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Jon Stewart and the Perils of 'Firstiness'

Television
by Caryn James
June 29, 2012 10:11 AM
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Jon Stewart added a brilliant new word to the vocabulary of media criticism yesterday: firstiness. Looking over the ludicrous flub in which first CNN and then Fox mistakenly reported that the Supreme Court had struck down the essence of the Obama health care plan – instead of, whoops, the opposite – Stewart mocked the crazed rush to be the first network to arrive with news that everyone knew was coming and all the reporters got at the same time. Asking, “Who would emerge from today’s chaos as the world’s grand champion of firstiness?” Stewart almost buried a word that is the perfect companion to Stephen Colbert’s classic, “truthiness.” Both allude to the slippery relationship between words and facts. 

Fox News’s Bill Hemmer was practically gloating as he reported that the individual mandate had been declared (breaking down the word for emphasis ) “un-con-sti-tu-tion-al.” Uh, no. And Wolf Blitzer on CNN was worse but in a different way – trying to assume the voice of authority, he has increasingly become the buffoonish voice of overhyped melodrama. “Wow, that’s a dramatic moment!” he claimed about the report which, as Stewart pointed out, like most drama was pure fiction.

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