Thursday, June 29, 2006

Can Lee Siegel Read?

It looks like I'm going to have to hurl some blogofascism at him. He writes:

Wait! I'm not the one who said that. According to The Washington Post--yes, yes, MSM "douchebags," I know, I know--a new study by two researchers at East Carolina University found that Stewart's cynicism has the effect of making viewers so disgusted with politics on both sides of the aisle that they feel too discouraged to vote. Constant ridicule seems to have the effect of turning the political system into one gigantic self-parodying freak show, with no sign of imminent change or relief.

That could be why all the pre-election talk about Jon Stewart sending his young viewers--though the average age of a "Daily Show" viewer is actually 47--to the polls in great numbers to vote for Kerry was just that--talk. It simply never happened.

So maybe ridicule and invective, though entertaining, and a refreshing alternative to the mainstream media's passivity and reserve, isn't the boon to democracy it's cracked up to be? Anyway, don't despair, and don't get enraged because that's just the bad news about Stewart. The good news is that he's not a fascist.

Neither the misleading Post story nor the study itself claimed the Daily Show "has the effect of making viewers so disgusted with politics on both sides of the aisle that they feel too discouraged to vote." The Post reported only that it "could have participation implications by keeping more youth from the polls." More than that, the authors of the study didn't come to any conclusions about the impact on voting.

But if you actually read the academic paper, or the interview with the authors in the not-so-much-MSM Daily Reflector, you'll see another angle. It turns out that Stewart fans also trust their own knowledge of politics more than do network watchers. Young Daily Show viewers blame the elites who run the political-media system for the mess we're in, not themselves. They think they really get what politics is actually all about. And, says the study, here's an idea worth entertaining: "citizens who understand politics are more likely to participate than those who do not."

In other words, the cynicism and discontent that the Daily Show breeds could "spawn greater involvement," say the authors; Stewart watchers could actually "become more active voters."

Yes, the study also contemplates the other possibility: that cynicism is a voter-turnoff. "Whether it's a good thing or a bad thing," say the authors, "we just don't know."

As for the question of whether young people have been voting more, whether or not Jon Stewart has anything to do with it, there's a way to answer that question. Siegel apparently doesn't understand that if you want to know whether or not young people voted in greater numbers in 2004 then you should ask the question, "Did young people vote in greater numbers in 2004?" and then go consult some appropriate data source which will hopefully answer your question. Apparently anti-blogofascist Lee Siegel has determined that such answers can be pulled delicately out of a place us blogofascists term "your ass" while the delicate flower Siegel would probably call it his "bottom."

And, yes, young voter participation was up sharply in 2004 over 2000.

Advantage, blogofascism!