I was a little underwhelmed by the Stewart/Cramer showdown, but even I can enjoy the fun of Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen — one of the most clueless of all tenured op-ed columnists, possibly even more clueless than Maureen Dowd — writing a whole column about how Stewart was being mean to CNBC and blaming them unfairly and taking a “cheap shot at business media.”
The whole column is a classic example of the “pretend to miss the point” technique. First, acknowledge in passing that you do understand the actual point that was being made. Cohen does this when he makes the concession that “CNBC has often been a cheerleader for the zeitgeist — up when the market’s up, down when it’s down. This is true of the business media in general.” Having conceded the point, he then spends the rest of the piece attacking a straw-man point that was not being made by anyone: namely the idea that CNBC was to blame for the whole bubble or could have single-handedly stopped it. (His proof: there were financial meltdowns and bubbles before CNBC existed!)
When not refuting something that nobody believes, he’s attacking comedians for being uncivil, something he’s done before when he attacked Stephen Colbert for being mean to the President and reporters. (That column started with the following sentence: “First, let me state my credentials: I am a funny guy.”) Cohen is one of a number of columnists who are obsessed with the importance of civility, the idea that being properly respectful of elites is more important than being right or wrong or saying anything sensible. We saw another example of this recently when CBS’s Chip Reid asked whether the press secretary was being sufficiently respectful of Dick Cheney. Several other network news guys similarly denounced the lack of respect shown to Cheney. Now, apart from the fact that the rules for what is and isn’t properly civil are hard to figure out, this kind of thing means that a lot of columns and cable news minutes are devoted to how someone said something, as opposed to issues and stuff like that.