By every indication, the American mainstream press, and more specifically and spectacularly guilty, CNN and the broadcast network Sunday shows believe the American politics they are covering are a very serious endeavor indeed. I beg to differ.
One question that troubles my sleep, and may trouble yours, is if there is any disqualifying quantity or quality of inanity that can disentitle a given politician, or let’s say, political party from being covered with utter credulity and a stubbornly straight face meant to convey the proceedings are indeed august?
Each day, from state and federally elected Republican politicians all across our fair land of spacious skies and waving grain statements are routinely made that would qualify by the strictest definition as raving. Did I mention these are state and federal elected officials: governors, congressional Representatives, Senators, and state legislators? The question is: What coefficient of power and intellectual confusion or dogma-driven incompetence can earn disqualifying censure from the preponderance of our chin-stroking press?
John McCain, who many in the press inexplicably have come to believe was the victor in the 2008 presidential election, now serving in his second term as Commander-Chief, said yesterday about Iraq, “It’s a colossal failure of American security policy.”
It certainly is, Jack. While McCain’s intent was to skewer Obama for chaos in Iraq, it was of course chaos unleashed by one of the grand sloppyfucks in the history of American foreign policy: the invasion and occupation of Iraq, carried out under the auspices of hubristic, dissimulating screw-ups George Bush and Richard Cheney, with prolific amens from the likes of John McCain.
Yet McCain’s statement in fact could have been describing every one of his foreign policy recommendations of the previous six years. Has it occurred to the oh so serious press about this oh so serious exhibitionist and his fellow public speaking fetishist, Lindsey Graham, that America simultaneously would be fighting if not occupying: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and even Syria were this speechifying bohunk and his dainty sidekick running things?
It’s a colossal failure of the practice of journalism that these serial propounders of the unwise and others regularly speaking at even more distant loose ends from something approaching intellectual seriousness (the DMS-5 gamut from Ted Cruz and Steve King and Sam Brownback to Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Darrell Issa and (insert name of any given Republican politician here) continue to be accorded a respectful hearing, their words entitled to good faith reception in the face of recidivist bad faith cynicism and counterfeited civic currency.
I’m guessing many well-informed and clear-thinking Americans long ago reached the conclusion that if the press didn’t take every idiotic thing said by Republicans at face value the country may not be, shall we say, fucked up beyond all recognition.
One can reasonably speculate members of the Fourth Estate would offer the conspicuously complacent defense that one’s positions of power or civic status automatically entitle one to respectful coverage and the appearance of credibility. I think not. In fact, I vigorously think not.
Can some visionary iconoclast respected throughout the Meet the Press-Charlie Rose Axis of Important Gray Suits introduce the idea to journalism schools, that budding Pulitzer and Peabody aspirants be taught that they shall always retain the sacred obligation to ridicule any and all inanities coming out of the mouths of proven asshats, no matter how grateful their show-bookers may be for their appearance? I say this with unflinching seriousness: Is there any doubt this is what Edward R. Murrow would do?
Were, say John Boehner, to rush in front of a microphone to say something such as this: “It’s not like we haven’t seen over the last five or six months these terrorists moving in, taking control of Western Iraq. Now they’ve taken control of Mosul. They’re 100 miles from Baghdad. And what’s the president doing? Taking a nap!” Surely there should be an expectation well-educated, comfortably paid anchors who present these clips possess the capability of finding efficacious language for the serious journalism seal of approval version of the necessary qualification, “Well, it’s only John Boehner. His history of transparently insincere hackery is well known.”
Or, shall we say, someone, the governor of Texas for instance, pronounces an objectively incompetent statement such as this: “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that – and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” Is there a responsible presentation of this remark that does not educate the viewer thusly, “The speaker has a lengthy resume of clownish observations on the issues of our time, and should be taken with a microscopic grain of salt. Statements of such clear intellectual vacancy as this, it is recommended, be washed from the mind with electro-shock therapy.”
Or, has the “appearance of balance” press now adopted the philosophical position that all of reality indeed is simply subjective, each his own protagonist in his very own novelistic expression of modernism?
What if someone, a United States senator in fact, with the name, Marco Rubio, let’s say, contradicted 97% of climate specialists with the irresponsible assertion: “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” going on to claim measures intended to reduce carbon emissions would fail to mitigate the damage done and “destroy our economy”?
Can we count upon any of our self-celebrated avatars of our sacred and unique First Amendment to pronounce words such as these scientifically dead on arrival, and furthermore, to provide the responsible context that, “Comments such as this are insufferably ignorant, risk great damage done to human health and the economic future of us all through their dissemination and action or inaction likely to follow. Their author is a suspected buffoon, retaining membership in the political party whose representatives on a regular basis make statements classified as certifiable by four out of five psychiatric experts consulted.”
And it should be a matter of journalistic principle: Any statement originating in the throat of Ted Cruz shall carry the prominently featured screen disclaimer appropriately borrowed from pinball: Tilt!”
Perhaps I’m simply describing The Daily Show or The Colbert Report or Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. Possibly it should alarm us that we have exceeded the point by comparison, where current newscasts presented by satirists or by comedians are the coverage of current events with useful journalistic integrity, genuine informative value and something approaching gravitas.
And the real comedy flows from the lips of our manifestly grotesque, extremist political party and coverage of it by the (gulp) objective press.