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Bill Mann

Bill Mann

Posted: March 30, 2010 08:58 AM

Network News Execs Playing With Fire in Tea-Party Coverage Decisions

What's Your Reaction:

If a Teapot crackpot ends up shooting a member of Congress, let us be clear: Fox News czar Roger Ailes and his minions will all have blood on their hands.

Watch the rats jump off the ship if, God forbid, something like this happens -- if some armed whack job decides to exercise his Second Amendment "rights" and squeezes off a few rounds in the direction of an elected official.

Ailes' disreputable (if, ahem, highly profitable) cable outfit has been encouraging these nutbags for the past two years, pandering directly to what Newsweek's Jonathan Alter calls "The fanatic fifth" -- the estimated 20 percent of the citizenry who are political extremists and who also take their cues and encouragement from Ailes, Sarah Palin, and especially, chief looneytoon Glenn Beck on Ailes' disgraceful Fox Noise dog-and-pony show.

Talk host Ed Schultz called Beck "a piece of trash" last week, and Eric Burns, President of Media Matters, called "Byron de la" Beck "The most dangerous man in America" on MSNBC last week.

But I would submit it is Ailes, Glen-Boy's enabler, who deserves that title.

But the other cable networks deserve a share of the blame -- including MSNBC and CNN, where Rick Sanchez, having finally located Hawaii, is reportedly now looking for Ali Velshi ("Is it anywhere near Diego Garcia?").

Why are CNN, MSNBC (and parent network NBC) extremist enablers, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree?

Because by their excessive and irresponsible coverage they've made a small fringe group of far-right crackpots seem much larger and more politically powerful than it is (Alter's 20% seems way high).

These non-Ailes networks, like so much of TV news, thrive on conflict, and constantly strive to show it. Last week, one NBC Nightly News was dominated by the bleatings of the extreme right (sometimes referred to as "The Republican Party").

True, news networks want to provide balance when the Democrats do or say something. And I certainly understand that finding Republican elected officials who are not extremists these days is tough.

So, in the absence of responsible adult voices for the opposition, sober TV news operations (not Fox News, whose viewers are easily distracted by bright shiny objects) might consider this:

Cut way back on the Tea Party coverage and camera time of what radio's thoughtful Thom Hartmann calls "Low-information voters." Just like we anti-war protestors did in the 60's, the Tea Pot crackpots thrive on media coverage. It makes them look bigger and more powerful than they are.

I've also seen very little coverage of GOP House members who were cheering on the boors who were disrupting proceedings in the House a few days ago as they were being ejected. Why didn't more reporters confront these wackos' extremist enablers - e.g., well-dressed humanoid Michele Bachmann and Louie "Loose Cannon" Gohmert?

It's been my experience working in the newspaper business over several decades that -- in the past, anyway -- editors would make sound journalistic decisions by limiting coverage of fringe groups and their loud demonstrations.

But, alas, television doesn't work that way -- as I learned later when I worked in a San Francisco TV newsroom.

TV wants pictures. And pictures of conflict are far more "interesting" to viewers than those of people agreeing. I won't argue that point.

What I do propose is that far more responsible adults -- and fewer paid consultants -- be allowed to make coverage decisions.

In other words, it's time to clean house at network TV assignment desks. Because only children -- or irresponsible adults -- play with fire.

 

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