Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
March 13, 2009

Slaughtering The Peacock

Cramer Stewart.jpg

pea·cock (pē’kŏk’)

n. 2. A vain person; a dandy.

To strut about like a peacock; exhibit oneself vainly.

proud as a peacock

Having a very high opinion of oneself, filled with or showing excessive self-esteem. For example, She strutted about in her new outfit, proud as a peacock. This simile alludes to the male peacock, with its colorful tail that can be expanded like a fan, which has long symbolized vanity and pride. Chaucer used it in The Reeve’s Tail: “As any peacock he was proud and gay.” [1200s]

I’m glad James Burrows actually likened Jon Stewart to Edward R. Murrow last night because all I could think of, while watching Jon Stewart pluck out Jim Cramer’s feathers in bunches, was “Frost – Nixon,” “Frost Nixon.” Reality has become so warped, surreal, so turned upside-down that it logically took a fake and comedic news anchor to expose a supposedly real financial journalist for abusing parody, and greed, and worked-up demonstrations of anger (and the American public’s hard earned capital) in fronting for and colluding with a financial industry gone mad.

Listening to Stewart so plainly and nakedly articulate the gaming of America by Wall Street, and CNBC’s greasing of the skids, he did a lot more than put the huckster Jim Cramer to shame. What Stewart’s milestone interview/morality lesson accomplished was to set up an elegant and unmistakable contrast with the curiously inarticulate Tim Geithner … prompting the conclusion that Tim cannot explain the banking crisis for the reason that he, too, is fundamentally compromised.

At this address for the past couple years now, we’ve noticed how photojournalists will appropriate backgrounds to create the impression of (often editorially-loaded) hats, hoods, halos and crowns. In this case, the Daily Show photo is brilliant in the way it uses the NBC logo, lined up behind Mr. Money, to reveal what a peacock Cramer’s been all along. With just a little shaking, what flies out of the bird-man’s tail is the network, the almighty dollar, and the brand of the mad man. Really, this morphing offers the perfect compliment to Jon Stewart Murrow’s demonstration last night, eliciting confessions and promises of reform from a suddenly not-so-dandy Cramer who otherwise sat there struggling just to grasp the nature of the crime.

If you haven’t watched the interview, do so immediately.


Cramer Stewart NYT.jpg

Hmm, here’s where the NYT visually went with it. I’m not sure if they were shilling for Cramer as being mad, as in ultimately offended by Stewart’ grilling or they were highlighting the backdrop as part of a set up on the part of the Daily Show prosecutor (which is how the TV Watch article frames the “interview”).

Update 2:  

Kramer Stewart.jpg

And then, if you’re an optimist, maybe this was the key picture: Kramer vowing to do better.

(image 1: Jason DeCrow/AP. March 12, 2009, New York. image 2: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

  • Lucaites

    NIce job Michael. For an outstanding analysis of the interview itself see the commentary at Balkinization:

  • Antonio

    As financial ellucidation
    As journalism
    As congressional oversight
    As entertainment
    Someone with a bigger bullhorn needs to nominate John Stewart for any number of awards, beginning with a Peabody, a Presidential Medal of Freedom (What…Tenet got one, didn’t he?), an Emmy, etc.
    My only regret is that Mr. Cramer might be among the few good guys from the lot of “prostitutes” parading as financial journalists and experts. Imagine the situation with Santelli in place of Cramer.

  • yg

    so…cramer is being called out for pushing questionable stock. anybody else smell payola? from firms who want to hire a circus barker, posing as an “objective” tv commentator/analyst in order to hype their stock? could the entire network be culpable? talk about lack of regulatory oversight.
    in terms of visuals, the rolled sleeves look was nothing but an affectation that i found enraging. it was so phony and such blatant fiction. as if he was getting ready to dig ditches or engage in manual labor. the man probably gets a manicure once a week. meant as an obvious appeal to the “common man,” intended to curry favor with the audience, and in keeping with his show’s tagline “he’s looking out for you.” he most certainly is not. besides playing games with people’s pensions, cramer recently came out against “card check” or EFCA. ceos get tens of millions of dollars for driving firms into the ground, but god forbid blue collar workers become empowered to organize and win the ability to negotiate to get a few dollars more raise, without getting fired for their efforts.

  • arcadesproject

    I’admire Stewart for standing up to Cramer & CNBC and standing up for the ordinary investor (sap, mark, whatever). I appreciate Stewart’s flaming anger at these people, as if he really understands & empathizes with the people who are being taken to the cleaners by the likes of Cramer, et al.
    Let’s hear it for John, For he’s a jolly good fellow, which nobody can deny!

  • wisewebwoman

    I keep counting the wrongs in all of it. A comedian takes down a shill of the financial monsters who pillaged the commoners? Where on earth are the real journalists who should be doing this job? And the affectation of the shirt sleeves (disrespect for the interviewer?)and the chastened and abject demeanour of the financial ‘expert’ apologising to the righteous comedian had an air of the surreal to it. Weird is my take on the whole effort.

  • AJ

    How starved we are for truth, that feeding us tiny, insufficient, crumbs of it with commercial breaks can make us stand and cheer.

  • DennisQ

    At the end of the interview, Jon Stewart said that it’s unfair that Jim Cramer is the face of CNBC. And it’s true. The heat should be on the real criminals who would not go on television, much less tolerate a public scolding. Cramer did something gutsy; you have to give him that much.
    In a sense, CNBC should not be the face of all the bad journalism we’ve experienced, especially the shilling for the war and the cheering for its alleged “successes.” Stewart’s indignation is largely wasted on Cramer who claims to be only a showman like Stewart himself. Still, it’s appropriate that scorn be heaped on somebody even if that person is not the most appropriate target.
    I’d hate to see limits on what television pundits are allowed to say. We’re recuperating from the Bush administration’s claim to lese majeste, i.e., an attack on the sovereign is an attack on the State itself. Cramer’s penitence seems sincere to me. He said he should have acted differently, and I believe him.

  • stevelaudig

    But Stewart has his eyes closed and is faced askance. It’s tough looking at the corpse of your justice, however deserving the recipient was.

  • Rhodo Zeb

    Its James Fallows, not Burrows…

  • Rima

    It strikes me as ironic that Jim Cramer so much resembles V. I. Lenin

Refresh Archives

Random Notes