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The Bill O'Reilly-Jon Stewart 'rumble': More than a jab-fest?

In the left corner, comedian Jon Stewart. In the right corner, Fox News shout-meister Bill O'Reilly. What might they achieve, besides self-promotion, when they face off Saturday night for a political debate?

By Contributor / October 6, 2012

Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly will face off Saturday night in a presidential-style debate that will be streamed live on the Web.

Chris Kleponis/Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

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If you thought the first political debate didn't mix it up enough, the second one is much more likely to deliver. 

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Staff writer

Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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No, not the meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin on Oct. 11, but rather the “Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium,” the hyped-up showdown Saturday night between rival cable personalities Jon Stewart, in the left corner, and Bill O’Reilly, in the right.

In “an old-fashioned duel of the wits,” O’Reilly and Stewart will step up to the podiums at 8 p.m. EDT in front of a sold-out auditorium at George Washington University. Those who can’t make it to Washington, D.C., can pay $4.95 to watch the live-streamed event (www.therumble2012.com), which the promotional video calls “the reason Al Gore invented the Internet.”

Half the proceeds from the "debate" will go to charities, but let's be honest here. The rumble serves as a giant promotion to attract more followers to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Comedy Central and “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News.

Still, the O'Reilly-Stewart tussle is not without redeeming social value. The "info" part of infotainment, some argue, can actually serve to breed interest  in real political and civic issues among those who are politically disengaged.

Entertainment provides a “gateway” to broader political engagement, says Lauren Feldman, an assistant professor at American University in Washington, D.C. She observed this connection in her research on how “Daily Show” viewers are engaged in issues like climate change. “Humor and substance are not dichotomous phenomena,” she says.

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