January 9th, 2017
I’m reading “The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests“. From it, this is a serene example of when The Daily Show not only called out some capitalistic bitch for destroying humanity for its own good, but also on further exposing their crap for what it was, as they seemingly thought they were free from impunity:
JOSH LIEB: Do you want to hear the backstory? We’d done a piece the week before about these CNBC talking heads giving people financial advice, and then shitting on those people for taking their advice. There were a lot of people who’d lost a lot of their fucking money, and a lot of the value of their homes, and these CNBC guys hadn’t lost anything. It was outrageous.
JON STEWART: Rick Santelli had gone on a rant about how homeowners who had taken these bad loans shouldn’t get bailed out. It was interesting to see that on a network that has been traditionally soft on the people who designed that system and knew it would fail.
Jon Stewart: [at anchor desk] Wall Street is mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore! Unless by “it,” you mean the two trillion in their own bailouts. That, they’ll take. Rick Santelli believes in personal responsibility! Not rewarding the losers for missing all the warning signs. I mean, for God’s sake, the guy works at CNBC! They’re the best of the best! They’re the only business network that has the information and experience that we need! So to all you dumb-ass homeowners out there who let your optimism and bad judgment blind you into accepting money that was offered to you from banks… get cable and educate yourselves!
[Video montage begins]
Jim Cramer: “Bear Stearns is fine! Do not take your money out! Bear Stearns is not in trouble!”
Graphic: BEAR STEARNS WENT UNDER SIX DAYS LATER.
Financial Times Reporter: [in CNBC interview] “I would concur with Charlie. Lehman Brothers is no Bear Stearns. You can’t compare Bear management with Lehman management.”
Graphic: LEHMAN BROTHERS WENT UNDER THREE MONTHS LATER.
RORY ALBANESE: Santelli was supposed to come on our show, then he canceled.
JASON ROSS: I was almost as outraged as Jon about what was going on, and I could actually answer in a brief way what a credit default swap is. Tim was amazing in the research on those pieces. But it wasn’t exactly difficult to find people with supposedly good reputations saying things on CNBC that only a few months later looked utterly ridiculous. We just happened to exist in a world where nobody was playing the clips from six months ago. And so we started doing it.
Jon Stewart: [at anchor desk] Well, we went back to the tape to listen.
Jim Cramer: [in video clip] “Bear Stearns is not in trouble!”
Jon Stewart: Jim Cramer, I apologize. That was out of context. Technically, you were correct. You weren’t suggesting to buy Bear Stearns. That was something that you did five days earlier in your “buy or sell” segment.
Jim Cramer: “I believe in the Bear franchise. At 69 bucks I’m not giving up on the thing.”
Jon Stewart: Of course, while Cramer wasn’t giving up on Bear at 69, eleven days later, the stock market was more comfortable with it at… [pauses, checks notes]… 2! But it’s all sort of equivocal. He’s not saying literally, “I’m asking you to buy Bear Stearns.” For that, you’d have to go back a full seven weeks before the stock completely collapsed.
Jim Cramer: “I’m asking people who are watching this video to buy Bear Stearns.”
ELLIOTT KALAN: Jim Cramer’s work we found genuinely disgusting, especially that online interview where he was talking about fooling people and inflating companies. So we booked him on the show. We all thought Jim Cramer was going to try to defend himself.
JOSH LIEB: Cramer walked on and he immediately went into possum mode, or even like puppy mode. He laid down and exposed his belly and was like, “I’m sorry, I’m wrong, you got me.”
JOSH LIEB: I was sitting at the producers’ desk on the studio floor with Rory Albanese, and I remember I was watching Jon. The normal human reaction when somebody goes, “I’m sorry,” and exposes their belly is to go, “It’s all right. Let’s talk friendly stuff.” Jon just sharpened his claws and went the fuck in on this guy. And I nearly hid under my desk.
JON STEWART: Oh, the video with Cramer talking about what appeared to be stock manipulation? Yeah. I was stunned. It’s like watching a guy talking about, “So this is how we cheat.” People outside of that system don’t recognize how to an ordinary observer it really looks like gambling and cheating. It looks rigged. And generally there is a dismissive and arrogant attitude from the financial guys: “You don’t understand, this is the fuel that makes the market go… clearly we’re doing God’s work.” And I think ultimately it boils down to, actually, no, pretty much a lot of this is a shell game.
ADAM LOWITT: So afterward we go into the edit. Jon wasn’t always in the edit, but he was for this. I think we all wanted to cut something, probably the moment that made Josh hide under his desk and me cover my face with my script. It was the dressing-down of another human being that you rarely see on TV. It was not, “You’re an asshole.” It was, “You’re guilty of this thing.” So we’re like, “Maybe we should cut that,” and Jon is standing up and going, “No, fuck him, fuck him.” You realized, there is no shading of what happened out there, and it was awesome.
JON STEWART: We’d spent a lot of time releasing steam over the CNNs of the world and the Foxes of the world, but very little over the financial analysts. So I think the level of missed opportunity that we felt, and their complicity in all that, was enormous. That’s what gave the interview its foundational power. There was so much emotion around it at that time, not just because of the failing economy, but because of what we thought was the culpability of financial networks.
JASON ROSS: If there’s anything The Daily Show was an antidote to, it was the culture of just talking on TV without any accountability.
JON STEWART: I didn’t want the passion of it to overwhelm what I thought was most interesting about it. Because I thought there was something true and absolutely crucial about the conversation. It continues to persist to this day, a strange arrogance that they really didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just all, “Hey, man, this just kind of got away from us on this one.” There’s no other business that can do that with such impunity. It feels like there were two games being played and continue to be played, and one of them is being financed by the other one, that our larger investments of pensions and things like that are in some way financing this much riskier game, where even if they lose, they don’t lose.
ELLIOTT KALAN: Not too long after that, Cramer just went back to doing what he’d been doing. It felt similar to election night 2004—there was a sense of, “Maybe we’re helping the country change,” and then it didn’t change. A sense of, the best that we can do is point out stuff that is wrong. We can’t expect to shame these people into getting better.
The fireworks with Cramer were one sign that the show was expanding its reach, looking beyond the standard targets of campaigns and the media to engage issues where politicians and policy were having an impact on ordinary lives.