Tag Archives: MSNBC

Idiots unite. Your war has arrived. Please step this way.

I know, it’s Casual Friday, and so we should be approaching the news with whatever the opposite of a no-nonsense approach is. A nonsense one probably.

But I had to let you read this.

It’s an article by Howard Kurtz from the Washington Post about the ongoing O'Reillyblistering feud between Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC’s OlbermannKeith Olbermann and how their respective bosses, in trying to settle it, somehow only seemed to fan the flames even higher.

There’s a reason I’m featuring this. 

A couple of days ago, TV cameras captured a special moment at a town hall meeting, one of those contrived toxic rallies being organized by Republican fundamentalists to try to throw Obama’s healthcare legislation under a gigantic PR bus.

A woman was shown standing at the back of the hall yelling. Plain, insignificant woman, a face in the crowd. And not even a particularly attractive face at that. But she was really irate. Boy, was she pissed. The healthcare debate had her so riled up that she was close to tears, holding a little homemade sign and bleating, “I don’t recognize my America any more. I want my America back!”

It was a touching moment. And also the height of idiocy when you think about it.

What she was essentially saying was that the incoming tide of universal healthcare that, in whatever form it takes, will at the very least give millions of poorer Americans, possibly including herself, access finally to doctors and decent medical treatment in an emergency, so that they don’t receive astronomical healthcare bills at the end that they can’t pay, forcing them to go bankrupt and lose their homes, a situation which happens countless times in “her America” under the current greedy-corporate-run system….that this policy, modeled on other up-and-working healthcare systems around the world, was threatening to ruin the country she loved so much.

How ludicrous. Where on earth did she get such a ridiculous idea?

Hang on, let me guess – Fox News?

Wouldn’t surprise me. Fox abuses the word “news” daily by offering up misinformation, anti-government propaganda, and needless fiery rhetoric that in extreme cases cynically fuels a warlike aggression among its viewers, promoting division and unrest and right-wing hatred, making enemies out of decent people, and doing so for the tackiest of reasons: to bolster up its ratings and keep the ad money flowing in, quite regardless of the harm they may be doing. (Profits up over 200% in the last year. That’s success, right?) 

This approach – which the guys on-screen would deny vehemently, hands held up Fox Newsin horror – is pretty transparent and, I would contend, actually rather harmless when viewed by intelligent people who can tell when they’re being duped or manipulated. But alas not all Fox News viewers (or, to be fair, MSNBC viewers for that matter) are all that bright. Not bright enough at least to know when they’re being had for profit. 

Quite the opposite. The brand of inflammatory bias that Fox and others peddle nightly can, as we’re seeing, foster unrest on a grand scale when it enters the minds of grassroots stupid people, people who believe everything they read and everything they see on TV, and who don’t have the mental wherewithall to discern between the circus chimp antics of Glenn Beck, for instance, and actual facts and sane arguments dispensed by a reasonable journalist.  

The ongoing war at corporate level between Fox News and MSNBC has therefore, I think, to be viewed in that context. What we’re seeing are extremists fighting for territory – the fertile minds of the stupid and the gullible – their snipers firing off random rounds into the night in the hope of wounding the opposition and scoring points. It’s a sport to them, fair game. They’re kids, grown up now, but still waging schoolyard wars, still trying to bully one another. Yet it’s anything but a sport to their viewers, who lean towards believing everything they’re told, especially when it comes from a man in an Armani suit.

Actually, I want to go back for a second and retract something.

I was wrong to suggest that the woman at the town hall meeting was an idiot. If she’s guilty of anything at all it’s of trusting her sources. Trusting without question her imperial masters in the media, believing that they would never mislead her, or say something that wasn’t true, or inspire her to act in a way that was counter to democracy. 

In fact, in many ways she’s right, her America is disappearing, buried slowly beneath the greater and greater scrambling of corporations for excessive profit. Unfortunately, that’s not going to stop. The system appears to be so corrupt now, due mainly to the apathy of the American people who let the Bush Administration loosen regulations for years, awarding massive-and-growing paydays to their big business buddies, and did nothing to correct it, that I doubt it can ever be reversed.

One fact all parties of all political stripes can probably agree on at this point: the America that woman remembers ain’t never coming back.

Here’s Howard Kurtz’s article.   

“It was never intended to be a cease-fire.

The best that the men who run two of the nation’s media giants were hoping to achieve was a ratcheting down of the rhetoric between their warring commentators.

But Keith Olbermann refused to play along this week, Bill O’Reilly returned fire, and the New York Times got wounded in the crossfire.

The peace talks with Fox sparked a fierce battle within MSNBC, where a faction led by Olbermann argued that the network’s journalistic integrity was at stake — and that any leak of a nonaggression pact with Fox could damage NBC’s reputation for independence.

Things had looked very different in April. When Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes left the private dining room of Jeffrey Immelt, the General Electric chief executive whose company includes NBC, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, they thought they had a firm deal. But as in any high school grudge match, neither brawler wanted to back down.

For viewers, the constant attacks have been a grand spectator sport, but their bruising nature has at times been painful to watch. Olbermann started the assault on “Bill-O” five years ago as a way of boosting his fortunes against “The O’Reilly Factor,” which roughly triples his ratings; O’Reilly refuses to mention the “Countdown” host by name, instead training his ammo on MSNBC, NBC and Immelt.

The Washington Post reported last year that a series of back-channel discussions involving….”

Read the rest of the article HERE  


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Ask your doctor if Purobutimansoprol Soothing Nighttime Formula, Cherry Flavor is right for you.

Recently, I admitted that, beyond a cursory glance here and there to keep up with the overall direction of everything, I don’t follow the news any more. I guess people were surprised to hear this. Things were said. Remarks made.

I, in turn, not surprisingly perhaps, was surprised by their surprise. Because why would I watch the news? Give me one convincing reason.

Ever since it ceased to be about facts and keeping the general public informed and became more about opinion, money, and ratings, the news, I would advocate, is actually not news at all, but a bunch of eye-catching trivialities dressed up as substance to distract you from what’s really going on. Here’s why.

But first: a word from our sponsor: Veridian Dynamics.

Anyway, back to the news thing.

For a start, TV companies are beholden entirely to their sponsors. When was the last time The Today Show, for instance, or the CBS Evening News or even one of the cable news shows did a scathing expose of the pharmaceutical industry and the damaging side-effects of all the dangerous drugs they sell? I’m feeling bold this morning, so I would venture to say NEVER. 


Oh, come on! You know why. Because the drugs companies have bought up every ad break they can get their hands on to advertise their evil products.

Haven’t you noticed? 90% of the ads on the morning shows end with the words, “Ask your doctor if Purobutimansoprol Soothing Nighttime Formula, Cherry Flavor is right for you,” or somesuch gibberish, followed by a blizzard of possible side-effects, read very fast, that must have been written on a roll of toilet paper, it goes on for so long – everything from dry mouth to renal distress to heart failure. Side-effects that viewers by the million seem happy to ignore. 

No network would ever dare risk offending one of its major sponsors. If they did, the sponsors would pull their ads and, with them, millions of dollars in revenue, and it’s all about money. So, as always, big pharma gets a free pass, with the result that:

  • the whole nation is hooked on drugs;
  • people are growing steadily sicker;
  • reporters who should be investigating this topic aren’t being allowed to; and
  • the culprits escape without a trace of blame.

By the way, our sponsor and mighty overlord Veridian Dynamics issued a great commercial recently.

The question is: if this blind-eye bias from the news shows is happening with the pharmaceutical industry, what other areas are not being discussed or looked into because scoundrels or criminals are buying up ad time?

I’m no doomist, but I’m beginnining to think we’re truly screwed. As individuals, we’re growing smaller and more insignificant every day. In the broader picture, our private concerns matter less to Washington than they ever did; our needs are considered irrelevant to anything the government is doing, or Wall Street, or the banks, or big corporations.

The GOP, for instance, has switched its focus entirely these days from advancing policies that might excite voters or working for a stronger America, to being the Party of No: working to undermine, attack, deride, and thwart the current administration in all its plans, while at the same time ardently fighting to protect the rights and profits of a battalion of powerful special interest groups and other lobbyists from whom they earn millions of persuasion-dollars each year. Why aren’t the news shows all over that?

Everywhere you look, the prime motivator now is simply money, success, having more, owning more, beating the other guy past the post. It’s not capitalism any longer, it’s naked greed unapologetically pursued, and it’s unhealthy. 

As is often said by Veridian Dynamics….

So when I catch a TV news broadcast, on whatever network, I don’t feel I’m watching a vehicle for the delivery of truth. All I see is a glossy product filled with color and graphics but short on facts. Carefully manufactured, heavily censored and crafted so as not to test, probe too deeply, or offend. A flash of bright lights dominated by the swiftness of the news cycle and, like a small, eager child, prone to being sidetracked or mesmerized by every fleeting, sensational bauble, no matter how insignificant or bogus. 

So why would I want to watch that?

Why would I want to watch Fox News, and see that prime ass and needless irritant Glenn Beck trying to keep the spotlight on him no matter what it takes? By accusing Obama of being a racist, for instance.

Why would I want to hear that MSNBC‘s David Shuster had a meltdown after shusterthe camera accidentally caught his bald spot, when in fact this story was entirely made up by a gossip columnist in one of Rupert Murdoch’s rags? Murdoch owns Fox, Fox hates MSNBC, so Murdoch’s other “news” arms feel entitled to undercut MSNBC wherever it can.

Why would I want to watch Lou Dobbs ignoring all the facts and continuing to push the fiction that President Obama wasn’t born in America? On CNN???

No, no, no, no, no.

There’s too much airtime to fill. Too many people trying to fill it. Too much irresponsible, immature, irrelevant crap they’re trying to fill it with. And it’s all done, not to keep us informed, but to line their own pockets.

That’s why I don’t watch news. And someday I’ll thank myself for it.

TV Swami – he say NO to news for the second time in a week.


Veridian Dynamics.

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Those pesky women of color. What next – equality?

It’s Casual Friday here on the Swami. To celebrate, I’m writing this naked. Go feast on that!

My head’s still spinning from last night’s historic on-screen bust-up between BuchananRachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, over Sotomayor’s about-to-happen appointment to the Supreme Court bench, which Buchanan thinks is a disgrace. A disgrace, I tell you.

Why? Well, because Sotomayor’s not a white man, for a start, and only white men are fit to decide what’s right and wrong in this country, everyone knows that. And how do we know? Because, of 110 Supreme Court justices so far, 108 have been white men, a fact Buchanan is proud of and wants to keep that way, thank you very much.

Which is why he’s angry. Angry at the Obama Administration for:

  •  refusing to stand by historical precedent, a precedent of active discrimination against pesky women, especially pesky women of color;
  • for breaking up a revered Old Boys’ Club; and, worst of all:
  • for promoting Sonia Sotomayor, a Latina with more experience on the bench than any previous appointee, male or female, to the highest judicial position in the land.  I mean, good grief, what were they thinking?

“White men were 100% of the people that wrote the Constitution,” Buchanan bleated in his bizarrely high-pitched drone, “100% of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100% of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and probably close to 100% of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built basically by white folks, who were 90% of the nation in 1960 when I was growing up and the other 10% were African-Americans who had been discriminated against. That’s why.”

He is further outraged because he sees Sotomayor’s appointment as unashamedly shoe-horning diversity into an institution that didn’t need it, simply to have her there. It’s affirmative action in action. Mixing things up just for the sake of it. An abomination.

Well, needless to say, Maddow came the closest I have ever seen her to combusting on screen, which is why it’s riveting television.

The video is HERE, so you can watch it for yourself. 

Obviously, Buchanan’s point of view is archaic, creaky, and embarrassing. Although it’s laudable, I think, that he had the nerve to speak the unspeakable.

In Britain, he’d have been branded an insane, racist hack and given very little air-time to make his point. Here in America, however, even those with fringe, incendiary, or lunatic viewpoints are allowed to grandstand for a little while, provided it keeps the ratings bubbling along nicely. And the Maddow-Buchanan argument certainly did that, I’m sure.

What’s interesting to me, though, is that there were times when I found myself siding with Buchanan, something even I find hard to believe, since I disagree with him on almost everything. Generally speaking, the second he opens his mouth on any topic he offends me.

Nevertheless, last night I could see his point.  Just a little.

A policy of levering people of different races into various positions simply on the basis of the color of their skin is as wrong and indefensible as excluding them for the same reason. People should rise to the top on merit, and be afforded the opportunity to do so, because they’re the best at what they do, not allowed to kangaroo hop over everyone else for reasons of variety, or, conversely, dragged down and pushed out of sight because they’d spoil the status quo.  

I left Britain twelve years ago, just as Tony Blair was getting his feet under the desk at 10, Downing Street. Other than very briefly, I have not been back since, so all I know about the place is what others tell me.

But what others tell me isn’t good. Not at all.  

Every one of my friends wishes they could leave too. They cite Blair’s policy of affirmative action and the European policy of zero border controls as the reason. As a result, apparently, Britain is now flooded with immigrants from all over the world. A tiny country is drowning in a sea of foreigners who have brought not merely diversity – which in these enlightened times was the plan: cosmopolitan is best; even an island can’t stay insular forever – but a debasing of the very society the immigrants sought to join. 

In the process of allowing almost anyone to settle within its shores, the UK lost its identity, or so goes the argument. Britain isn’t Britain any more.

Instead of integrating, learning the culture, and accepting standards, principles, and traditions built up over a rich history dating back dozens of centuries – the very elements that made Britain Britain – the immigrants stuck with their own. They brought their culture and traditions with them and set up camp, making their own little world within the British world, living as part of but separate.

I hear this time and time again. “Britain isn’t Britain any more.” And the British – what would be in Pat Buchanan’s terms the real British – feel they’ve lost control of their destiny, that it’s been hijacked.   

Next year I’ll be returning for the first time in a decade, when Naked in Dangerous Places is published there, so I guess I’ll find out for myself how much of this is true, or if my friends are hysterically exaggerating, which quite honestly is not beyond them.

All the same, it was against that backdrop that I watched the Maddow-Buchanan slap-down last night and was able, at least in theory, to see where Buchanan was coming from. To him, the heresy that is affirmative action meant overturning a noble institution that had functioned perfectly well all these years without being updated, destablizing it with random diversity. A dangerous policy.

As long as white males are in charge, he believes, the country will be stable, sturdy, solid, and….well, America. But give too much leeway to minorities, let them subvert the old ways, and America won’t be America any more.

Broadly speaking, that’s goofy nonsense, and Maddow was right to shoot it out of the skies.

Having said that, though….I get it. I know what he means. 

Or, rather, I empathize with his fear. He doesn’t want to see happen to the great US of A what has allegedly happened to Great Britain. He doesn’t want, in other words, America to lose its greatness or its identity on the road to doing the right thing and seeming progressive and open. Because, as we all know, some of the biggest mistakes have been made with the best intentions.



Read Cash’s new book: Naked in Dangerous Places.

Watch Cash’s little movie, Fast and Very Loose.


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Bigotry Lite

I know, before you say it – Carrie Prejean is a stupid, vacuous, delusional young woman. I was going to say bitch, but Perez Hilton beat me to it.

More than that:  a stupid, delusional, vacuous young woman whose show of outrage and cynical tears at a press conference yesterday was so preposterous that it made David Shuster on MSNBC want to vomit, and he said so.

Prejean has been brainwashed by the upbringing she keeps mentioning (and actually, with no trace of irony, seems quite proud of) into believing that God and the Devil are fighting inside her head. Inside her head, though. That’s what she told Focus on the Family’s religious nutjob leader Frank Dobson on his radio show, and she honestly believes it. God and the Devil chose the head of a glamorous, over-preened dimwit as their battle-ground to wage this particular stage of their eternal struggle.

And while they’re duking it out, fighting for supremacy – Satan’s using hateful gay people like Perez Hilton to get his message out there; God’s using Carrie herself –  God and the Devil are telling her things. Things only Carrie can hear, of course, but which she’s happy to interpret and relay to the rest of us who have the misfortune of not being completely bonkers.

God, for instance, is saying things like, “You – you of all people, Carrie – on April 19th, the day of the Miss USA Pageant, were chosen to be a role model for discrimination and division, and you need to get out there right now, little lady, and use your title as Miss California to spread as much unrest and  misinformation as you can and let the world know that “opposite marriage” is Satan’s work.”

Or something like that. I was too busy laughing to catch every word.

And to help her along, God got Sarah Palin to rush in and endorse Prejean’s brand of Bigotry Lite, as well as inspiring thousands of equally narrow-minded dimwits around the country to send her emails of comfort and support, convincing her she’d done the right thing.

And I have no doubt that, if this were the late 1800s, they’d be writing in to support her decision to back slavery as well.  

That’s why I believe that yesterday’s announcement by Donald Trump, the guy who owns the pageant, to let this twit keep her crown, despite a bunch of tits-and-ass-related lies and deceptions and rule-breaking that TMZ.com and others are claiming went into winning it, is a PR masterstroke.

Trump truly is a genius. I’ve never admitted that before. But after he managed to bring the tired old Apprentice franchise back from the dead and turn it into a smash hit again, and now this – well, I take my hat off to him. And I don’t even own a hat. So you can tell how much I admire the guy.

He’s such a total shrewdie. 

Having seen, I assume, that Prejean was heading for trouble. That she was destined to be a victim of her own dumb mouth and a national hate-figure. And possibly suspecting that her pre-packaged, all-American, natural blonde beauty hid within it a dark core of fear, ignorance, and prejudice that would appeal to millions of similarly misinformed Christians across the country, he leapt at the chance of having her as a figurehead within his organization.

His reasoning in a nutshell: “Hey, she’s cute. It’s the 21st Century. These things happen. Get over it.”

But that’s not, I believe. the real reason.

Why did he really bend over backwards to keep her in the game?

Because, like Sarah Palin, everywhere this girl goes from now on she’s going to be dogged by controversy. And any kind of controversy, as we know, is excellent for business. Donald’s business.

Starting yesterday, Prejean became an even bigger target. At every public appearance, she’ll no doubt be cheered by a few similar dimwits who share her views, while being jeered and despised for her ignorance by everyone else. David Shuster isn’t the only one who feels like vomiting when he hears this woman speak. Hell, I’ve never been an activist, but even I would turn up to an event to heckle Miss California.

Possibly foreseeing how this despicable drama might scotch the reputation of what has been, up to now, a fairly clean competition, Shanna Moakler, the pageant director, today resigned her post and walked off the stage. Good for her. At least someone has principles we can believe in. 

But the best thing of all – at least potentially – and here’s where Donald Trump really has himself a coup – maybe – is that the issue of gay marriage is currently rolling through the California Supreme Court. By June 3rd, we’ll know whether the judges have decided to overturn the cataclysmic Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage, pro-hate move sponsored by the despicable Mormon Church, and allow equality for all.

Five states have already seen reason; California could be the next to go.

And if it does, we will witness the most deliciously ludicrous situation develop: one in which Miss California, prominent fool and vocal proponent of division and inequality, finds herself playing the representative of a state that completely undermines everything she stands for.

Oh dear almighty God – now she’s got me talking to him too – please, please, please make this happen, I beg of thee. 

To sum, up: the current state of play is this: Miss California has won the right to keep her crown, despite a whole bunch of tits-and-ass-related shenaningans. By June 3rd, gays in California may well win the legal right to get married finally. But…

The overall winner, whichever way the Supreme Court dice fall, is Donald Trump and his crummy Miss USA Pageant, another faded, forgotten hack tradition that he’s managed to turn around and make current and exciting all over again.

As I say, that man’s a genius.    

UPDATE: June 10th 2009. Carrie Prejean has finally been booted from her title of Miss California. 

This from the TMZ website:

Donald TrumpDonald Trump just told TMZ he gave the green light to fire “biblically correct” Carrie Prejean‘s award-winning butt because she just wouldn’t do the job and treated people badly.

Trump told us Carrie refused to appear at around 30 events on behalf of Miss California USA. He says Prejean was contractually bound to appear and she just wouldn’t do it. He doesn’t think her attitude has anything to do with her politics.

Trump said: “To me she was the sweetest thing. Everyone else — she treated like s**t.”


The Miss USA Pageant gets four magic carpets out of five. Carrie Prejean gets zero.

TV Swami – he say NO to bigotry.


There’s a great parody of Carrie’s ridiculous, two-faced speech on YouTube.

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Jackboot Journalism

Fox News’ ratings are up again this month.

Not just up, but through the roof. Something I reveal, not with any sense of delight, by the way. Quite the reverse: it’s out of utter despair.

That close to three and a half million Americans simply don’t have the confidence or the mental capacity to turn away from this monster and shun it; that they don’t grasp how much they’re being exploited and manipulated by a band of savvy, cynical bullies so very adept by this stage at triggering a Pavlovian response from the unthinking masses; and that they don’t have the wherewithal to see what the rest of us see: that the Republican Party is the ventriloqust, Fox News is the dummy, and anyone who watches it without laughing at the audacity of this sham, unfair, unbalanced “news” operation is an even bigger dummy – well, understandably, that’s a source of massive angst to me, as it is to anyone with an IQ in more than double digits. 

Whenever I happen to catch Bill O’Reilly smiling his lizard smile, spouting what to me is the opposite of the truth – “The spin stops here” being just one example – and selling his line of trinkets and books to the pinheads at home; or when I see the monstrously awful, posturing Glenn Beck going through his phony clown routine; or Sean Hannity, or any of the other celebrity puppets on there, for that matter, slanting the truth the way they do, cherry-picking their fights to favor and embolden the right, demonizing the good, ambushing interviewees in the street, verbally tarring and feathering their critics, pumping the acid of anxiety into people’s veins, dangling the carrots of neverending distress and danger and doom before a public either not bright enough or not switched on enough to see when they’re being had, it’s hard not to feel sad for America. Sad and alarmed, actually. 

That it all came to this, I hear friends lament. Centuries of struggle, riots, marches, intelligent discourse, caring, concerned people laying down their lives for freedom, generation after generation proudly standing on each other’s shoulders, striving to reach a higher standard, a bigger dream, a further star – and after all of that, this, Fox News, is what we ended up with.

If you doubt what I’m saying, try watching BBC News sometime. Its objectivity and lust for facts and honest information will blow your socks off.  

Take Fox‘s attempts this week to spark a volcano of unrest under the conservative base by enraging them into supporting those embarrassing tea-bagging rallies. 

It was a fairground attraction, of course, a bid for ratings. Waves of wrath were supposed to be unleashed. Ordinary dopes across the country were duped into braving the pouring rain in utter outrage at the Democrats’ plan to raise taxes, seemingly unaware in their blind eagerness to stand up and be counted that, since every last one of them was earning less than $250,000 a year, their taxes would actually be coming down. Oops.

A million tea-bags dumped in a Washington park – only, someone forgot to apply for a permit, so they couldn’t be. Oops.

Glenn Beck trying to start a revolution at the Alamo. It’s Glenn Beck – so it’s always an oops.

Neil Cavuto caught in an off-camera moment saying that the rally he was at had five thousand attendees, then going on TV immediately afterwards and telling his audience that there were three times that number standing behind him. Big oops.

Bah, humbug. Really.

Yet, all across America, tiny pockets of ignorati responded to the slow drum-beat of  Fox News’s formularized tubthumping by engaging in this newly invented ritual of tea-bagging.

Tea-bagging, tea-bagging, tea-bagging – it’s all we’ve heard for days.

Meanwhile their rivals CNN and MSNBC, as astonished as the rest of us that such an idiotic movement could have gained any traction at all, felt compelled to quit skulking in their respective corners and actually tell the truth.

They showed, with relish, the meager number of attendees at those rallies.

They ridiculed, albeit in sober ways, the very idea that anyone would fritter  even an ounce of energy or a valuable second of their life in these modern times trying to convince voters at the dimmer end of the spectrum in such states as Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska, that seceding from the Union is a viable idea.

They pointed out that whoever threw a box of tea bags onto the White House lawn was a moron, and should have seen that they would be viewed as a potential terrorist.

Above all, they took care to remind their audience, subtly of course, what tea-bagging actually is: a slang term for dunking your balls in someone’s mouth like a teabag and letting them slide in and out of the lips, a move designed to induce pleasure in both sucker and suckee.  

What’s odd to me, and to many others, I suspect, is that these latter broadcasters, the ones who are less frenetic, more grown-up, more cagey about lavishing invective and superlatives on obviously trumped-up garbage –  more BBC-ish, in fact,  in that they actually try to deliver the news rather than promising to, then doing something else entirely – have far lower ratings, relatively speaking.

If Bill O’Reilly clocks up three and a half million viewers, say, then Anderson Cooper (whom I don’t like either, incidentally, but for a whole bunch of other reasons), grabs a straight million. Give or take. Now, a million people is a lot. But not when you consider that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a real news show masquerading as a fake news show, beats him by almost eight hundred thousand viewers. In fact, very many Americans – my friends included – get the bulk of their news from The Daily Show.

None of which is terribly encouraging.

But it’s the same old story. Cheap sensationalism wins. Loud sideshows draw a crowd. As I’m prone to saying, dim people love color and movement and noise and explosions. And I guess I can add to that list Fox News. 

Intelligent people, on the other hand, tend to be dismissive and let it go. They’re simply too busy enjoying their lives, doing interesting things, getting educated, contributing to society, traveling, exploring, feeding their curiosity and their brains, to waste a single moment on jackboot journalism and those who engage in it.


Fox News gets two magic carpets out of five.  

TV Swami – he say NO.



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I’m shocked that you’re shocked

I marvel sometimes at the naivety of television viewers.

That they’re prepared to sit through badly-c0nceived and -executed drivel for hours and hours and hours at a time being just one example. (If you’ve ever watched reality programming on the E! network or anything produced by Ryan Seacrest and felt dimmer for doing so, then you’re on the right side of the nonsense fence.)

But, second of all, that they watch reality shows and believe what they’re seeing is reality – well, I mean, jeez, that’s just craziness fueling more craziness. Looking for reality in a reality show is like looking for nutrition in Pop Tarts. Or a tune in Shostakovitch. Or the letter F in BICYCLE.

Example: take this brouhaha with Jason Mesnick. You know him, right? He’s The latest Bachelor on ABC’s smash hit series.

On Monday’s finale, he claimed to have found true love. He proposed to the very beautiful Melissa Rycroft, and we watched her howl with delight when she heard, and jump up and down, and the pair of them did all that prim kissing thing that heterosexuals are prone to doing. As opposed to ripping their clothes off and having sex right there on the ground, which is the way a couple of healthy homosexuals would approach it.

But that’s how it went anyway.  We had a winner. The classic “all’s well that ends etc…” scenario.

But nowadays that’s not enough. Happiness is old hat, quite honestly. So ABC milked our loyalty further with a Bachelor follow-up special, After The Final Rose, during which Mesnick promptly dumped Rycroft, taking back the ring, and saying he preferred one of the runners-up instead, the ‘more characterful-looking’ (ahem) Molly Malaney, who, if she hasn’t had an Irish drinking ballad written about her yet, can’t be far off.

So there you have it – again. A neat twist, a shock ending, everything a ratings-grabbing drama needed. True love didn’t run smooth, the guy’s a cad, the chick got hurt, and so on. Perfect. And because they’re on TV, who cares if lives are ruined and their emotions are a cauldron of resentment and loathing? It’s the ideal scenario.  

Just one problem: according to MSNBC last night, quoting Mesnick, the whole thing was fake. It was written into his contract, apparently, that he had to trick viewers. There was a script. And the script said he would choose one girl, dump her, then switch to another in the follow-up show. Well, the outcry that’s followed in the wake of this cynical ploy to get higher ratings has made headlines. Critics and fans alike are holding their faces macauleyculkinly, going, “What? A TV network deceived us?”

Well, I don’t have Mesnick’s contract in front of me, and am too lazy to go look for it (it’s upstairs somewhere), but I’m truly shocked to learn that anyone else is shocked at this stage to learn that reality shows are scripted.

Most reality shows have a story editor. Someone in their 20s, with a vivid imagination and not quite enough life experience yet to be able to appreciate the value of telling the truth and living an honorable life without deceiving people. It’s this person’s job to sit down with the producers and figure out ahead of time the best way for the plot-points to go, allowing, of course, for certain variables and inconvenient changes in circumstances (in other words actual reality) that might happen.

Then, later, as the footage comes in from the shoot location, that same 20-year old, giddy that he’s even got a job in TV, when everyone, including his parents, predicted he’d be flipping burgers by now, or selling vacuum cleaners door to door, plonks himself in front of a TV monitor and conscientiously toils away at connecting the dots, writing a rough storyline around them that the guy who’s editing the show can then take and heighten still further, to make them even more dramatic. That’s what they’re hired for. Scripting and editing are defined in the TV Dictionary as “simply very clever ways of bamboozling viewers.” Look it up.  

And why do shows go to all this trouble, possibly risking outrage and accusations of lying and deception someday if their – quite legitimate – shenanigans should leak out? Because there’d be chaos otherwise. The show would be rubbish. The story would go nowhere and none of it would make sense. Which would be fun for a few of us, who quite enjoy chaos and seeing stories go nowhere, but would be a disaster on every other level.

So if what MSNBC claims Mesnick said is true, and the plot twist in The Bachelor was contrived to entertain viewers and keep them tuning in…well, I don’t know how to end this sentence. Because we’re all aware – or if we’re not, we should be (what’s going on with our education system? They don’t teach this stuff in schools any more?) – that reality programming is not real. It’s hammed up, chopped up, set up, and presented as real for your dubious entertainment.

So if you’re naive, if you allow yourself to get suckered in, and are prepared to fritter away valuable hours of your life watching it, and find yourself being hurt or disappointed by the result, that’s your fault, not television’s, which, after all, is only doing what you bought it to do – lower your IQ, diminish your capacity to deal with the world outside your living room, and to leave you feeling emotionally and spiritually impoverished.

In which case, you deserve all you get.

UPDATE: Mike Fleiss, producer of The Bachelor, denies it was fixed. http://www.digitalspy.com/ustv/a148483/bachelor-denies-finale-fix-claims.html


Filed under Television commentary