Something very important happened on the way to Rick Santelli of CNBC becoming a right wing and populist icon. People seem to forget that the real target of Jon Stewart was not Jim Cramer, but Rick Santelli.
But there was Rick Santelli on February 19 on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade railing against the Obama administration housing plans. As he’s pounding away, he elicits boos from the traders and then asserts wildly, “President Obama, are you listening?” The media sure was, they seized on it as a moment to demonstrate mass discontent with the new Obama administration policies.
This was CNBC’s moment. But that moment was completely undone by a savvy investigative reporter that uncovered the truth behind it.
First of all, as Playboy Magazine of all entities discovered that it was staged.
“What we discovered is that Santelli’s “rant” was not at all spontaneous as his alleged fans claim, but rather it was a carefully-planned trigger for the anti-Obama campaign. In PR terms, his February 19th call for a “Chicago Tea Party” was the launch event of a carefully organized and sophisticated PR campaign, one in which Santelli served as a frontman, using the CNBC airwaves for publicity, for the some of the craziest and sleaziest rightwing oligarch clans this country has ever produced.”
Santelli: President Obama, are you listening?
Stewart: Yeah man, Wall Street is mad as hell! And they’re not going to take it anymore. Unless by it, you mean two trillion dollars of their own bail out money. That they will take it.
Now Mr. Santelli was invited to come on this show and accepted the invitation and then on Friday canceled, or I guess the phrase would be bailed out.
How many people would have liked to see Santelli come on this program, are you listening? Are you listening, Rick Santelli? You see, Rick Santelli is angry that these loser home owners are going to get bailed out. He believes in personal responsibility, he believes in not rewarding the losers for missing all the warning signs. For God’s sake, the guy works at CNBC. They’re the best of the best.
Give Jim Cramer a little credit, he at least had the guts to come on Jon Stewart’s show this week. That’s about all he got. For those who saw it, it may be the most complete take down I have seen since Katie Couric accidentally KO’d Sarah Palin. But this one was no accident.
You see, Jon Stewart went for the throat and even when Jim Cramer allowed himself to be put on the floor, Stewart wouldn’t let him up. At one point, Cramer acknowledged all of the problems with Wall Street and that he wanted to see these people indicted. Stewart would have none of this death door conversion, suggesting instead that it was easy to say this now but where was he when it could have made a difference?
Cramer: Look, I have called for star chambers—I want kangaroo courts for these guys. I have not seen any indictments. Where are the indictments? Where is the indictments for AIG? I told the Justice Department, “Here’s the way you get the indictment.”
Stewart: It’s very easy to get on this after the fact. The measure of the network, and the measure of mess. CNBC could act as—No one is asking them to be a regulatory agency, but can’t—but whose side are they on? It feels like they have to reconcile as their audience the Wall Street traders that are doing this for constant profit on a day-to-day for short term. These guys companies were on a Sherman’s March through their companies financed by our 401ks and all the incentives of their companies were for short term profit. And they burned the f—ing house down with our money and walked away rich as hell and you guys knew that that was going on.
I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a f—ing game. When I watch that I get, I can’t tell you how angry it makes me because it says to me, “You all know.” You all know what’s going on. You can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear and at AIG and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet.
And that’s exactly the problem–it’s all masked as entertainment. As Stewart said at the beginning of the show, “We are both snake oil salesmen to a certain extent… but we do label the show as snake oil here. Isn’t there a problem with selling snake oil and labeling it as vitamin tonic and saying that it cures impetigo”
Stewart takes on the nuances of the market, the financial collapse, and CNBC’s role in it as they climbed into bed cheerleading with corrupt CEOs. Who could forget the image of CNBC interviewing a corrupt CEO who had literally stolen millions, and they asked him if it was fun to be a billionaire, to which he sheepishly answered yes with a sinister grin on his face.
The problem from my standpoint is where the heck is the real media on things like this? Where was the real media during this collapse exposing the robber barons? Where was the real media when Rick Santelli was fabricating a Boston Tea Party? Where was the real media when Jim Cramer was screaming sell sell sell a few weeks after screaming buy buy buy?
We can go back further than that. In the summer of 2001 when Al Qaeda was finishing its plans to attack the US and plunge us into war, the media spent more of their time reporting on shark attacks that were from a statistical standpoint not increasing in ferocity or frequency. In 2002-03, when the administration was leading us into war against Iraq, the media acted as their cheerleader including the liberal New York Times and Judith Miller reporting on weapons of mass destruction. Miller was so convinced that she never bothered to asked tough questions of the administration.
Conservatives rail against the liberal media all the time. But if you read the blogosphere, liberals have as many concerns about the conservative or corporate media as the conservatives do. The difference is that Democrats do not spend their time attacking and running against the media, it makes little sense.
My chief complaint is not even ideological. The media simply do not do a good job of going in, asking tough questions and spilling the apple cart. The media look for an easy story too often rather than try to probe it. We may have anger towards the Bush administration for failing to ask tough questions on WMD, but guess what, they never could have gotten away with it were it not for the complicit news media who never bothered to question to the assumption.
Flash ahead, were it not for Jon Stewart, Rick Sentelli would have it made right now. He’d be the right’s hero. Hey it was great moment of theater. And the media spent their time tripping over it as emblematic of the backlash against Obama’s policies. The problem is that it wasn’t real.
This is not a defense against Obama either. There is plenty to criticize Obama for including putting many of the same people who got us into his mess into his economic team. But we do not have to rely on media concocted feigned protests to make that point.
CNBC is a small network. Let’s face it, who is going to spend a lot of time watching an all-finance network. So they tried to package finance as entertainment. Jim Cramer is ridiculous. He dances around his show making financial advice to callers in between childish sound effects. But people watch the show and in-between that he acts like he is a serious reporter.
Like so-many he has pandered to the CEO/ Wall Street Class for so long. He was in bed with them. He was their shill. He never bothered to ask the tough questions.
One of his points of defense was supposed to be that he voted for Obama. Who cares who he voted for? Does that let him off the hook?
For weeks, people have been lamenting the decline of newspapers. I admit it, I like newspapers. I spend a good portion of time reading several each day. But I also suggested a few weeks ago that newsreporting would survive, even thrive, in a new age. A lot of people do not want to hear that.
But this is a perfect example of why things are better now than they were ten years ago. The mainstream media has fumbled the story of the financial collapse and the complicity of CNBC and others in it. They just have. Jon Stewart has a rant. I don’t watch Jon Stewart. I know a lot of people who do, but I don’t.
I saw it on one of the liberal blogs. Clips of it had been passed around and millions of people like myself who never watch Jon Stewart’s show watched it. Because of that the media finally had to report on it.
But Jon Stewart had to finish off Jim Cramer himself, and if you have not seen the clip, he did. Total takedown. Without the new media this story never would have gotten any attention. And yet there was the President’s Spokesperson on Friday commenting on Jon Stewart.
Sadly though it takes a comedian to do real reporting these days. If the newspaper industry wants to lament its downfall perhaps they ought to ponder how they let that happen.
—David M. Greenwald reporting