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February 22, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Battle on the networks reveals ‘snake oil’ salesmen behind crisis

The cable confrontation of the century took place last Thursday with the arena being Comedy Central and the main event featuring a scathing interview by Jon Stewart. On ‘The Daily Show’ on March 4, Stewart used his show as a means to point out the errors and poor advice the financial news network CNBC gave its viewers over the years. Ending with an expletive declaration which I dare not repeat, Stewart used footage of the network’s pundits recommending their viewers invest in failed and bailed-out companies such as Bear Stearns, AIG and Bank of America. One of the CNBC hosts featured in the March 4 show, Jim Cramer of ‘Mad Money,’ decided to milk this war by appearing on NBC’s ‘Today’ and the NBC-distributed ‘Martha Stewart Show’ to add fuel to Stewart’s fire. Soon enough, other networks and media outlets began discussing the war of words, and Cramer agreed to appear on ‘The Daily Show’ on March 12th. The build-up for the show was tremendous; ‘USA Today’ featured it on the front page, allowing ‘The Daily Show’ to use the opening for the show to mock ‘how people on TV talked about how much people have talked about it.’ Stewart ripped into Cramer, CNBC and the financial institutions at the heart of the economic crisis. Accusing Cramer and similar hosts of peddling snake oil, Stewart expressed his and the cheering audience’s frustration about the economy. He focused on inaccuracies and possibly biased predictions made by pundits, often leaving Cramer speechless. Since the interview, press coverage has been heavy, and it’s likely CNBC will have to change their programming in some ways since harsh criticism of their network was thrust into the limelight. Instead of defending his show and network, Cramer became a highly visible symbol of the financial crisis in America, all because of a fake news program. When you think about it, CNBC did not need to allow this to happen. Comedy Central’s target audience isn’t the same as CNBC’s, and it’s not likely viewers of ‘The Daily Show’ are watching the shows Stewart is harpooning, and will suddenly stop watching them. It wasn’t great in terms of public relations for CNBC, but they could have let this die with Stewart’s rant. Cramer and his CNBC cohorts would simply be another on the list of Stewart’s targets whose careers survived regardless of the content of ‘The Daily Show’ You still see Fox News broadcasting to high ratings even though they are common targets of ‘The Daily Show.’ This argument didn’t need to happen, but it’s not completely bad it did. No matter your opinions on Stewart or Cramer and their respective programs, it’s sad to think it took a comedian hosting a satirical and fake news show to take someone to task about the current financial crisis. Rather than blaming the ‘losers’ (as CNBC’s Rick Santelli called homeowners who cannot afford their homes) for the economy, Stewart called out those who talked about the economy as though it were, to paraphrase Stewart’s comments to Cramer, ‘a game.’ CNBC declares ‘In Cramer We Trust’ in their commercials (which Stewart frequently used last week as a means to point out the ways in which these ‘losers’ and investors were supposed to take the network’s word as golden). With statements such as this, they are implying a guy who is an average Joe making his living on television is the key to financial success. As Cramer said in the interview, he did get a lot of financial predictions wrong, and it’s a ‘one in a million’ shot to get it right. If it is a ‘one in a million’ shot to get it right, why is it that CNBC and similar networks try to show God-like power and accuracy from their pundits? Stewart may have been a bit harsh in his criticism of Cramer and his company, and it’s not necessarily true these entertainment shows are totally at fault for the crisis. However, when you have these shows allowing consumers to believe dangerous companies aren’t in danger of collapse, shouldn’t they also be recognized and called out for their faults? There has been press coverage on people such as Bernard Madoff and companies such as AIG in regards to their poor or downright illegal financial practices, but Stewart made a personal and direct approach with someone who appears to have some knowledge of the financial markets. This skirmish showed that when pressed for the tough questions about the financial markets, the people who are supposed to know what’s going on are actually speechless and without answers.

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