What is Comedy Central Doing to Politics?

In In these Times, Jessica Clark on the political impact of Comedy Central’s Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

So, how do these Comedy Central send-ups impact politics? A study by two East Carolina University political scientists recently set off some alarm bells. They sat college students down in front of ‘04 campaign coverage from either CBS News or “The Daily Show,” and then asked the students to judge the candidates. After watching Stewart, students were harder on candidates and expressed less trust in the electoral system.

On June 23, Washington Post columnist Richard Morin fretted that the study was “particularly dismaying news because the show is hugely popular among college students, many of whom already don’t bother to cast ballots.” TNR television critic Lee Siegel piled on, “Constant ridicule seems to have the effect of turning the political system into one gigantic self-parodying freak show.”

A freak show? No kidding …

Print journalists’ doleful hand-wringing prompted flames of derision from progressive bloggers. “This is a woefully misleading representation of the study,” wrote Matt Stoller of MyDD.