Television got what it wanted after this past Tuesday's Democratic primaries -- a profitable horse race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. If Obama had won decisively and picked up enough delegates to put the nomination out of reach for Hillary, the race would have been over and the power trip and money geyser would have been shut down.
The media, and especially television, has become obsessed with itself, with news anchors, reporters, and pundits gorging on a huge, narcissistic power trip. These self-absorbed entertainers believe they control the outcome of the primary elections and that the primaries exist to give them the opportunity for exposure, to bloviate, and to influence voters. It's not about the candidates or democracy or who will be a better president, it's about them.
And the biggest farce of all is that the television programs with probably the biggest impact on the outcome of Tuesday's primaries are comedy shows -- NBC's Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It is fitting that entertainment programs in general and comedy programs, specifically, have now become the agenda setters for American political discourse.
Media bosses are thrilled about the Democratic deadlock because the bitter fight between Clinton and Obama will continue -- continue to be fought on television, which means millions more in advertising revenue at time when the country is heading into a recession, with a concomitant decline in advertising expenditures. CNN had the highest ratings in its history for the last debate between Clinton and Obama. Also-ran cable news network MSNBC has had a big run-up in ratings due to its debate coverage and because of the interruptive buffoonery of Chris Matthews and caustic, liberal humor of Keith Olbermann. These cable television networks' political coverage is not about enhancing the democratic process, it's about ratings.
Higher ratings mean that these networks (and the broadcast networks, too) can charge more for advertising. Advertisers follow eyeballs, especially 18-49 year old eyeballs, and it doesn't matter what they are watching -- Bill O'Reilly, Wolf Blitzer, Brian Williams, or Keith Olbermann. A fist fight, a high-speed car chase, or anything violent are all good for ratings and profits. A political debate costs virtually nothing to produce and gets good ratings, thus, it produces higher profits, much higher profits than covering the war in Iraq.
Television is thrilled. The Clinton-Obama fight is a double-whammy winner for them -- more power and more profits. The comedy shows and comedians, which include Stewart, Colbert, O'Reilly, Matthews, and Olbermann, are even more ecstatic because it gives them even more to make fun of. The losers are the American public -- we are not laughing at the sad spectacle of candidates having to become nattering nabobs of negativism to appeal to the greedy, self-important media, especially television.