Eat The Press


via YouTube

Last night on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart ripped into CNN and other news channels on their coverage of the war between Israel and Lebanon, and their reluctance to identify it as "war." It's a tart and hilarious segement, as usual, and it's available on YouTube here, but in transcript form without the benefit of Stewart's jocular delivery, it is imbued with a bitter and disgusted incredulity that lends it an extra sting. Stewart taps into the theatricality of the coverage and how the cable nets tease out every bit of drama from events, not wanting to call it "war" too early lest they jump the gun and lose viewers who become bored when the "war" drags on into days of endless coverage (because the last thing we want is coverage fatigue). In the meantime, the segment is every bit as interesting to read:

Jon Stewart: Welcome back to the program! Returning to the Middle East because, if we don't, really who will? The crisis began Thursday morning. I learned about it from the TV. As the bombs began to rain on Israel and Lebanon, at 4PM Thursday CNN asked the question, "Brink of war?" Huh? CNN's not sure. Is it war? The brink of war? The brink of brink of war? A precipice leading to a slope ending on a brink with war?

They followed the story, CNN followed the story all through Thursday night and into Friday.

CNN tape:
Lou Dobbs: Israeli aircraft and ships today bombarded hundreds of targets...
Wolf Blitzer: ...thousands of Lebanese are pouring across the border...
Lou Dobbs: ...radical Islamist terrorists fired dozens of rockets...
Unidentified male: ...large explosions...
Kyra Phillips: ...a significant airstrike...
Wolf: ...stepping up rocket attacks...
Unidentified male: ...a naval gunship...
Daryn Kagan: and more planes have bombed a military base near the Syrian border.

Jon Stewart: Things seem to be getting worse. So 24 hours later, at 4:06 on Friday, CNN was ready to declare...Brink of war? What does it take for you people to lose the question mark? 300 rockets in two days? One side called it an open war. I think the other side said they were gonna turn the clock back 20 years in Lebanon. And still, brink? Finally, at 10 pm Friday night, Anderson Cooper with the call.

CNN tape:
Anderson Cooper: A new day is about to dawn. The Middle East, poised on the brink.
Voiceover: This is Anderson Cooper 360. Middle East on the Brink.

Jon Stewart: There you have it. CNN officially removes the question mark and declares, "We are on the brink." But guess what? It's really just [bleeping] war. And finally, CNN at that point is ready. Finally, Fox was ready to ask the important question.

Fox News tape: In the impact segment tonight, how the violence in the Middle East is affecting us here in the United States.

Jon Stewart: Yes, all this carnage in a region we perhaps helped destabilize. How's it affecting us? Is there a place where we could quantify how we feel about the devastation being wrought? Perhaps in our hearts, or minds? Or...

ABC tape: we're gonna feel this tension in the near term, here at home, at the pump
CNN tape: some say it won't take long for the ripple effects of the mideast conflicts to be felt at gas pumps.
Fox News tape: I think that most Americans are gonna feel that at the pump.

Jon Stewart: Yes, we will feel it, but only at the pump. I mean, when you see it on TV you can't feel it through the TV. The TV is not an appropriate place to feel things. It's the place we watch "America's Got Talent," you can't feel through that. No, it's only the pump. The pump is like the monolith in 2001. Basically if you're driving down the street, as you get near the pump, you really start to feel it, a sense of foreboding. Then when you're within credit card swiping range, it hits you. My god, the humanity! $3.13 a gallon. Those poor, poor people. You know, sometimes, when it's quiet, you can hear the pump screaming. We'll be right back.

Female Newscaster: And with these prices, the pain is now spreading beyond the pump.
— Transcript by Danny Shea

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