Thursday, January 19, 2012

South Caroline Debates: Should Americans Worry? Is the Pope a Catholic?

Let's start with this statement: The PBS Newshour needs to go. It's useless. It's boring. Want to go to sleep? Read your home insurance's fine print, ask something from the staff at any Rite Aid, or watch the News Hour.

Tonight, the first couple of segments dealt with the Republican presidential nomination movie-in-waiting. Fair enough. However, it led with an interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, the various barbs others had hurled at him, the efficacy of his candidacy and how it might play in tonight's debate. Included in the pabulum questioning was a reference to Newt #2spouse's revelations on his moral character.

Umm, problems, here? The fucking debate was already over. Finis. All the other networks were racing to do their postmortems. The Newshour anchor was asking--and speculating with reporters--about possibilities that had already occurred. It was like asking the people whip are putting away the sandbags about the week-old weather report. Man, hit the frickin' snooze bar. Fast forward not available.

NPR, by contrast, has gotten it right. Breaking news breaks. Public television? Still Mad Men, top-down reporting. It has what may be the most competent journalists around, but what does that fact matter when they behave as reverse neutrinos and speculate about stuff that already happened?

Which is a segue to bitch #2, which is rapidly becoming a major bitch. To wit: Why do television "journalists" let political candidates get away with answering the question they want to ask instead of the one that was actually asked? And the corollary--why don't they challenge outrageously false answers?

Tonight, CNN political reporter John King led off with perfectly reasonable question to Gingrich about the latter's second wife and her allegation that he'd asked her for an "open marriage--"i.e., permission to keep a mistress and stay married even as he had returned from delivering a speech on family values.

Gingrich responded with outrage over the news media even asking the question. He was "appalled" that King would even begin the debate with such a question, calling it "despicable." Wild cheers from the crown, clapping, huzzahs. John King demurring.  Gingrich fulminating. John King totally, shamefully wimping out, backtracking, out of there so fast you could play cards on his coattails. Worse, the repartee from the other candidates was a round of media bashing.

CNN, excuse me? Was it a fair question or not, and what about, umm, l-e-g-i-t-i-m-a-c-y? Authenticity? Do you now have a clue why so many Americans think the media is full of shit?

Factual misstatements go unchallenged. Obama wants to establish a "European-style" government. Oh, really? The Obama administration has generated more food stamp recipients than any other? Oh? Um, what about Politifact and others who found this and other claims totally specious? And Obama is "balancing the budget on the backs of veterans? Excuse me, what J-school did you go to, and what did they tell you, there?

Jesus. Get your money back and go do something else.

And lest my legions of wild supporting fans think this diatribe applies only to questions for the Right: Not. Mainstream journalists (CNN and their ilk) let the Left get away with it as well.

So, who cares? Me, and I hope everyone. After listening to the South Carolina debate tonight, Voltaire's remark looms so true: "Those who can get you to believe absurdities can get you to commit atrocities."

Watching "Cabaret" and or reading The Diary of Anne Frank or watching "Schindler's List," I recall wondering how the German people could have even elected Hitler. He did win, history forgets to remind us, in a legitimate fair and free election among an educated, but financially distressed, population.

I never did understand why it happened. I do now.


P.S.  GenX and Millenials: we've had two Boomer presidents in Clinton and Bush II. Please vote in droves and not let another one get elected. The country needs to deal with 21st Century issues. The '60s ended almost 50 years ago.