Cable News is a Vast Wasteland

I bet this guy loves Breaking Bad.

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your own television set when your station goes on the air and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

– Newton N. Minow, former Federal Communications Commission chairman, 1961.

Here’s a video that’s sure to give you a brain aneurism.

If you follow the link, you’ll see an 8-minute video of MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell interviewing Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) about the shutdown standoff (now in its 9th day). The interview centers around President Obama’s unwillingness to negotiate with terrorists during a shutdown and Congressional Republicans’ unwillingness to just cut it the fuck out already. Duffy even name-checks Jon Stewart and the interview he did with Kathleen Sibelius earlier this week on the faulty Obamacare exchange websites. (NB: if you haven’t seen the Stewart segment, go watch it now. It’s on par with his 2006 “You’re Hurting America” Crossfire segment that launched him into his role as the cynical political voice of Generation X).

The first thing that made me want to Ron Swanson my computer was this statement by Mitchell: “[The Obama Administration] will negotiate once the threat of the government shutdown and of the debt default is not hanging over their heads.” This is equivalent to saying “He will negotiate as soon as you give up all your leverage,” which in street parlance translates to giving your opponent the finger.

The president’s negotiation strategy.

Q: What you get when you try to negotiate with no leverage?
A: “We had to pass it to find out what’s in it,” and “reconciliation.”

You can despise the Republicans for seizing America’s credit rating as leverage. You can surely argue, and I wouldn’t disagree, that the GOP is being unreasonable and obnoxious. And certainly, Anderson Cooper is right when he says journalism involves doing contentious interviews. But what you cannot do, as an “objective, unbiased” member of the Fourth damn Estate, is uncritically repeat President Obama’s position as though it were 100% fair and reasonable, while treating the other guy like he’s a piece of shit for calling you on your idiocy/hypocrisy (they’re not mutually exclusive). I’m not saying Andrea Mitchell is a tool, because I haven’t seen anything from her decades of work outside of this, but I’m certainly not not saying it, either.

Moreover, if you consider a sprawling, 2000-page, industry-drafted and economy-shaking “signature-of-presidency” law passed unilaterally by one party to be off-limits in negotiations, even though the country is very split on the issue, then I just have to ask: Where’d you get your political journalism credentials? Is it easy? Can just anyone do it? Are MSNBC producers really OK with this level of work? Can I be a cable news anchor? (Before you accuse me of unfairly picking on the Blue network, let me assure you that I find it only slightly more tolerable than Fox News and Real Time With Bill Maher.)

Now, yes, of course this is MSNBC. That segment was intended to be seen by millions of left-slanted news junkies, the type of viewer that loves seeing a woman who’s aged well out of the media’s beauty mandate “schooling” some smarmy white guy from flyover country. If this were part of a larger GOP media strategy—sending the guy from The Real World onto liberal cable news and have him drop Jon Stewart’s name while insulting the anchor—I’d have to tip my hat to them. Dems won’t go anywhere near Fox News, and the GOP is going to get skewered by the center-left media anyway. They may as well send somebody across enemy lines to get a few potshots in and give the guys at The Blaze something to write about. Duffy even pushed this out from his own Youtube channel. Why the hell not, right?

Also, (cue Lebowski meme): Am I the only one around here who’s amused by the fact that the party of Trickle Down and Supply-Side economics is now asking “why are individuals fined and businesses exempt?” Viva Libertarian Populism, apparently.