No Joke: Jon Stewart Needed As Public Force For Good



No question government criticism convinced executives at Transocean to forgo bonus money awarded for the company’s safety record. The company behind the faulty rig in last year’s BP Gulf spill had to change course with the head of the cabinet department that regulates many of its activities taking it to task.

After being given the money for what Transocean claimed was the company’s best year ever in terms of safety, five executives decided to donate $250,000 to a memorial fund for the 11 people killed when its rig exploded. But, this kind of reversal can take place quietly in Washington and escape those not reading the business pages.

This type of unnoticed absurdity heightens the importance of Jon Stewart and the “Daily Show” when it gets involved. No joke.

If Transocean’s best safety year ever includes -- as a government official has alleged -- failing to conduct proper maintenance on a rig that killed so many and sent oil gushing into the Gulf, then what kind of operation is this? Without Stewart’s skewering of Transocean, many Americans wouldn’t have noticed the latest example of corporate irresponsibility and questionable executive compensation.

Wall Street may not care, but the public should, lest the incongruity prove to be a warning sign of another recession or persuade them to take their business elsewhere (in this case that would be avoiding BP).

“I guess the American people are getting used to this,” Stewart said on the “Daily Show” Monday, according to a transcript. “Whenever these monster corporations fail, their executives always seem to find a way to justify their giant bonuses.”

Stewart is a comedian and wouldn’t say he’s looking to influence public opinion. He would acknowledge it would be better if Transocean-like activity came to people’s attention through more traditional news outlets.

But lacking that, Stewart’s wit and biting analysis is an important backstop. And if young people are news-averse, at least Stewart can point out some of the hypocrisy in their government and businesses they enrich.

That’s if Stewart doesn’t actually influence public debate. Last December, Stewart blasted Republicans blocking a bill that would provide health benefits to 9/11 first-responders. He devoted an entire show to the issue. And the benefits ultimately came through, with New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg tossing some credit Stewart’s way.

Back to the Gulf disaster, remember last year that as the oil gushed, BP’s CEO took in an upper-crust yacht race. Let’s hope the Transocean farce is the last ludicrous episode from executives involved. Stewart needs to take on other causes.




6 comments about "No Joke: Jon Stewart Needed As Public Force For Good".
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  1. Susan Roane from The RoAne Group, April 6, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.

    As a fan and daily Daily Show viewer, and reader of 3 daily papers, I'm amazed at how much I learn from the wit and words of Jon Stewart (and his team of brilliant writers).
    His roundtable with 1st responders was compelling. I count on his show for insights, ironies and oddities of our world and for exposing the hypocrisies that abound. And I get to laugh as well. What a bonus!

  2. Jim Reinl from Woodward Communications, April 6, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.

    Serious? I used to watch Stewart until his comedy turned to politics. Now it's just a liberal stomping ground. It makes as much sense to use Stewart for public relations as it made for Jesse Ventura to become the governor of a state, and we all saw how that worked out!

  3. Rick Monihan from None, April 7, 2011 at 10:11 a.m.

    I have to agree with Jim on this point - I used to enjoy the Daily Show until it veered wildly Left. However, I do appreciate Stewart's ability to focus public opinion on certain issues via the use of sarcasm and irony.
    Sadly, he doesn't apply these tools evenly, let alone fairly. Sure, he says he does, and people who love him say he does - but through the microscope of moderation, it's clear he's got an agenda and it ain't one of "both sides deserve equal time for skewering".

    As for Transocean, there is no doubt the public spotlight is something that keeps corporate feet to the fire - IN SOME cases. But singular focus on increasing taxes and "soaking the rich" is simply class warfare and quite tired, in my opinion. I believe people should pay their fair share, but if the code is designed to allow them to slip through the cracks, then how is this their fault? As usual, it's the politicians fault - and it's not just one side that does this. Ethanol is a classic boondoggle - one of the few items that pays low tax, gets a subsidy, and has a government mandate for usage - that up until a few months ago was the darling of the progressive movement. Now most of them won't go near it, but I don't see enough coverage of this massive waste of money and fraudulent political maneuvering to lead to having any of these politically driven structures removed. Right or left, keep it fair, keep it honest.

    As Mark Steyn said the other day, "I’ll take my chances with blowhard pastors, drearily “transgressive” artists and flag-burning provocateurs. I’m far more worried about a blundering clod like Graham presuming to protect us from them." Replace Graham with any politician's name and this could work across the board. Freedom of speech is great - Stewart plays a terrific role in that regard - but we have to guard on all sides.

  4. T Y from Freelance Producer / DP, April 7, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.

    The Daily Show is only “a liberal stomping ground” if you consider facts and highlighting political and corporate hypocrisy “liberal.” Every time conservatives hold all 3 branches of government they complain that liberals are picking on them. Most of the Bush II administration is a case in point although usually the media was cowed by accusations of being un-American. Stewart has gone after liberals when they are in power including the past few years. He may look disappointed at the left’s failures but he still calls them out.

    I’m glad that Stewart poked at TransOcean’s absurd bonuses and Repbulicans’ refusal to support ailing 9/11 Responders.

    I believe that Stewart looks out for the common man more than nearly any other media personality. “Class warfare” is a joke, right? If you look at any empirical study of real wages (factoring inflation) you will see that the wages of lower and middle class Americans has dropped significantly while wages of the top tier has increased substantially.

    Distribution of income in the United States, 1982-2006 source:

    Top 1 %
    1982 - 12.8%
    2006 - 21.3%

    Next 19%
    1982 – 39.1%
    2006 – 40.1%

    Bottom 80%
    1982 – 48.1%
    2006 – 38.6%

    I think that we have gotten the government that has been bought and paid for, not elected. And much of that crosses party lines. Surely no one is going to say that Fox is actually looking out for middle class wage earners. Fox is the only “news” organization where management sends daily memos on how to spin the news. No legitimate news organization would give so much air time to so many presidential aspirants from one political ideology as does Fox.

    Keep in mind that neither Nixon nor Reagan and their policies would be acceptable to today’s right wing zealots. It is the right wing that has wildly careened off. Stewart is a moderate. And the point of the column seems to be that he is one of a few attempting to do good.

  5. Roger Toennis from Liquid Media LLC, April 7, 2011 at 9:18 p.m.


    Brilliance. Thank you.


  6. Roger Toennis from Liquid Media LLC, April 7, 2011 at 9:26 p.m.

    Jon Stewart = Rationalist Stomping Ground.

    People who label themselves as liberal or conservative are morons.

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