Sunday, March 15, 2009

How financial markets work - John Stewart eviscerates CNBC

CNBC Gives Financial Advice

John Stewart's "Daily Show" runs on Comedy Central and presents itself as offering political comedy and satire. On the other hand, CNBC presents itself as a serious operation offering news and analysis about finance and business.

However, it's clear by now that in this area the serious analysis is much more likely to come from John Stewart, and people who have been watching CNBC to get it there have been getting played for suckers. Instead, as Stewart makes clear in the clip below and in some subsequent broadcasts, what the shows on CNBC actually do (with the exception of a few serious reporters whose role is relatively peripheral) involves irresponsibly hyping the stock market, purveying right-wing economic and political propaganda, and serving as uncritical mouthpieces and boosters for dishonest CEO's ... while pretending to do serious journalism.

This was the opening shot in a series that Stewart wound up doing on the fraudulence and chicanery of CNBC and its pernicious consequences. As he explained more explicitly in a later instalment, the problem is not just that they committed sins of omission by failing to see the oncoming financial catastrophe and warning anyone about it, largely because they failed to actually do serious or critical analysis, but that they're guilty of positive sins of commission by aiding and abetting the whole scam, pushing for the policies that allowed the big swindlers to operate with impunity and undermined necessary safeguards and stabilizers in the system, and promoting the whole something-for-nothing financial-craze culture that helped suck investors and home-buyers into the casino where they eventually got fleeced.

This is definitely quite funny (in a dark-humor mode), but what it says is also on-target and illuminating. As Jon Stewart has remarked from time to time lately, it's a bit weird when we have to go to Comedy Central to get serious financial analysis, because we can't get it from sources like CNBC ... but so it goes.

Watch the video here: CNBC Gives Financial Advice.

(My main regret about this clip is that the rogues' gallery portrayed there includes only a brief shot of one of the most poisonous characters on CNBC, the pompous right-wing economic charlatan Lawrence Kudlow.)

=> This exposé series by Jon Stewart was followed up by an illuminating interview with the New York Times business writer Joe Nocera ...

... and was followed up by a devastating interview with Jim Cramer of the CNBC show "Mad Money." I will post the Cramer interview separately, and I recommend watching it after watching the video clips linked to above.

--Jeff Weintraub