about whether one could predict a stock's rise or fall. (Cramer made that the focus by putting the "In Cramer We Trust" hype on trial.) The original report was about a failing of financial journalism that is also a failing of political journalism: buying a source's story as true just because a source said so. When someone lies to a reporter's face, "Hey, he lied to my face" is not a defense. And too many journalists refuse to check facts because they're too cozy with sources, because they don't want to "lose access." Because they like being part of "the game."

3. It's unfair for Jon Stewart to blame Cramer and/or CNBC for "singlehandedly" causing the financial crisis.

This is a bloodboiler, and not just because Stewart has repeatedly said that it's not about Cramer and that CNBC is not even the sole culprit in terms of business journalism. To use the now-familiar "house fire" metaphor: If your house is set on fire, and the firemen do nothing to put the fire out, you can be mad at them. If the police who knew the arson was going to happen didn't warn you, you can be mad at them. In neither case would you be accusing them of "singlehandedly" setting the fire. In this financial crisis, there is a lot of blame to go around. Stewart was right to ask the same question of CNBC you would ask of the firefighters and cops: "Where were you?!"

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