Friday, January 23, 2009

"Uncle Grumpy - On Cable News - Again"

Look out! He’s on the rampage! What can I do? He’s my uncle.

As usual, criticisms and complaints – directly to him.
Cable news.

I hate it. I watch it. I hate that I watch it. Then I watch it some more.

And I hate it.

I thought, after the election…you know, the big show is over, I’ll take a break. But the stuff keeps coming. Is it important? It is that day!

The crazy governor from Illinois. The proposed Treasury Secretary who cheated on his taxes. The Chief Justice screws up the swearing in. Biden turned down Secretary of State.

Caroline Kennedy. They interrupted to report she was withdrawing from consideration and then, later, that she staying in during the same program. These yahoos don’t care what they say. As long as it’s “Breaking News.”

I remember during the Democratic primaries. Cable news reports: “The polls project Obama a shoo-in in New Hampshire.”

Obama loses New Hampshire.

The next day, oh boy. The cable news guys are embarrassed. They’re contrite. They made a mistake. They’ll never do it again.

A week later, “The polls project Obama a shoo-in in South Carolina!”

They’re junkies! They can’t stop themselves! They swear off the stuff…and a week later, they’re doing it again!

I know it’s about ratings. Cable news is a business. It’s not the news people’s fault for inflaming sensibilities, pandering to extremists and monstrously over-hyping the stories. They’re trying to sell tickets. You can’t sell tickets to blah.

There’s a fierce competition for the news-watching audience. You do what you have to do. Even if it means undermining the credibility of your entire operation.

To accurately report on the events of the day.

I know cable news is a clown show. And I still watch. Hoping, against the accumulated evidence of my eyes and ears, that there’s a possibility I might learn something.

What the heck is the matter with me!!!

My nephew told me about this course he recently took in Political Science. Twelve three-hour classes. In the last minute of their last meeting, the teacher sums up the message of his class:

“If you want to learn, listen to all sides.”


Answer me this, will ya? When partisan advocates come on cable news shows, exaggerate the virtues of their own position, and demonize the views of the opposition, what exactly are you supposed to learn?

How to exaggerate and demonize?

You don’t learn anything!

They don’t want answers on cable news. They want mud wrestling. That’s why you rarely hear “the next question” on those shows, the question that might result in some actual understanding.

Instead, you hear this:

“Under President Bush, we haven’t had an attack on our soil for seven and a half years.”

The claim stands unchallenged. Because the calendar says it’s true. I’ve seen this a number of times, the last time, three days ago. There’s never any exploration. No “next question.”

Later, maybe in a “personal comment”, we’ll be reminded that Bush was actually president when we had a very big attack.

This second thing, I’ve never heard anyone say. “Under President Clinton, who was not known for his anti-terrorism initiatives, there were no attacks on our soil for eight years – 1993 to 2001. How do you account for that?”

Those cable news hosts aren’t stupid. They’re aware of the eight-year Clinton thing. So why don’t they follow up with “the next question”?

Because they want me to get angry. Me and the other suckers watching their stupid, infuriating show. They win when I’m engaged, yelling at my television, “Why don’t you ask that, you big Bozos!” and thinking I’m smarter than the host.

It’s like Wheel of Fortune, when you know the answer, and the contestants don’t.

“‘A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED.’ What’s the matter with you?”

My personal opinion? The news should never be a profit center. It’s too damn important.

I know news has been partly entertainment from the get-go. A newsreader wears a bowtie, he’s in show business. But there’s a line. If Edward R. Murrow came back, he’d be shocked.

“I know I had shiny hair and a cigarette. But this is ridiculous!”

Then he’d blow the lid of news-o-tainment.

“The focus of the news must always remain the news itself. Not the people who bring it to us. Not those who purport to parse its meaning, as if we had no reasoning powers of our own. We must take back the news from those who ruthlessly exploit it for commercial purposes, and return it to the serious function it was intended to perform – as a reliable reporter of what actually took place. Good night. And good luck.”

The “Murrows” of today, biting the hand that so lavishly feeds them? I wouldn’t hold my breath.

So we’ve got what we’ve got.

Somebody, please. Take away my remote.


MikeThe Blogger said...

I am not being "political", just accurate. Under Clinton there WERE Islamic terrorist attacks on "American soil".

"...In the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings (August 7, 1998), hundreds of people were killed in simultaneous car bomb explosions at the United States embassies in the East African capital cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. " U. S. EMBASSIES ARE "AMERICAN SOIL"

"...The 1993 World Trade Center bombing occurred on February 26, 1993, when a car bomb was detonated below Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City...." (Yes, I know you are counting AFTER that one)

February 1991: an Egyptian Islamist killed in New York. (before 1993, I know)

January 1993: two CIA staff killed outside agency headquarters in Langley, Va.

March 1994: an Orthodox Jewish boy killed on the Brooklyn Bridge.

February 1997: a Danish tourist killed on the Empire State building.

October 1999: 217 passengers killed on an EgyptAir flight leaving from New York City.

In all, 800 persons lost their lives in the course of attacks by militant Islam on Americans before September 2001 - more than killed by any other enemy since the Vietnam War.

Anonymous said...

OK Mike, I’m pretty sure we withheld some of that information from the public, hoping the perp would fall into our trap of revealing something only he would know. Now all we’d like is for you to account for your whereabouts on Aug. 7, 1998; Feb. 26, 1993; all of Feb. 1991, Jan 1993, March 1994, Feb. 1997, Oct. 1999, and just for good measure April 1, 2008 – but only because it was Barry Sonnenfeld’s 55th birthday.

Other than that, points well taken; but you have yet to demonstrate that any of the Clinton-era atrocities you’ve listed were attacks on American soil. Sure they went after people, and buildings, and airplanes – but throughout all that, our American soil remained unflinchingly productive – to the point where, today, you and I not only have ethanol but all the domestically-produced tofu we could possibly want. Something I might add too many of us just take for granted.

My personal peeve is the local news, that spends so much time teasing a story throughout the day and then again during the actual newscast that they actually haven’t got time to provide any useful or significant information when they get to the story itself. Or worse, when they tell you nothing in the teaser, because if they did they’d have nothing additional for the actual story. Remember Douglas Edwards with the afternoon news briefs that would actually give you a complete news item, and then expand upon that with additional details in the evening cast? Now the teaser is: “Find out what landed in the Hudson River this afternoon in our newscast at 6.” Then at 6 it’s, “You’ll not want to miss our story on something that landed in the Hudson today, stay with us.” And finally, “Something landed in the Hudson River this afternoon – it was an airplane. That’s it, stay tuned for Howie Mandel.”

That’s about all I got here. Exhausted again from staying up for the overnight broadcast newses – trying to guess which pageants each anchoress had worked her way up through. God they’re gorgeous, and don’t do any worse than their male counterparts. Just more proof that you don’t necessarily have to sensationalize news and public affairs, as long as you can keep guys like me fantasizing about having sex with them while discussing current events.

Anonymous said...

Here's my next question: What about those anthrax attacks? Are we not counting those?

Anonymous said...

It's the Weather Channel that gets my skivvies in a twist.

Jeff Tompkins said...

Mike had to put "American soil" in quotes because he knew he was making a big stretch. Everyone knows that when Bush takes credit for no attacks on our soil since 9/11, he is talking about the so-called homeland, the continental U.S. Otherwise he'd have to take the blame (fair is fair) for the hundreds of attacks on "American soil" that exists in...Iraq.

The Bush loyalists (all 20-something percent of them) are entertaining to watch as they twist up like pretzels trying to make a case for their man, but it can't be done.

Anonymous said...

How about the USS Cole bombing?
The USS Cole bombing was a suicide bombing attack against the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole October 2000 while harbored off Yemen. Seventeen American sailors were killed.
Of course boats don't operate on an American soil. They are on water.

Jeremy said...

I decided many years ago not to bang my head against brick walls - it seemed my head would suffer long before the bricks would. Watching cable news is about the same. I'm not really interested in listening to people who insist they are "Not being 'political', just accurate" while being totally political and barely accurate; I'm not interested in arguing with them, either....

"The clown show", as you call it, although it's not so much "Funny hahaha" as "hrm... something smells funny".

I've given up on the whole thing. I read a few blogs these days that agglomerate useful news and opinion, as well as pointing me to news articles (many in the foreign press) that actually convey information. is one; is another.

But cable news? Not so much.