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Time's Poniewozik On CNBC: 'An Alternative Universe, Where Elites Are Populists'

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I really must hie thee to the pages of Time Magazine, where James Poniewozik has just unleashed a fantastic commentary and distillation of the weird place in the world that CNBC has, of late, wedged itself. As a prelude to tonight's hypeful Jon Stewart on Jim Cramer interview, it manages to remind that there are substantive issues worth noting, and Poniewozik's "CNBC's Bull Market: Sticking Up for the Big Guy" will do the trick.

The article astutely notes CNBC's recent tendency toward the irrational, the weird arrhythmia heard in the clash of its metanarrative against the metanarrative of sister newser MSNBC, and how the whole matter exposes the need for CNBC to try to find a middle ground "between desperate cheerleading and reckless ranting." The key takeaway, however, is that CNBC has sort of fooled themselves into thinking that they've become cable news' John Steinbeck - that they are actually looking out for the "little guy."

Poniewozik remarks: "To watch CNBC today is to enter an alternative universe, where élites are populists, Wall Street is Main Street and bank executives are the oppressed." Let's recall, shall we, that earlier this week, Jim Cramer described himself thusly:

"I think the administration should attack Warren Buffett, instead of the little guys who come on TV and say that the averages are down a lot. Why don't they go after him?"

That was when Meredith Vieira, God bless her, incredulously asked, "Little guys...like Jim Cramer?" But that's how blinkered they've become at CNBC. Hanging out with the Warren Buffets of the world has confused Jim Cramer into thinking he's the "little guy," just as hanging out with Jeffrey Immelt has led David Gregory to believe he is a member of the middle class. But in the real world, it's widely recognized that getting to mount a self-defense across multiple media platforms, including a one-day charm offensive launched on NBC and MSNBC is something that the "big guys" - and not the "little guys" - get to do.

I also think Poniewozik is pitch-perfect in his choice of metaphors, here:

This means that CNBC looks at everything, particularly politics, in terms of how it will affect "the Market." The commentators on CNBC murmur about the Market as if it were the Island on Lost: a mystic force that must be placated, lest it become angry and punish us. "The Market doesn't like ..." "What the Market wants to see is ..."

And, oooh, is the Market cranky at Obama! The Market doesn't like raising taxes on the wealthy (even if Buffett does). The Market doesn't like government health-care reform or cap-and-trade environmental policy or big budgets or limiting bonuses at bailed-out banks. And don't get the Market started on bank nationalization. That ticks the Market off!

Yeah, I'd say it's time that CNBC stopped acting like they were the Dharma Initiative and maybe reined in their economic smoke monsters, before someone gets hurt.

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