Last night, I made the mistake of turning on the television. I caught the last segment of Spitzer/Parker and the first part of Larry King Live before I turned it off in disgust.
The first show ended with a roundtable discussion that focused on the midterm elections. I was hoping for some insight on how the emergence of the Tea Party and some of the surprisingly tight Senate races were bringing the economy and the failure of Congress into the limelight. Instead, it quickly became a discussion of campaign advertising tactics.
Each side whined that the other side wasn’t playing fair and cared more about winning than helping the people – the same old crap that partisan pundit hacks always throw up. The only helpful comment was when Spitzer reminded us that American politics has never been civil, and that this election hasn’t been any worse than many others throughout history. The difference, he correctly observed, is that the media now focuses on personalities and controversy instead of substantive issues. Shockingly, the rest of the panel disagreed, blaming the politicians for dragging the process to a new low.
In the end, no issue of substance entered the conversation, and despite his unusual level of self-awareness, Spitzer never forced the others to talk about issues instead of fluff. . . .
I should have know that Larry King would not be any better. His panel included three partisan hacks and Penn (of the magician duo Penn and Teller). Their conversation focused mainly on the Tea Party and the credibility of their candidates. Predictably, the two liberals got in plenty of digs on Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, and the conservative tried to downplay the insane side of the movement while arguing that the Tea Party’s core principles represent mainstream America.
Just like on Spitzer/Parker, the conversation never got to the issues. The "experts" could only sling veiled insults at one another and not-so-veiled insults at the other side’s candidates. Not once did the discussion turn to exactly what those core Tea Party values are and how they reflect or do not reflect the majority of American’s beliefs.
Most importantly, throughout the entire thirty minutes of posturing and whining that I suffered through, there was never a single practical solution offered to any of the country’s pressing problems – not to unemployment, not to the foreclosure mess, not to our energy problems, not to climate change, not to anything. The closest the "experts" came to substance was a weak attempt on the liberal side to say that Obama had accomplished a lot in his first term, and an equally unconvincing repetition of vague talking points about small government and fiscal responsibility from the conservative.
Meanwhile, the magician was the only one who seemed to have a grip on reality, but Penn (who is notoriously verbose) had a hard time breaking into the conversation. At one point point, he did manage to inject that media was a huge part of the problem, and that they were fueling the division and ignorance in this country with their extremely poor election coverage. Larry seemed to agree, but he knew he couldn’t say anything, and quickly cut to commercial.
At that point, I turned the TV off and waited for Jon Stewart – who interviewed Condi Rice on The Daily Show. There, I saw a respectful and intelligent conversation between two people who disagree on a very sensitive topic (Israel and Palestine). I had to go to a network called Comedy Central to find this.
Like the whole of mainstream media, CNN stinks and they know it. Spitzer and King are aware of how their shows distort the political reality and divide the American public at a time when we desperately need unity. But they still can’t help themselves. Let’s just turn them all off.