25 January 2011

Crying Fowl

I enjoy watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. However, sometimes, the messages on the show appear counterproductive to the ideas it promotes. A segment from yesterday's show demonstrates this.

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The segment succeeds in making clear that the abominable way the people of Turkey Creek have been treated results from racism. Scenes from the mall (without and then with the bird costume) show how using comedy to hold a mirror to society is done, and the story about a cemetery being bulldozed is disgusting and heartbreaking.

However, as occasionally happens on the show, Stewart and his team fail to distinguish friend from foe, attacking and deriding those who actually take action against problems. The Audubon Society is not the villain here, yet it is mocked and ridiculed. What is most unfortunate is that this strategy by The Daily Show delegitimizes what could be even greater benefits of Audubon's involvement in Turkey Creek.

First, the "reporter," Wyatt Cenac, sneers at the very participation of the group. Then, he mocks the idea of giving the residents pamphlets for bird-watching, choosing not to consider the proven health benefits of being out in and connecting with nature. Finally, he fails to recognize that bird-watching represents a massive economy and that further cooperation between the Audubon Society and the Turkey Creek community could bring substantial benefits to the town.

Maybe the Audubon Society can't solve every issue facing Turkey Creek, and we should always confront any situation in which people are robbed of their humanity. However, this report from The Daily Show perpetuates the kind of cynicism Stewart says he opposes; contains damaging stereotypes about how people connect with nature and animals; and drops the ball on an important chance to bring people and the environment together in a healthier relationship.

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