At long last, someone called Jim Cramer out. It wasn’t the mainstream press. In fact, it was one of the leading faces of the “fake” press, Jon Stewart.

In a widely publicized feud and subsequent joint television appearance, Mr. Stewart took Mr. Cramer to task for being (in Mr. Stewart’s view) a cheerleader for those who watch his Mad Money television show. While this encounter may have been as much about entertainment as about substance, I still give Mr. Stewart credit for raising the issue at all.

Much of the televised business “news” is about filling time. There just aren’t enough substantive, interesting topics—much less qualified people willing and available to talk about them—to fill the amount of airtime the networks require. Plus, much of what they cover asks people to project what they think will happen in the future, whether it’s the direction of the economy, a sector or an individual company. While we all need to make informed decisions about our finances, using the (usually conflicting) projections of a few talking heads on television as the basis for doing so seems like the dog chasing its tail.

Hopefully, most of those in Mr. Cramer’s audience saw his show for the entertainment that it was, and suffered no financial loss. For those who did lose, I suppose, the name Mad Money is appropriate.

There are lots of clever quotes out there about the risk of predicting the future, but The New York Times picked up on one of the better ones when it began a March 14 article on the stock market with a quote from the economist John Kenneth Galbraith: “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”


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