One of my pet peeves in the buddy-buddy world of cable (and, hell, network) news is the boys-in-blue-suits propping up boys-in-blue-suits shill-parade that happens seemingly every time a TV newsman (or, perhaps, his ghostwriter) writes a book about, say, how great men fought wars in decades past, or how America is really nifty. Instantly, all his pundit pals and anchor buds bring him on to plug his tome.
Like late night talk show hosts who mindlessly promote some actor's latest craptacular flick or some It-girl's latest photo spread for some cosmetics megacorp, these media-men-hyping-media-men interviews are always softballs, with the guy selling the book being told on-air by a collegial show host how important and insightful he and his pages are, regardless of whether or not the book would stand on its own literary merits if its author didn't work for, say, NBC or ABC... granting an instant Amazon spike.
Which is why I laughed out loud while watching Jon Stewart voice his distaste for NBC's and MSNBC's Chris Matthews' new book, Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success on The Daily Show last night. Stewart read the book, and found it to be a catalog of "artifice." The comedian challenged Matthews' position that "everything in life" is a campaign "to sell products" and get ahead via packaging yourself, just like politicians do -- that life is one massive PR campaign in which you get ahead by pretending to listen, and by saying whatever people want to hear, even if you're lying. The reason he disagreed, Stewart said, is that campaigns are about slick packaging and not truth, and that Matthews' readers will find "nothing in this book about 'be good, be competent." Matthews was unconcerned. Why should he give advice about living a good or competent life, he asked, when "It's called The Bible. It's been written."
Definitely check out the video below (if YouTube is forced to take it down, the just go to The Daily Show website), reminiscent of Stewart's infamous Crossfire appearance. My favorite (read: most contradictory to the knee-jerk, sausage parade hawking that usually happens when someone like Matthews goes on a PR tour to sell a book) snippets are the following exchanges:
Chris Matthews: You're trashing my book.
Jon Stewart: I'm not trashing your book, I'm trashing your philosophy of life.
Chris Matthews: You are unbelievable! This is the worst! This is a book interview from Hell! This is the worst interview I have ever had in my life! This is the worst! You are the worst! I thought you were so big - I thought you were so big you weren't afraid of me. You're so big, and you're afraid of this book. This book scares you. There's something in here that you fear.
What's your favorite part of this video? Thoughts? To post your feedback, to read more, or for a link to Stewart's Crossfire appearance, continue reading here.
This post originally appeared at WIMN's Voices: A Group Blog on Women and the Media , a project of Women In Media & News, the national women's media analysis, education and advocacy group. To bring Jennifer L. Pozner to speak to your campus or community group, or to send WIMN blog tips, email info [at] wimnonline [dot] org. To subscribe to WIMN's free media alert list, see the Action Center at http://www.wimnonline.org/action/.