Thursday, September 14, 2006

Daily Show Investigates Cable News Shows' Questionable Use Of Question Marks (AKA "The Cavuto")

Like other media critics, the folks at Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart have an uncanny ability to point out flaws in the media that should be obvious, but which are often overlooked.

The difference, of course, is that rarely do the Howard Kurtzs of the world make people laugh uncontrollably.

Wednesday's edition of The Daily Show offered viewers that special combination of a comprehensive skewering of what some consider "journalism," in a way that will make viewers laugh and think at the same time.

The topic at hand was simple. When and why cable television news shows use question marks on the teasers at the bottom of the screen. Are they really asking a question, or avoiding making a declarative statement?

Here's an unofficial transcript from the Stewart-delivered segment:

STEWART: The last five years have generally been marked by a large amount of uncertainty, sometimes best represented by the growing use of the question mark on 24-hour news channels.

(montage follows ... Fox News Channel: "5 Years Later: Why Isn't America More United?" ... CNN: "Saddam & 9/11?" ... Fox News Channel: "Did President Politicze 9/11 in Monday's Speech?" ... CNN: "Mideast: Brink Of War?" ... CNN: "Safe Harbors?" ... CNN: "Al Qaeda Link?" ... ABC: "Can Your Purse Make You Sick?")

STEWART: Are we on the brink of war? Are our harbors safe? Is there a link to Al Qaeda? Can your purse make you sick? Incidentally, the answer to the last question is no, except for the new Kate Spade "Streptococcasack."

The two main news networks use their question marks differently. CNN has used the question mark to address more existential issues: Apocalypse Now? End Times? Will We Ever Be Safe Again? (with images of "Apocalypse Now?" "End Times?" "Ever Safe Again?")

Without the question mark, these questions would be absurd. But CNN isn't saying these are the end times, they're saying (shrugs and in funny voice) "End times???"

In fact, sometimes, like during the London bombings, CNN isn't really sure what they're asking. (image of "What If ...?) What if? ... Maybe.

Then there's Fox News. It uses its question marks in a more focused way, asking queries like: "Have Dems forgotten the lessons of 9/11?" (with image of "Have The Democrats Forgotten The Lessons Of 9/11?")

Just a question. Now, technically, that's not really a question mark at the end of that. It's a similar punctuation symbol known as "The Cavuto." It's named for the journalist? (shrugs) who pioneered its use in sentences like:

(shows montage and narrates ... "Why Is Russia Doing Business With Nations That Hate America?" "Why I s America More Concerned About Economhy ThenTerror?" "Media Preaching Hate In The Mideast?" "Is The Liberal Media Helping To Fuel Terror?")

Cavuto is not "saying" these things. He's just asking, like, "Is your mother a whore? What? I'm not saying she's a whore. I'm just wondering out loud if she is a whore. All I'm saying is reasonable people who have banged your mother for money can disagree."

By the way, I do not want to give you the impression that Cavuto is biased. He's not. He doesn't just use the question mark on Democrats, but Republicans too, like: (with images, narrates: "The #1 President On Mideast Matters: George W. Bush?" "The Best President?")

I know the answer to that one! Yes, Fox has figured out that by simply putting a question mark at the end of something, you can say f**king anything. For instance:

(image at the bottom of The Daily Show screen, as Stewart narrates: "The Question Mark: A Prophylactic Protecting Fox news From Anything It Might Contract During Its Extensive GOP C**ksucking")

Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You can't just come out and say that, but ... (bing, as question mark is added to statement) I'm just asking!

Of course, if news organizations had any courage, they'd put declaratives in their lower third. Surely there's something news organizations must be willing to come out and emphatically assert and stand by. Is nothing on this earth worthy of an exclamation point?

(image of Fox News Channel: "Here's Yanni!")

Really? Because to me, I look at that and think, "Yanni?"


Anonymous NightOwwl said...

Is Bush a war criminal, a drooling idiot or both?
Gee, I could get used to this.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous babylonsister said...

Stewart skewered Fox tonight; it was a sight to behold!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous neoblues said...

Olbermann-Colbert for President...
(let them figure out which one gets V.P.) I wonder if they'd get any right-wing votes, but still...

Okay, okay, it's not realistic, but what we really need is a candidate that has the communications skills and intelligence and personality of either of these guys. At the very least, surely whichever Democrat gets the nod for President could offer either or both of these guys considerable money to either run or serve as chief adviser to their campaigns...

They show the kind of perceptiveness, smarts, courage/strength and integrity I long for in a Democratic leader. Someone who will tell it like it is and rip the repubes a new arse. Who is also smart enough, cares about what's right and has enough personal integrity to make a reasonable leader. I guess I also mean someone who actually has some personal charisma (including via television) and personality--which, alas, seems to be utterly lacking in most Democratic politicians (of course, to be fair, even if they did have both charisma and the courage to speak the truth, they'd have to get their message actually on television--and that's not easy if it's even possible).

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Chimichurri said...

this was hilarious. They're on fire this week!

11:10 AM  
Blogger B2 said...

hadn't seen this; thanks for putting it up

11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, I needed the laugh. I run a Fox News watch site so can appreciate it.

9:54 PM  

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