Politics in the Era of the Teevee

Matt Taibbi on politics in the era of television:

The thing that people should be concerned about isn’t that the news networks are choosing to cover politics like a football game. It’s the idea that both televised football games and televised politics might represent some idealized form of commercial television drama that both sports and politics evolved in the direction of organically, under the constant financial pressure brought to bear by TV advertisers. Both politics and sports turned into this shit because this format happens to sell the most Cheerios, regardless of what the content is. If you work backward from that premise, and start thinking about what the consequences of that phenomenon might actually be, your head can easily explode.

Taibbi then discusses those consequences:

It’s not a coincidence that the early White House hopefuls were all herded on the air the instant the polls closed. Once the last vote is counted, the next story is the next race. All politics has to be contained within the parameters of that who’s-winning narrative.
What the Congress actually does, how it actually spends its money, what happens in its committees — it’s all irrelevant, except insofar as that activity bears on the next presidential race. That’s why the “experts” on these panels are so unanimous in their belief that the Democrats should lay low for the next two years and not push their subpoena powers. They all think pushing it in Congress would negatively affect the Democrats’ White House chances. In other words, it’s bad strategy for the next football game, just like Howard Dean’s crazy antiwar stance was deemed “too liberal” for the gridiron by the same geniuses a few years ago — even though history ultimately proved Dean right on that score, for all his other flaws.
Our national political press is narrowly focused, schooled in inch-deep analysis, and completely results-obsessed. It’s a huge and expensive mechanism bedecked with every conceivable bell and whistle (did anyone else catch the giant cyber-globe display frantically spinning behind Anderson Cooper’s head? I thought I was going to have an aneurysm) and designed to roam the intellectual range of a chimpanzee. It also has no sense of humor. When the Daily Show spoofed the networks with its “Midterm Midtacular,” dragging the venerable Dan Rather out and coaxing a scripted piece of instant “homespun” analysis out of him (he said Hillary Clinton ran away with her race like “a hobo with a sweet potato pie”), the real journalists freaked out. Joe Scarborough led a panel of experts who denounced the show as not that funny; one guest compared Rather’s bit to Muhammad Ali’s crudely scripted appearances on Diff’rent Strokes, saying it was “awkward.”
The reality is that Stewart’s array of grotesquely pointless special effects and intentionally buffoonish commentary is an improvement on the real thing, and the real thing is an accurate reflection of our actual politics. Which means, basically, that we’re fucked, stuck in an endless cycle of retarded lottery coverage — 300 million people watching a bunch of half-bright millionaires in ties guess the next number to come out of the chute. I hope we’re all insane. Otherwise, what’s our excuse?

Now can we impeach the media?

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2 Responses to Politics in the Era of the Teevee

  1. Garrett says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Your country is fucked.

  2. Joshua says:

    Just wait, friend. We’ve been exporting this crap for decades. You won’t be able to avoid it much longer.

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