Jon Stewart on The Rachel Maddow Show – It’s Become Tribal

Jon Stewart, who recently staged the Rally to Restore Sanity, which criticized the cable news "conflictonator" that exacerbates the partisan divide, was interviewed by Rachel Maddow, a host at MSNBC.  MSNBC is, for some, the left-wing equivalent of Fox News, and some on the left have taken issue with the possible equivalency that is drawn between actions on the right and on the left, in terms of honesty, partisanship, and improving the level of debate.

Besides being an interesting interview of one of the most vocal voices of a civil politics perspective in the media, there are a couple points where Stewart's responses converge with academic research.

If you look at the transcript, you'll see that Stewart intuitively knows (or maybe he's read the research) that "It's become tribal" and then goes on to say that it's become about defending one's team and that "we all have a tendency to grant amnesty to people we agree with and to overly demonize those that we don't.  I do the same thing.  Everybody does."  If you want to read more about that consider our academic resources page, which has a lot of content on moralistic politics.

The discussion of the wisdom of describing Bush as a war criminal was very interesting and ties into the idea of the myth of pure evil, which is a theme in chapter 4 of the Happiness Hypothesis.

Finally, the discussion of the equivalency of Fox News and MSNBC relates to the research cited on mirror image processes in this blog post.

If you want more, consider watching the uncut version of the interview here.  Especially heart-warming was the end of the video, where despite the criticisms, Stewart volunteers that he truly likes Maddow.  Just as previously he has called O'Reilly likable as well.  Perhaps some part of living civil politics is about learning to like people, even when you disagree with them.

– Ravi Iyer