Don't Watch CNBC

by: Felix Salmon

Jim Cramer was craven and highly apologetic on the Daily Show last night because he had no choice; he started off by throwing Rick Santelli under a bus, and almost never attempted to defend himself, preferring to go the mea culpa route. This is not new. Even at the top of the market, in May 2007, he was writing this:

Mad Money has spawned legions of haters, people who write about the show and my character in really negative, sometimes pretty nasty ways. These people accuse me of being a clown or an idiot. Usually, I agree with them. When people ask for my autograph, I instantly hate myself.

So well done to Jon Stewart for not letting Cramer's passivity prevent him from saying what he had to say:

It's a long segment (and the one above is just part of the whole interview) so I'll let Chris Rovzar sum up:

"I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a fucking game," Stewart railed. "When I watch that, I can't tell you how angry that makes me. What it says to me is that you all know. You all know what's going on. You can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was going on at Bear Stearns and AIG and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet." Cramer admitted to many mistakes (and even promised Stewart he would change his show), and pledged that his own "goal should always be to try to expose that there is no easy money." "But there are literally shows called Fast Money!" Stewart shot back. "There's a market for that," Cramer tried to explain, but was interrupted by the Daily Show host. "There's also a market for cocaine and hookers!"

In a sense, it's a shame that Stewart had on his show the most self-loathing of all the CNBC personalities -- but then again he, too, had little choice, since Santelli cancelled on him. But the lesson of this interview is that when CNBC is pressed on the way in which it has hurt America, its response is to capitulate and say "well I guess that's true". Which means that the bigger lesson is simpler still: don't watch CNBC. Doing so will do you no good at all, and will quite possibly do you a lot of harm.

Incidentally, Barry Ritholtz, a frequent CNBC talking-head himself, tries to mount the defense that Cramer couldn't by saying that the network has "a plethora of economic voices and market perspectives". Plethora is one way of putting it; cacophony is another. And is in fact the word which is used by the outgoing head of news at CNBC.

CNBC is a cable channel where the closer you get to it, the more unpleasant it seems. I'm a former denizen of the decabox myself, and I can tell you that no good can come from that thing. Don't watch it.