So dissapointed in Jon Stewart and the length his producers went to ‘gotcha’

October 14, 2014

GOTCHA: Stewart backpedaled and pulled
the part of the segment.

I hate ‘gotcha’ videos. Sure, they make for great TV, but I hate to think that someone’s entire life could be framed by unplanned comments made in the glare of a TV light, especially when the subject is misled about the use, purpose, and format of the video.

By now, we’ve all read of Jon Stewart’s own problems with his ‘gotcha’ video, and how his producers misled Washington football fans by assuring them, according to their accounts and those of their lawyers, that they would not be confronted by Native Americans during the segment.

Only that’s exactly what Stewart’s producers had planned and executed during production. A letter from the fans’ attorneys convinced Stewart and Comedy Central to pull the segment and only air the fans comments, not the confrontation. Seemed fair. Until, Stewart made some sappy statement about how the Daily Show tries hard to make sure they capture the real essence of a subjects’ comments, saying on his broadcast, “We work very hard to find real people who have real beliefs and want to express those beliefs on television and we work hard to make sure that the gist of those beliefs are represented accurately, albeit sometimes comedic-ally, on our program.”

Yea, right, Jon. It’s all about truth, justice, and the American way, and sometimes, a bit of comedy. Stewart would have done better to simply apologize and admit it was a bad mistake that was corrected by not airing the confrontation his producers had promised not to create.

Last week also came another round of ‘gotcha videos,’ this time the trick played on college students by Campus Reform, an offshoot of The Leadership Institute, which claims to have trained 150,000 conservative activists.

Campus Reform corralled four supposed Harvard students and asked them, “Which is a bigger threat to world peace, the US or ISIS?” All four go on to explain how the US is the greater evil.  What Campus Reform fails to show is how many students they had to approach before getting their desired answer. Only four or 400?  And if 400, why did the organization only produced four videos?  Seems suspicious. As does the lack of context. How were students approached and chosen? What were they told in advance? Did they know who their interviewer was and the real intent of the questioning? Heck, we don’t even know if the subjects were really Harvard students? No details or names were given, but lots of commentary followed on Fox and conservative talk radio about the liberal hijacking of our college campuses.

Seems unfair, and it is. I would hate to have had my 20-year-old self forever memorialized with attitudes I might held decades ago or by some lapse in judgment made while toting two cups of lattes across campus. But not to worry. It’s all about the ‘gotcha.’ And getcha by whatever means possible as Jon Stewart demonstrated and Campus Reform perpetuated.

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