Jon Stewart’s Defining Moment.
Sometimes truth is no stranger to fiction. America’s only serious news comes from a comedy channel.
US network and cable news are an embarrassment, a children’s view of the world based upon geographical and historical ignorance delivered by people who look like Long Island realtors and whose opinions should be deemed equally suspect.
In print form, U.S. newspapers make up for relatively poor coverage of world news with advanced level business news – this is capital C Capital-ism after all. However, the same sophistication does not apply to cable business news, and this is best exemplified by CNBC.
CNBC covers the industry that makes money, the industry that has recently lost 30% of the notional moolah created from everything humans have made, planet-wide, since Tutankhamun. It is watched by Wall street professionals from large screens which hang over trading floors, and during the collapse of Lehman, the employees were looking at CNBC to see what was happening in their own building. In other words, it is not just a consumer product but one used by the billionaire pros who can afford anything. Yet it looks and feels like a cheap toy.
The fact that this financial channel of record looks like a low-rent hybrid of a shopping channel and pro-wrestling match, with ads for gold coin collections and get rich quick books and set designs comprised of embossed metallic, swooshing titles and plasticky red white and blue, certainly does not spell money. And yet I am gripped by it.
For three years I have been going to the gym across the street from the stock exchange and pumped or, more accurately, schlepped iron in front of CNBC. I have nothing to do with manipulating money for a living, I have little of it and don’t understand how it works, but am overwhelmed by a morbid obsession with cable financial news while working out. It fires me up with primeval anger and makes my veins bulge like a steroid addled bodybuilder.
Sadly, I was in London, when the most egregious CNBC moment took place and the one that Jon Stewart takes CNBC to task over: Rick Santelli’s Mercantile Exchange uprising – at the least that was how it was pumped up on Drudge.
The Rick Santelli uprising comprised a televised football coach style rant. Santelli complained that home owners were being bailed out, and this was yelled from the floor of the Chicago Mecantile
New York Stock Exchange, where his fellow libertarians, presumably working for financial institutions bailed out by tax payers, rallied round, failing to see the pitiful hypocrisy of it all.
London was a strange place to watch this, because there the libertarianism of ‘don’t let the government bail out the people’ would have been crushed, despite the fact that Britain’s endemic culture of home equity greed outstripped the worst avarice of the financiers. In the UK, the prevailing mood on TV was unanimously, ‘hang the bankers, don’t screw the home owners’.
I put this difference down to culture, but Jon Stewart has proven me wrong by bookending a relentless series of clips of CNBC editorial failure with the Rick Santelli uprising and an interview with the world’s second best conman, the sweaty, pie-faced, cricket playing Texan, Allen Stanford. It is a withering attack on CNBC but possibly more than that.
In fairness to CNBC, three of the clips concern reporting of other people’s mistakes, for example one shows Merril Lynch saying they were adequately capitalized not CNBC, and one shouldn’t shoot the messenger. But in the grand scheme of things both the originator and the messenger were at fault and there is evidence to prove it.
The degree of this financial implosion makes the once epic ambitions of Bonfire of the Vanities seem inadequate, yet to my mind the scale of the tragedy has ironically been best captured, to date, by a ten minute comedy piece.
Watch it in its entirety and see what Stewart has to say about Allen Stanford at the end. A must see.