Got what? Well, a little better understanding of why I experience writer’s block. It’s like every morning when I get up I should be seeing Bill Murray sitting in the living room. While not exactly like Ground Hog Day, there are certainly aspects of Ground Hog Day in all our lives. Every day, every day, we are bombarded with stories that at any other time in our past would dominate the news for weeks that simply disappear in a day. Or, in an hour. Things that would have led to bipartisan disapproval in the past, such as “love” for the world’s most heinous dictator, or blatant conflicts of interest (remember when Jimmy Carter had to sell his family peanut farm), or well researched stories that document decades of tax cheating by a family…….on and on and on. The Ground Hog Day aspect is not that the days are perfect images of the day before,. the similarity is the bizarreness every day. The constant sensation of being on a surfboard and seeing something that interests you but the wave keeps moving and we lose sight of so many things.
So, how do we, at a time when we all carry in our pockets access to virtually all information in recorded history, lose sight and fail to string together events using logic and common sense? While there are many factors that lead to a relatively uninformed electorate, an overloaded and overwhelmed electorate, I put the bulk of the blame on cable news. A vehicle that should be a powerful tool to build an informed, thinking electorate instead becomes, too often, like elevator music. There is TOO MUCH AIRTIME to fill. Too many programs, in order to fill that air, have very low bars to vet guests and often appear indifferent to holding guests to any kind of standards. There is a fake air of civility that allows too many guests, knowing exactly how much time they have to fill, to duck questions and instead simply parrot a bunch of talking points without having to back them up.
Yesterday, I was watching Katy Tur interview Congressman Peter King and found myself, as happens too many times, sending a stream of WTFs at the screen. I like Katy Tur but GEEEEZUZ! As usual when a Republican apologist for Trump appears on TV, the talking point parrot appears and King was in usual form. But, here is where my frustration kicks in. King states there was “no collusion between the President OR HIS CAMPAIGN.” At that point, the unasked question should have been, “how would you define collusion?”. Let him answer and then ask, “what term would you apply to the campaign manager offering private briefings on the campaign to a Russian oligarch? Or, the same campaign manager providing internal polling data to a man with connections to Russian intelligence? Do you consider that normal politics? Did you not hear Putin in Helsinki saying that they supported Trump in 2016?”
The discussion then moved, after attacks on MSNBC by their “guest”, to the investigations of the SDNY. King dismissed them because Cohen and Gates are liars, which is true but the first question to be asked is, “are you saying that lifelong professional prosecutors have no corroboration to support their testimony?” “And, are you the only person left on earth who does not see trump as a pathological liar? A man who his own lawyer termed as incapable of speaking for five minutes without telling a lie?”
Needless to say, none of those questions, among a laundry list of questions which could have been asked, was asked and the “guest” was thanked for appearing. Really? Had he been asked what are valid questions he probably would have been miffed, taken umbrage, but, pardon my French, “fuck him”. If he was miffed, I would have told him to simply not come back. If I was a news director, I’d have a whole list, long as my arm, of people incapable of adding any value to a discussion. Talking point parrots who do the backstroke better than Mark Spitz in his prime. Set a bar. Publicize it and tell people upfront that they will no longer get away with skating and simply dodging and weaving for a defined period of time. Please, please, please can we move beyond just filling the airtime? Geezuz, I’d rather watch an hour of kitten and puppy pictures than see 10 seconds of Matt Schlapp again. Can we establish goals for an interview, the way a prosecutor establishes a line of questioning? The goal has to be to get to The Truth and what we are doing is far, far, far from being as effective as it can be.