If we’re going to talk about audience sophistication…

IF WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT AUDIENCE SOPHISTICATION…. There have been a few entertaining exchanges of late between “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart and Fox News contributor Bernie Goldberg, but there was something the conservative media critic said last night that seemed especially noteworthy.

It started when Goldberg and other Fox News personalities started over-generalizing about what liberals think, after having complained about the way liberals over-generalize. It prompted Stewart to tell Fox News, “Go f*ck yourselves.”

This wasn’t well received at Fox News HQ, and led to a discussion between Goldberg and Bill O’Reilly. Goldberg conceded that Stewart had a point about over-generalizing, but proceeded to go after “The Daily Show” host anyway. Responding directly to Stewart, Goldberg said, speaking into the camera:

“You’re just a safe Jay Leno, with a much smaller audience, but you get to say the F-bomb, which gives your incredibly unsophisticated audience the illusion — the illusion — that you’re courageous and a renegade, but it’s only an illusion.”

Stewart’s response is well worth watching — I’ve included the video below — and I was especially pleased to hear him explain, “I know that I criticize you and Fox News a lot, but only because you’re truly a terrible, cynical, disingenuous news organization.” Stewart also noted the contradiction underscoring the criticism of his audience — Goldberg thinks “Daily Show” viewers are “elites” and “unsophisticated” at the same time?

But there’s a related point I wanted to emphasize that Stewart didn’t mention. In 2004, the National Annenberg Election Survey found that Fox News viewers were the most confused about current events, while viewers of “The Daily Show” were among the best informed news consumers in the country. Comedy Central, relying on data from Nielsen Media Research, also found that Stewart’s audience not only knew more about current events, but were far better educated than Bill O’Reilly’s audience.

Three years later, the Pew Research Study published a report showing that “viewers of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have the highest knowledge of national and international affairs, while Fox News viewers rank nearly dead last.”

Bernie Goldberg, if you want to talk about “incredibly unsophisticated audiences,” we can talk about incredibly unsophisticated audiences.

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