Washington Post pontificator Richard Morin offers what I think is one of the most absurd theories I've seen yet coming from the mainstream media mind:
Two political scientists found that young people who watch Stewart's faux news program, "The Daily Show," develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting.
That's particularly dismaying news because the show is hugely popular among college students, many of whom already don't bother to cast ballots.
Jody Baumgartner and Jonathan S. Morris of East Carolina University said previous research found that nearly half -- 48 percent -- of this age group watched "The Daily Show" and only 23 percent of show viewers followed "hard news" programs closely.
Assumption #1: "hard news" programs actually contain "hard news" -- which is questionable for anyone who is willing to actually question whether the mainstream media emperor has any clothes.
Stewart has made his name poking fun of mainstream media, including the so-called "hard news" shows, and gained a big boost in 2004 when he said, literally, "I won't be your monkey!" to the CNN Crossfire twits.
But get a load of this logic that Morin seems to buy:
"Ultimately, negative perceptions of candidates could have participation implications by keeping more youth from the polls," they wrote.
This is Bush-league logic, right along with notions that the real problem with Iraq is that the reporting is negative, not that the bad news is in fact really happening. Now that is what I would call cynicism!
I don't think I'm being cynical when I say that, just because many of our politicians are revealed to be, well, lunatics doesn't mean that hiding the fact will somehow improve democracy.
Besides, maybe cynicism isn't so bad. Ask Ambrose Bierce, who defines "cynic" as:
A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be. Hence the custom among the Scythians of plucking out a cynic's eyes to improve his vision.*dons shatter-proof goggles*
Morin does report, however, a study that cuts right to the unacknowledged racism that exists in the so-called progressive population:
Democrats and independents were far more generous; on average, they gave Katrina victims on average more than $1,500 a month, compared with $1,200 for Republicans, and for 13 months instead of nine.
But for Democrats, race mattered -- and in a disturbing way. Overall, Democrats were willing to give whites about $1,500 more than they chose to give to a black or other minority. (Even with this race penalty, Democrats still were willing to give more to blacks than those principled Republicans.) "Republicans are likely to be more stringent, both in terms of money and time, Iyengar said. "However, their position is 'principled' in the sense that it stems from a strong belief in individualism (as opposed to handouts). Thus their responses to the assistance questions are relatively invariant across the different media conditions. Independents and Democrats, on the other hand, are more likely to be affected by racial cues."
One can rest assured that the "hard news" programs are not going to report on this. However, I could very easily see Jon Stewart poking some fun at this.
Bad for democracy? I suppose it depends upon your perspective.