Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Thought on Jon Stewart's Appearance on Crossfire

Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire four years ago is credited with putting the final nail in the show's coffin. I believe that the television media do a bad job of informing the electorate on the platforms and qualifications of the candidates for the presidency. Of course they do a worse job for candidates for lesser offices. I think the confrontation shows do a worse job than others, perhaps because I can't watch them.

Jon Stewart's Daily Show, like the work of Stephen Colbert and Al Franken provide a helpful service in poking fun at the media, bringing attention to the need for them to improve to better serve our democracy. The Stewart put down of Crossfire was exceptional in visually contributing to a media decision to change programming.

The reason for this posting, however, is to point out how affect and intellect are mixed in Stewart's advocacy. Were he professorial, trying for an affect free presentation of his critique of Crossfire (and the media in general) I think he would be much less effective. One aspect is that people have to listen to be influenced, and funny draws more listeners than professorial. Moreover, Stewart elicits more empathy from the audience than do his targets.

The brain is an organ of both thought and emotion, and it seems likely that combining the right information with the right emotional cues is likely to be more effective in changing minds than providing information alone.

No comments: