The Original Point of the "Cramer/Stewart" Feud

Daily Beast has a comprehensive blow-by-blow of the Cramer/Stewart mega-pseudo-dustup. Lots of breathless critical coverage of John Stewart’s critical coverage of CNBC’s lack of critical coverage of the financial bubble that burst all over us, but all of it misses the original point.

Stewart’s initial drubbing of CNBC was aimed at the audacity of CNBC’s Rick Santelli. Santelli called troubled mortgage holders “losers” for wanting to be bailed out of the situations they had gotten themselves into. Quite galling since Santelli said it while fomenting a revolt amongst the traders from the market floor on Wall Street. How dare Main Street be as gullible and greedy as Wall Street? Pot, kettle, black.

John Stewart was pointing out how CNBC was among the cheerleaders of the bubble that stoked the gullible greediness, the mirage of endless growth that justified such foolish leveraged investment. But apparently such foolishness is only bailout-worthy when you’re “too big to fail.” Foolish mortgage owners who want the same kind of help are “losers?”

Stewart was just pointing out, ruthlessly and at length, the hypocrisy of CNBC spending years of air time blowing up the bubble and then blaming those who burst with it. Cramer was barely winged in the attack but was the only one with guts enough to respond. Santelli was the one Stewart wanted on his show, not Cramer.

The final showdown between Cramer and Stewart was as hard to watch for me as it was riveting. It was like he quit doing comedy for a night and said, “Here. I’ll show you how to do your job” with a well researched, well documented takedown of Cramer. Cramer threw himself on the grenade for his network, playing James Fry to Stewart’s Oprah.

I would be quite happy if professional journalists put as much research into their reporting as John Stewart puts into his comedy. Lack of critical reporting was the main beef for Stewart in the end. But in the beginning, it was the audacity of pointing out the speck in troubled mortage owners’ eyes when the financial sector had a log in its own.

Deeper down, another thing still troubles me. We as a country have a rooted distate for mercy. Bailouts, to me, are essentially mercy. Giving people who do stupid stuff with money another chance they don’t deserve is mercy. Mercy cannot be deserved or earned. It can only be given. Yes, there must be justice, but for Christians, mercy trumps justice. Or at least it should since that’s the whole point of Christ in the first place.

The stories I see about the coming populist revolt trouble me. Yes, we the people should be angry. But a lot of this populism comes from our culture’s contempt for those who need and show mercy. We choke down the idea of the bailouts only out of fear and self-interest. Politicians tells us that the idiots will take us down with them if we don’t bail them out. There is no recognition that we need to temper justice with mercy in our so-called Christian nation.

To the extend that we are a merciless society, we are a godless society. That’s a bankruptcy of another, more serious kind.

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