Jon Stewart and Chris Wallace

By James Fallows

I don't have time to do more than mention this, and it's all over everywhere in any case. But, seriously, sometime take a look at the Jon Stewart / Chris Wallace exchange this weekend on Fox. The 24 minute version is below, not the 14 minutes that was apparently on-air.



If you see nothing else (after the 30-second embedded intro ad), watch the three and a half minutes starting around time 6:45. What is most striking is Wallace's either feigned or genuine inability to grasp the main point Stewart is making, and making not once but about ten times. Stewart seems genuinely appalled by Wallace's "moral equivalence" riff between Fox News and Comedy Central. "You think we're the same?" Stewart says with real animus. And he goes on to lay out the difference between an operation whose goal is principally satirical, but from an ideological perspective, and one that is principally ideological and is satirical or comedic only as it helps toward that end.

The point is not really that difficult, and Stewart tries to illustrate it this way: "What am I, at my highest aspiration? Mark Twain? Or Edward R. Murrow?" Wallace correctly says "Twain" but seems not to register the larger point Stewart is making. Maybe that's him*; maybe it's a for-the-team game face. (The same "can he believe what he's saying?" issue comes up with Wallace's insistence that he was shocked and offended to have to watch South Park and didn't consider it funny.)

In any case, watch it some time if you can. For some other time: the way this clip reinforces the concept that you never change people's minds by scoring logic points or "arguing." You have to change the entire emotional/narrative game. More on that later.
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* For the record, Wallace was a fixture on the college radio station when I was on the college paper. I've known him slightly, then and since. Also for the record, I've been in several public disputes with his father, for reasons that began here.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/jon-stewart-and-chris-wallace/240675/