All About Me

Somewhere along the way, the television bobbleheads who are technically supposed to be reporting the “news” gave up entirely on that worthy endeavor in favor of talking about their favorite subject…  themselves.  Oh, they often elaborately pay faux homage to “real Americans,” meaning those reliably hypothetical wretched souls who don’t happen to rake in millions babbling incoherently on TV, but that’s just a vestigial gesture, like making the sign of the Cross is to a lapsed Catholic when entering a church, before they emerge pancaked and tooth-whitened to talk about what’s really important:  the childish rivalries, vendettas, and perceived slights by themselves and others of their pampered ilk.

This weird and rather insulting phenomenon was vividly on display when Tim Russert died… a pumpkinheaded, credulous mediocrity who had emerged as Dick Cheney’s favorite non-Fox “journalist” to normal people, was to his pancaked brethren some sort of diety; his death brought on the sort of wailing and rending of garments that the death of a revered martyr might bring to the faithful of some benighted religion.  But then again, being on television is, to these narcissistic cretins, tantamount to wearing a halo, never mind what you actually said or did when you were prostrated before the holy icon of the red light.  We are now being read our “news,” such as it is, by people who are frankly just as demented, and for the same reason, as Nicole Kidman’s character in “To Die For.”  If they have any ideology, it’s hers:  ”I’m on TV, therefore I am.”  Sometimes, this malignantly self-referential worldview can produce awkward moments, as when one of them whines about not being the President (was it David Gregory?  Does it matter?) and unintentionally lets slip that they consider themselves on par with the Leader of the Free World.  And why wouldn’t they?  They’re on TV just as often as say, President Obama, maybe more so, and they undoubtedly make much more money…. To them, what else matters?  Why shouldn’t their opinions have the same weight; their words be equally consequential, and their power similarly acknowledged?  Well, because they’re stupid, for one thing, but more importantly, because in the larger scheme of things, if they associate and equate themselves with those who hold real power, then they’re not only in need of mental help, but they’re doing the exact opposite of what their jobs, as defined by the First Amendment, are supposed to be.  A free press was not intended to be an untouchable royal court, but try telling that to a TV news spokesmodel while dozens of awestruck minions are busily and obsequiously fussing over their hair, makeup, camera angles, and lighting.

When Fox News feels slighted and abused by the White House, who do they bring on to talk about it?  Other Fox News personalities, of course.  Enlightening?  Not so much, but as a balm to outsized yet bruised egos, what else would do?  Need an outside expert to weigh in?  Glenn Beck can run crying to Rush Limbaugh, and vice versa, where they publicly (and nauseatingly) lick each other’s wounds, disproving the old adage that the first liar doesn’t stand a chance.   The “fair and balanced” network, which elevated unbridled Bush worship to a high if somewhat embarrassing art, now has turned to daily more unhinged attacks against the current President, while their benumbed and besotted audience roars its approval in nursing home dayrooms across America.

The television media, which has been rightly decried for its abandonment of policy and facts in favor of political gamesmanship and horse race coverage, of politics has taken the whole charade one step further; instead of covering such trivialities amongst actual persons in power, they now eat up most of their airtime babbling about their own gamesmanship and horse races.  Why would anyone want to hear about boring old battles that have life-and-death consequences for those on the other side of the screen, when entire programs can be dedicated to the much more exciting battles between Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann?

Television news, which is where to our considerable detriment most Americans get their political information, has stopped covering news altogether, preferring to cover itself  while the tiresome old sausage factory of actual government is relegated to C-Span II.  And “media critics” like Howard Kurtz obsess over David Letterman’s sexual escapades while those of David Vitter or John Ensign, which are just as interesting and actually have real-world consequences, are utterly ignored.

At the turning point in “To Die For,” one of Nicole Kidman’s victims has an epiphany about the craziness of Kidman’s character’s fanatical devotion to the idea that “everyone should be on TV.”  ”If everyone were on TV, who would be around to watch??

Who, indeed?

12 Comments

  1. Meremark says:

    It is the thing farthest from my understanding — Why do people NOT kill their television?
    As TV absolutely is killing them.

    TeeVee destroys so much, not the least of which is democracy. One simple way to undo and probably eliminate corruption of elected politicians, and rebuild Congress, is this: Ban (paid) broadcast political ads. … let politicians advertise and campaign in print media — after all, reading and writing legislation is the job description.

    Just as we Ban broadcast cigarette ads. And tobacco sellers use print media.

    Ban broadcast political campaigning for the same reasons (as the tobacco ban):
    - broadcast political ads harms public health (mental illness rages)
    - broadcast political advertising is highly addictive, demanding bigger and bigger doses to ‘get off’

    ‘Campaign finance reform’ must address campaign spending now, after all these years in half-measure regulating campaign income. When candidates cannot spend campaign money to buy broadcast airtime, then they need not collect so much of a ‘war chest.’ Actually, it almost ceases to matter how much money candidates collect or where they get it, if they can’t spend it.

    We all have opinions about TeeVee. Most of mine are here, the last week of April, TV Turnoff Week. My lucrative working years in television production raised me to agree with Aesop or Socrates or whoever said familiarity breeds contempt.

    We 60somethings are the last generation who remember life before TV. The ‘kids’ should listen to what it was like, firsthand, while the opportunity is available.

    • cocktailhag says:

      I’ve often thought the same thing. Britain has such restrictions, though, and it didn’t stop Tony Blair. Clearly, the media is deeply invested in fact-free sideshows passing as elections, and we get what we get, but it’s immeasurably worse today now that media consolidation has made voices so few. Now, all you have to do is convince 3 idiots of something and it becomes true, and fortuitously, all three of them are gazillionaires, so it’s even easier, if you’re a Republican.

  2. Karen M says:

    I almost never watch TV any more, and it was due to a technological “advancement.” The digital age killed TV at our house. We bought the converter boxes and reception, which was already troublesome, only became worse. And the PBS station was the worst. That was enough for me.

    Back to the post… I’ve only read the first paragraph so far, Hag, and I just had to say how great that paragraph is. Now, I’ll go and read the rest…

  3. Karen M says:

    If everyone were on TV, who would be around to watch?

    They’d all be watching each other while being on TV, on all of those multi-screens you see on TV in directors’ and producers’ spaces.

    Just so many mirrors… that’s all it would be. Lots of mirrors talking to each other.

  4. rmp says:

    Some important insights buried in your outstanding writing.

    Like all other mass communication media, TV is undergoing a revolution due to the Internet. Before the Internet, a small group of people controlled what and when and who would be disseminated. Now through YouTube, millions can see something within days. A political screw-up can gain instant notoriety and consequences. A small team on a tight budget can produce a significant documentary like Rethinking Afghanistan.

    The Bobbleheads are losing their power despite what you see with Beck or Limbaugh. They are succeeding because they are cult leaders and their influence has a half life.

    The biggest change is the ability to examine all aspects of any political challenge so that propaganda and lies have less and less power. We are seeing the slow and sometimes agonizing rise in people power from exposing the corporate communists and corrupt congress.

    TV as we know it now is evolving into individual choice that also limits the power. Before the Internet, the M$M was a filter and chokepoint. No longer.

    • cocktailhag says:

      That’s what’s so infuriating… even as they get less influential, they get more self-obsessed. Next time I see the Doctor I’ll ask him what the psychological term is for this, because I’m sure there is one. But it’s annoying, nonetheless, to watch the ostentatious rearranging of deck chairs on the MSM sinking ship.

  5. 1) The less there is at stake, the more vicious the struggle over it.

    2) If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

    3) The medium is still the message, television is still a cool medium, and the metadata, even if we don’t perceive it directly, and even on Glenn Beck’s show, is still more powerful than the ostensible performance.

    4) Something I just put up as a comment on OpenLeft:

    Corruption this spectacular — and this bald-faced — begins to resemble that of the old Soviet Union. Different levers, pressed by different people, and different fulcrums, certainly, but as unmistakeable as a dozen overweight septuagenarians in ushankas scowling down on us from the top of Lenin’s tomb.

    It can’t be long now before our own wall comes down. And then what, I wonder — free-lance gangsterism replaces the corporate kind? If you think that President Obama is far too svelte and sexy to let that happen to us, please remember that in his day, Gorbachev was also considered sexy (although certainly not svelte.)

    5) There, I’ve quoted myself as well as Herb Stein and Marshall McLuhan. Am I ready for the hairdstylist, and a little something to cut down on the shine?

  6. mikeinportc says:

    Before they report the “news”, they have to find it. They (mostly)don’t even do that anymore. Stenography (as per Colbert) & pundit watching area lot easier than the actual work of journalism. I already had a low opinion of them in that regard, but the second Jeremiah Wright go-round sealed it for me.
    The criticism seemed a bit vague, so I watched the Moyers interview, the NPC session, and read the transcripts. Nothing! Couldn’t find what they were all yammering on about. A couple days later, I ran across the NAACP appearance. That’s where Wright ventured into crazy uncle territory ( & all of attributed to the other two appearances by the talking heads) . Apparently the overwhelming majority of the punditocracy didn’t even do what I did, and see it for themselves, even though they get paid 6-8 figures to (ostensibly) do that sort of thing . [& I get nothing :( ] Maybe when their core audience gets too old (dies or can’t remember how to work the remote ;) they’ll be over?

    It can’t be long now before our own wall comes down. And then what, I wonder — free-lance gangsterism replaces the corporate kind?

    Most of the big-time thieves are multinationals now. I expect that after they’ve bled us dry, they’ll move on to concentrate on China, India, and wherever else is more lucrative. ( See the seed mafia attempt to buy the Indian Parliament, for ex.)