Economic Meltdown Not a Laughing Matter, or Why they May Get Away With Again

13cramer-600 Speaking of democracy, satire and dissent and its limits…the perceptive Alessandra Stanley in the NYT points out the limits of an irony in the Stewart-Cramer exchange:

[T]he much-hyped Thursday night showdown between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer, the mercurial host of “Mad Money” on CNBC, felt like a Senate subcommittee hearing.

Mr. Stewart treated his guest like a C.E.O. subpoenaed to testify before Congress — his point was not to hear Mr. Cramer out, but to act out a cathartic ritual of indignation and castigation.

“Listen, you knew what the banks were doing, yet were touting it for months and months, the entire network was,” the Democratic Senator from Comedy Central said. “For now to pretend that this was some sort of crazy, once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.”

Congress has — belatedly and showily — gone after the leaders of banks, auto companies and insurance companies for their complicity in the financial meltdown. Mr. Stewart has always had a messianic streak to his political satire, as when he ripped into Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala on “Crossfire” for “hurting America.” He is now focusing on business news cable networks like CNBC, which not only failed to foresee the credit crisis, but, in his view, sided with the bankers and helped inflate the bubble.

And while it’s never much fun to watch a comedian lose his sense of humor, in an economic crisis, it’s even sadder to see supposed financial clairvoyants acting like clowns.

Mr. Stewart made his feelings clear. “I understand you want to make finance entertaining,” he told Mr. Cramer. “But it’s not a game,” he said, using an additional adjective that was bleeped out. “When I watch that I can’t tell you how angry that makes me.”

Part of his frustration may stem from the fact that while Mr. Stewart clearly won the debate, Mr. Cramer and CNBC stood to profit from the encounter.