Who can argue that cable TV teems with killer comedy? I mean, have you watched CNN, MSNBC or FOX News channels lately? Good gracious, those guys are funnier than a bus filled with school kids careening into a canyon.
Here's the really funny part about cable news. Nearly three times the amount of viewers watch Big Brother and So You Think You Can Dance at 8 p.m. as the amount of viewers who watch an entire day of news programming across all cable news channels. Yes, combined.
Let's face it, cable news is reality TV at its most anemic. Crappy acting chops. Limp scripts. No sass. No sex. Just a bunch of average looking malcontents with loud mouths. You want loudmouth entertainment? Why not have Roseanne Barr and Andrew Dice Clay join Paul Begala and Mary Matalin for a roundtable on the gas tax? You want sexy? Let a bunch of runway models wear nothing but thongs while they debate soaring Treasury prices? I swear the 25-54 demo will f'ing jump for joy.
Nobody watches cable news because there is no news. You have O'Reilly and Hannity who whip the right into a frenzy. You have Maddow and O'Donnell who get the left's blood to a boil. And you have CNN who sends everyone else into a coma. If you want to know how the debt reduction debate is going to affect your retirement plan (if you still have one) or your health plan (if you can find one) or your kid's tuition plan (if you can afford one), the news is not your thing, man.
Where can you find your thing? No idea. Would be great to ask Walter Cronkite, but he's dead. Perhaps they buried the news business with him.
Some people turn to those trusty, dusty newspapers, the real journeymen of journalism. At this juncture, however, the paper biz is kinda like the Snow Leopard or the Cotton-Top Tamarin. Continued funding for endangered species in an eternally down economy? Good luck with that.
Thing is, MSNBC, CNN and FOX News are simply not for your Average Joe. Their audience is a white male college grad with solid income and no kids at home. Sounds just like the majority of folks from rural Arkansas.
Since most American households, not individuals, only generate fifty grand in total annual income, suffice it to say the middle class that every cable crony loves to carry on about isn't likely tuning into AC360 to see if Anderson's having a bad hair day.
So if that same middle class and its near companion poor folk aren't educated by cable news, aren't informed by cable news, aren't enlightened by cable news and aren't even paying attention to cable news, why is cable news so intent on preaching to and about them?
Actually, they really aren't.
Cable news is a largely just a bunch of enrollees in the business of selling shit to people who own lots of shit and want more. Think of it like QVC with a lobby. And I don't mean the kind of lobby you sit in while waiting to interview for the job that you won't be hired for. I mean the kind of lobby that has made Capitol Hill look like some estate sale where everything left of humanity must go.
I appreciate someone like Rachel Maddow. She's uber-smart. She's worked hard. She's hurdled absurd gender and culture barriers that still rule in a straight white man's world. And she does a fair share of due diligence when tracking foul-smelling crumbs to menacing supply chains. Problem is, she carries on like giddy entertainer replete with props, exaggerated inflections and gushing gratitude for guests. In fact, all her hard work winds up obfuscated by her progressive bias and those requisite theatrics. And so there goes the baby with the bathwater. Information is once again cloaked in entertainment. The takeaway becomes a throwaway.
News by its very nature is not entertaining. It should help you understand where your paycheck disappeared to... why you can't afford to put more than a half tank of gas in your car... why you should stop using that diet pill... why warring in the Middle East is a no-win proposition... and how that candidate with the flag pin stands on union rights or discretionary spending. And sure, occasionally it can get to the bottom of J-Lo's split with her lusty Latin lover. Occasionally.
It's not Rachel Maddow's fault that her job is theater. It's the theater itself that bears such fault. General Electric -- MSNBC financier and the world's largest media conglomerate -- proudly proclaims on its homepage, "GE is an advanced technology, services and finance company taking on the world's toughest challenges." In other words, we sell deep-sea oil drilling systems and fighter plane engines, and oh yeah, we do the news thing too. Funny how Rachel never rails on about that rather malodorous supply chain.
News Corp. -- owner of Fox Broadcasting -- trumpets this slogan for Fox News, "Fair & Balanced." Yes, fair and balanced hyperbolic fairy tales for mostly rich, conservative, God-fearing white folks.
And Time Warner Cable. Please don't get me started. Sorry, AOL Time Warner family, but TW claims to run a cable news network (CNN) yet they can't even keep my modem running?
Moms and dads, grandparents, students, people from all walks of American life face a monumental task in trying to stay informed and make informed political, professional and personal decisions amidst the myriad demands of a world that spins a million miles an hour. Wouldn't it be grand if you could turn on the TV and learn something without feeling like you're watching a hockey match and some loudmouthed, self-righteous loons broke out?
Why does Ed Schultz yell so much? Why does Bill O'Reilly yell so much? Why does Chris Matthews talk over everyone? Why does Lawrence O'Donnell constantly pepper us with patronizing prose? Why does Sean Hannity think it's right to tell a lesbian, "I feel sorry for your child." How the hell did this become news?
Check out the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It was the coup de grace of media deregulation fired up by Reagan in the 80s and further cultivated by Clinton. Their acts feigned to be gateways for greater competition but they were precisely the opposite. The number of major media companies changed from over 50 to a mere six in less than 20 years. Journalism was no longer the priority. Profiteering was.
And if you want a truly brilliant scoop on this matter, put your nose into anything written by Robert McChesney, the Yoda of media mania. Check out Robert's brainchild, FreePress.Net or it's partner in crime, SaveTheNews.org.
Stop pining for real news because that train ain't coming back around the track. Chill out, grab a beer, make some cheddar-flavored kettle corn and settle into the high-octane hijinks of How I Met Your Mother. After all, rumor has it Neil Patrick Harris is being groomed to replace Wolf Blitzer, whose latest Nielsen's are worse than Dr. Drew.
(That last part is true. Swear.)
Follow Douglas Forbes on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dougwashere