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April 05, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-04-05

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

OPINION

*1jt Au

JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890

420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
4 Ifsomeone
changes his name
to 'Poophead,' he
may decide it's a
little more
important than
he thought."
- Corinna Rouse, wife of Matthew
Jean Rouse, the Utah man who recently
decided to auction the right to choose his
new middle name on eBay, as reported
yesterday by The Associated Press.

a

ALEXANDER HONKALA LEMMING PARADE

On bullshit
DANIEL ADAMS HORSESHOES AND HAND GRENADES

few weeks ago,
Princeton phi-
losophy Prof.
Harry Frankfurt appeared
on Comedy Central's "The
Daily Show" with Jon
Stewart to talk about his
new book "On Bullshit."
An odd title for tenured
faculty to be promoting on
the late-night circuit, Frankfurt spent his 15
minutes lecturing Stewart, giving his aca-
demic take on the phenomenon colloquially
known as bullshit.
But after six years at the helm of his Emmy-
winning show, no one needs to explain to Stew-
art what bullshit smells like.
Stewart and his cohorts on the Daily Show
are experts in the subject. They comb the news
for it. For the most outrageous half-truth. The
most egregious spin. The absurd, broken-down
moments in politics and society. Each week-
night, Stewart is equal part tour guide and ring-
master, leading his audience through a carefully
crafted 30-minute montage, a veritable highlight
reel of a day's worth of unadulterated bullshit.
The final product has transcended mere
comedy: A shocking number of Americans,
especially young Americans, claim to "get"
their news from "The Daily Show." A Pew
Center poll taken during last year's presidential
campaign found that a shocking 21 percent of
18-to-29 year-olds cited the show as a source
for election news - only slightly less than the
23 percent who cited the ABC, NBC or CBS
networks.
This is to say nothing of the poor guys at
MSNBC and CNN, who aside from getting
their collective asses routinely handed to them
by the good ol' boys over at FOX, are now in a
ratings race with a show that frequently uses the
word "douchebag" to describe prominent world
leaders.

But it would be a mistake to think that "The
Daily Show" rose to prominence on sarcasm
and the use of the word "douchebag." On Satur-
day, I was in Detroit to see Stewart perform his
stand-up act at the Detroit Opera House. "The
Daily Show" is funny, but humor could not fully
explain the sort of ovation that Stewart received
when he hit the stage. Every person in the audi-
ence, myself included, seemed to be captivated
in a way that struck me as very atypical for a
comedy show.
For moderate Americans, particularly mod-
erate Democrats, he is no mere comedian.
Stewart and his show have become a nightly
confirmation for many that:
a) Yes, Much of what is said in the media, in
Congress and at White House press conferences
is pure bullshit and;
b) Yes, There is someone doing something
about it.
This can be a very powerful realization,
especially for a liberal minority that by now
can't help but feel a little powerless. For nearly
two decades, the moderate left has been losing
political and ideological ground to the Radical
Right. Its message has been obscured, its tradi-
tional bases of support have melted away and
its once-proud party has been castrated by the
politico-religious bullshit of the increasingly
radicalized time in which we live.
But that's not even the worst of it. The first
and last line of defense against the caustic effect
of bullshit on the national discourse, a free and
investigative press, has become a sham. A scan-
dal. A shame. Overly-simplistic rhetoric has
gone unchallenged. The coverage, particularly
of the war in Iraq, has been full of secondhand
accounts and often void of context.
And, out of fear of losing their access or fear
of a public backlash (maybe both?), mainstream
media have become startlingly acceptant of gov-
ernment meddling and false rhetoric. Examples
abound: allegations that the Bush Administra-

tion has paid reporters for favorable coverage,
the failure to effectively challenge prewar intel-
ligence claims and continued media acceptance
of heavily restricted access to combat units in
Iraq are all black marks on the record of con-
temporary media in serving the public interest.
These guys are supposed to be the bullshit
screen, filtering out and exposing the white lies,
the outright lies and everything in between.
What have they become? A selfish, scared
self-absorbed business. And as the mouthpiece
of reason has been silenced, moderates nation-
wide have become powerless to challenge the
misleading rhetoric of a vocal few.
But on "The Daily Show," bullshit is bullshit
again. Stewart has, in some small way, taken up
the fight abandoned by the Democrats and the
media and given a voice back to those disgusted
by the debate in this country.
No moment was as pivotal in this transition
from comedy to advocacy as when Stewart sat
down next to Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson
on the CNN debate show "Crossfire" last fall,
and gave Carlson the sort of on-the-air tongue-
lashing that would make Bill O'Reilly blush.
He got in Carlson's face and exposed as false
and damaging the back-and-forth oratory of
the cable debate format. He so thoroughly
embarrassed Carlson that soon after he was
let go by the network. In silencing Carlson
and shaming Begala, Stewart had done what I
and millions of pissed-off moderates could not
- strike a definitive blow against the bullshit
factory crippling the national debate.
Looking around at the audience Saturday,
I got the impression that those in attendance
weren't there to get a few laughs - they
were there to see one of the few men left in
America who knows bullshit and calls it by
its first name.

-

Adams can be reached at
dnadams@umich.edu.

0

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Sixdespite k sirwgis
dharterui wron in sprit
To TEDAilY:
As I do every day, this morning I picked
up a copy of your paper, but today I could
not believe the bold print staring back at me:
AEP shut down (04/04/.2005). I must admit,
the whole experience is still sinking in - we
just found out last night that not only was
our sorority shut down, but now as a mem-
ber of the freshman pledge class, I would be
left stranded next year without a place to live.
Now, not only have our attempts to show the
University community that the stereotypes
that have been placed on us are incredibly
incorrect interpretations of our character not
been successful, but we have the Daily print-
ing out these false allegations. I went to all
AEPhi events during my pledge term and
even met with the Office of Student Conflict
Resolution to dissolve any rumors that may
have been circling about what goes on behind
closed doors.

Not once were any of us forced into acts
which we did not mutually agree to partici-
pate in and never were any of us forced to
eat food that we did not wish to consume.
Even more incorrect were your allegations
of "coerced theft and trespassing ... psy-
chological abuse." Looking at how all the
girls in my sorority have stuck together and
helped each other deal with this tragedy
should be viewed as the ideal way in which
a sorority should function.
Now more than ever, I can say that I
am so proud to be part of a community of
bright, intelligent and loving women who
should not be blamed nor held responsible
for any of these false allegations. At the end
of this year, although AEPhi will leave our
community, the girls will say goodbye to
our sorority with our heads held high, and
we will do it boldly and gracefully. It was
once said that "a woman is like tea, you can
not tell how strong she is until you put her
in hot water." Although we lost our home,
we will take the confidence and strength
that AEPhi has given us and carry it with

us throughout our future endeavors. We do
not need a sorority to unify us or validate
the friendships we have made throughout
the year. With or without Greek letters, we
will always be a sisterhood.
Allison Rothman
The letter writer is an LSA freshman ana
member of Alpha Epsilon Phi
ft S NOT TOO LATE.
OIN THE DAILY'S
EDITORIAL BOARD
OPINION@MICHIGANDAILY.COM

0l

VIEWPOINT
Iraq's fork in the road

BY BRIAN SLADE
It's everywhere - on CNN, Fox News, the
front page of newspapers and the covers of weekly
newsmagazines: democracy in the Middle East. It
seems that the world's most authoritarian region
has exploded into shockwaves of democracy from
Baghdad to Beirut, from Cairo to Damascus. The
Bush administration's much criticized foreign
policy for the Middle East finally seems to be
paying dividends. The administration, however,
may be in danger of focusing too much on vis-
ible accomplishments to satisfy American public
opinion in the short-term at the expense of Iraq's
economic and political future.
Economic success in the Middle East has
nroven far more difficult than its healthy endow-

unstable economies, corrupt ruling elites and atro-
cious human rights records. Oil becomes a curse
when a small ruling family is able to take control
of the means of production. The Sauds, for exam-
ple, instead of pumping oil revenue back into their
domestic economy in order to foster industrial-
ization and economic diversification, have blown
billions in the casinos of Monte Carlo, on Mediter-
ranean yachts and plush tropical mansions. This
behavior has bred so much resentment from the
remaining 90-something percent of the popula-
tion that the royal family actually retains a private
army - separate from the national army - to
protect it from rampant domestic terrorism.
What I propose for Iraq isn't a pipe dream.
The Four Tigers of the Asian economic miracle
have exoerienced rising economic equality result-

There is a catch though. The Four Tigers, China,
and similar economies used neo-authoritarian
regimes to carefully control economic policies
while stifling most aspects of political democ-
racy. It wasn't until recently that South Korea and
Taiwan were able to begin democratizing, while
Singapore remains under an authoritarian gov-
ernment. Democracy does not breed economic
growth nearly as effectively as economic growth
breeds democratic reforms. In this sense, Iraq
will need a strong leader willing to stick with the
plan, knowing that economic hardship will likely
get worse before long-term success. More signifi-
cantly, it will be difficult for the American public
to accept anything other than a liberal democracy
in Iraq. The Bush administration, which now has
four years free of re-election pressures, is in a

0
0

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