Saturday, March 21, 2009

Rex Lapham

Everyone, myself included, is prone to an outbreak of Laphamism from time to time.

Which is why it's important not to take yourself too seriously or your topics too dismissively. While Murphy tends to adopt a stern seriousness when he writes about Newfoundland, he dips into pop culture and US politics for purely comic relief. This may be because he knows the former better than the latter (note to Rex: the Aniston bit is getting tired), and he often shows a weak grasp of American politics.

In today's Globe, Murphy tries, and fails, to stick it to Jon Stewart, Barack Obama, and just about everyone else in American public life:

Yes, Rex, it's all an elaborate march of folly over the cliff of civilization. But it's also an important, complicated march that needs to be analyzed seriously and discretely. If Cramer was too easy a target for Stewart, then surely the Stewart-Cramer "take-down" is too easy a target for the learned, augustan Murphy.

Murphy is not only wrong on important points (Stewart's rage was genuine, not faux), but he gives the false impression that Stewart focused solely on Cramer. Cramer's appearance on the show came after Stewart had already done a wide-ranging, trenchant (and, of course, funny) piece on the politics of business media:

Dripping with condescension, Murphy asks, "Amid the trillions of dollars currently gushing from Congress - in appropriations so large and so quickly passed that no one, not even those authorizing them, is reading the damn things - why take the fly swatter to the most insignificant bug in the room?"

Why? Well, you have to start somewhere, don't you? And Cramer and CNBC were not exactly fleas on the financial dog; in fact, they spent millions (and made millions) feeding the dog junk food. Without all that media junk food, it's uncertain whether the financial dog would have become so fat and greedy over the past decade.

Just because there are trillions gushing out of the Treasury does not mean that CNBC should get a pass. As I've mentioned earlier, there are good economic analyses out there to be read:
Frontline has a good piece as well:

And, if nothing else, Stewart's "take-down" has done a public service by generating a genuine (as opposed to a dismissive) discussion of whether Cramer and his ilk are "too easy" a target:
Townie Bastard has weighed in as well:

Muphy being Murphy, he's not content to pour scorn on Stewart. He tries (and again fails) to link the Stewart-Cramer story to the furor over AIG. And then, in a rhetorical flourish, he concludes that the American presidency has become a "four-year celebrity guest spot."

To be sure, we are witnessing an incredibly target rich environment for satirists, humourists, and Laphamites. But Murphy has to make up his mind whether he wants his column to be wryly funny or sternly serious. Without humour or sincerity, he's left with disingenuity.

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