Monday, March 16, 2009

Jim Cramer vs. Jon Stewart

If you are a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you are probably aware that for most of this week, there's been something of a war or words between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer (the host of Mad Money and author of numerous investing books). And if you aren't watching The Daily Show, why not? It's excellent satire, and like all good satire, holds up a mirror to our culture.

It started last week, when Jon Stewart had a segment featuring some of the mistakes made by CNBC in their marketing predictions. Jim Cramer, as one of the major stars of CNBC was featured quite a bit (along with Rick Santelli, whose cancellation prompted the clips being aired), particularly with regard to his recomendations to buy Bear Stearns.

Jim Cramer responded that clips were taken out of context, leading to yet another Daily Show clip collection showing that although Jim Cramer was correct about that particular clip, he had recommended buying it recently. (If you take nothing else from this blog entry, take the knowledge that The Daily Show is very good at finding embarassing film clips).

Finally, things came to a head in Thursday's episode of The Daily Show. Jon and Jim went head to head, and from my perspective, Jon Stewart came out ahead. Here's a few thoughts I had as I watched all this (I happen to be a huge Daily Show fan, going back all the way to when Craig Kilborn was the host). Some thoughts that have occurred to me as I re-watched the clips and considered Jim Cramer's reactions:

1) The financial media has made many, many mistakes, and it's nice to see someone call them on it. I'd love to see Jon Stewart interview the CEOs of the banks, hedge funds, and investment companies, and see what he'd do with them. He is easily one of the best interviewers I've ever seen, and when he's on the top of his game (as he was on Thursday), he is a sight to behold.

2) Jim Cramer has managed to bump up my opinion of him as a result this interview. He didn't really hold his own, but the simple fact that he was willing to subject himself to this scrutiny and potential recrimination speaks well of his personality and openness.

3) If I recall correctly, court jesters were considered to have a special place in the medieval court. They were the only ones were able to insult the king, and in that way, speak truth to power. It seems that we live in times where only the jesters in the news media (The Daily Show, the Colbert Report, The Onion) are willing to point out the utter absurdity of our financial system. And kudos to them; I just wish we could get more people like Jon Stewart out there, looking out for us.

So, go ahead and watch the Daily Show interview; it really is an excellent example of a populist rebuttal to recent financial events. Plus it has more than a few jokes!

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