Fake news is good news

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November 16, 2006

10:42 PM

If you can recall, The Flat Hat published an article Nov. 10 exploring the legitimacy and rising influence of Comedy Central’s “fake news” shows, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. More and more students are tuning in to this hour-long, “no-fact zone” block. But why? Do students depend on Stewart and Colbert for reliable news? For kicks? I asked around.

p. On my way to Swem, I ran into Ted. Like most students, he and his roommate, Devin, watch the Daily Show occasionally. The Colbert Report gets trite, Ted said. For news, he relies more on Yahoo or Wikipedia. “It seems The Daily Show is sort of a news follow-up you watch. I mean, I use it as a news source, yes, but for fun too. The Colbert Report … not so much,” Ted said.

p. At Swem, I cat-napped, wrote letters, made dinner plans at a friend-of-a-friend’s and then called Devin to verify what Ted said. But Devin said the same thing, more or less. “I watch [The] Daily Show from time to time, and find it quite amusing. I try to avoid the hackneyed cliche of an O’Reilly pastiche that is The Colbert Report. I watch The Daily Show to laugh. That is really it. I don’t watch it for the news, no.”

p. I went outside and asked random students what they thought of it all and they generally echoed the same sentiment. Well, to take it back one sentence, I scribbled on a piece of paper four or five questions. These answers reflect the majority of responses:

p. **Do you watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report?**

p. Irregularly; by chance; not religiously.

p. **Do you watch them for news? For kicks? For both?**

p. A bit of both. I mean, if I had to choose one or the other, I would say for kicks.

p. **Are they your only news source? What other news sources do you subscribe to?**

p. Word of mouth — usually I get my news from friends, something’s always coming up in conversation.

p. **What do you think of Stewart and Colbert, personally? You can tell me.**

p. I don’t think about them, I have no idea what to tell you.

p. **Oh, but you must!**

p. Well, all right … I’m split. Half of me wants to say they are brilliantly incisive satirists and social commentators who, as comedians, have a license to get to the heart of problems facing society today … Stewart is a fucking genius and I’ve never seen him lose any debate or discussion he’s ever had … if they ran as a team for president, I would support them, if their candidacy was viable.

p. **And the other half?**

p. Colbert is an idiot. He has potential to be funny, he has it within him to amuse the audience, but he tries way too hard. His interviews are stupid.

p. **What impact do you think these shows have on our society?**

p. They provide useful insight into our cultural foibles that more sanctified media outlets are barred from giving. Younger people are getting excited about politics because these shows are able to present their content in funny and thought provoking ways.

p. So ended my interviews. More and more kids are approaching these shows with the expectation of acquiring valid information about the world today. Whether or not Stewart and Colbert intend it, they are delivering news, and quite a handful of us are buying it.

p. Most believe that these shows are only meant to make us laugh, so they’re not worried about any political agenda. One shouldn’t consider these shows to be “dangerous” with regard to how they portray our politicians — it seems they are making it easier and easier for the media to point out their innate corruptibility and horrid flaws of character. All Stewart and Colbert are doing is laughing at the idiocies of our leaders. What’s the harm in that?

p. __Sherif Abdelkarim, the editor of Jump! magazine, is a sophomore at the College. His views do not necessarily represent those of The Flat Hat.__

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