Jon Stewart is dead on with his criticisms of the state of arguments in America. I used to be a dedicated fox news viewer. When something big happened in the political world, the hosts would bring in someone who represents the political right and someone who represents the political left to discuss and debate the event. Almost without fail this “debate” would turn into a shouting match with both sides yelling at the other to let them finish. These are the type of arguments that Jon Stewart was criticizing. Neither side went on to the show with the intention of having an intellectual conversation let alone possibly change their opinion. They accomplished nothing but yelling out a few politically charged slogans and further dividing our country on the tough issues.
Jon Stewart does a good job using good rhetoric in the debates he has on his show. While during the crossover interview he does stress that his show is a comedy show and follows different standards and has different responsibilities than the cable news shoes where these debates occur, Jon Stewart actually does provide several good examples of good rhetoric. The best examples of this are the mini debates he has with Bill O’Reilly when Bill is a guest on the Daily Show. During these respectful debates both Jon and Bill allow the other to talk, act with respect, and come into it with an open mind. These debates truly are remarkable examples of rhetoric can successfully be used.
For every good debate aired on television there are probably 5 theatrical “debates” to counter it. Luckily it is easy to tell the difference between the two and that way viewers can ignore the bad and watch the good. First, do the debating parties treat each other in a respectful manner (let each other speak vs. interrupting, respectful language vs. name calling, etc.). Good debates require each person to act with respect regarding their treatment of the person they are debating. Theatrical debates are usually a lot less respectful and usually end with the two debating parties trying to yell their opinion over there opponent. Second, do the debating parties appear to come into the debate with an open mind. In good debates the debating parties listen to what the other has to say and allows it to potentially change their perspective. In bad debates candidates don’t truly listen to each other and rant interested in changing their own perspective at all. Finally, pay close attention to how the debate ends. Even if the two parties argued it out extensively during the debate do they end the debate in a friendly respectful manner (a handshake a farewell/thank you comment). Most good debates and good debaters end the debate with a friendly gesture while theatrical debates don’t usually have a kind farewell gesture since both parties don’t respect and are angry with the other side.