Why CNN Is Making You Stupid
This bar graph, released mid April by the Pew Research Center, represents everything wrong with the election coverage presented by major American news networks; the focus is now on “strategy” (i.e, donations, publicity, and advertising) instead of the key domestic, foreign, and legislative issues.
In an age of increasing political apathy, ratings have become dependent on what can be dramatized and made into a game. Deceitful attack ads, SuperPacs, and irrelevant speculation of candidates’ personal histories fit into this requirement. As the graph shows, the actual political beliefs of candidates’ do not.
With the understanding that 76 percent of the coverage was pretty useless, and because I have a mediocre sense of principle, I decided to compile a few transcripts covering the 2012 Republican primary, and highlight when reporters were feeding you BS (everything excluding public record, and domestic and foreign issues).
Then, I rewrote the sound bites to mirror my interpretation of these “political experts’” intentions. This way, you’ll better understand purposeless news next time you see it.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: campaign strategy. The following excerpt is from Erin Burnett Out-front (CNN) on March 21.
On this day, political correspondents giddily overanalyzed a quote from a Mitt Romney Aide, in which he said that the clean- slate provided by the general election resembled an etch a sketch toy.
Romney’s opponents manipulated the aide’s words to publicize Romney’s ideological flip- flopping- naturally, the etch a sketch stunt took precedence over mentioning Romney’s specific political inconsistencies. (Note: I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth- this is satire, so please don’t tap my phone Mr. Murdoch.)
ERIN BURNETT: John Avlon is here. We have pictures today of Newt Gingrich carrying around an etch-a-sketch, Rick Santorum in a car looking at an etch-a-sketch. So they were quick to seize upon this. Why is this getting so much pickup?
JOHN AVLON: This gets a lot of pickup because it goes to the heart of political communications. This resonates because it deepens an existing negative narrative about Mitt Romney. Namely, that’s the opposite of the conviction politician and that’s line his competitors have been trying to make over and over again. And it was compounded by the sin of vivid language and a visual metaphor.
Now here is how Avlon should’ve responded:
JOHN AVLON: This gets a lot of pickup because news channels like us decide to give it pickup by talking about why it’s getting picked up. Basically, we realized that people ignore us less when we exacerbate pointless drama. This resonates because we decided it did because Newt Gingrich decided it did. Namely, he probably realized we would publicize it with the current conversation. And everyone likes to play with etch a sketch’s and talk about them. They’re so fun! So we said why not cover this using fancy words I learned in my high school AP Lang class?
Next, I’m going to give you what I think would be the brutally honest version of the CNN hosted South Carolina GOP debate on January 19. Here, John King embarrassed himself and amused everyone else by opening up the debate with a politically irrelevant question regarding Newt Gingrich’s strong commitment towards infidelity.
JOHN KING: As you know, your ex-wife gave an interview to ABC News and another interview with The Washington Post, and this story has now gone viral on the Internet. In it, she says that you came to her in 1999, at a time when you were having an affair. She says you asked her, sir, to enter into an open marriage. Would you like to take some time to respond to that?
NEWT GINGRICH: No — but I will. (Cheers, applause.)
I think — I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that. (Cheers, applause.)
Now here is my interpretation of the transcript, where Newt and John say what they are really thinking:
JOHN KING: Listen, I know we’re kind of in the middle of a nationally televised debate, but I really just have to ask you this. How did you get that lucky with three different women? Forget the unemployment rate- this just boggles my mind. What is your secret? Is it the cologne? I’m, sorry everyone, this really can’t wait; why don’t you just whisper it in my ear Newt? I swear I’ll pay you for your advice. This is history; how does a guy who looks worse than Donald Trump pull that off? You’re even giving Clinton a run for his money. Newt, don’t you want to say something about this?
NEWT GINGRICH: No — but I will. (Cheers, applause, John King with humiliated expression signifying he somehow managed to lose the moral high ground to a hypocritical jerk.)
Good reporting is not accomplished by turning elections into reality TV shows. This election season has highlighted a prevalent journalistic epidemic; why does MSNBC, Fox, and increasingly CNN get to exacerbate political disunity and extremism by dramatizing the worst attack ads and the most idiotic comments of politicians?
It’s because we watch it. It’s no surprise that the Fox News channel consistently holds the highest ratings of cable- news; it pushes a dogmatic, conservatively filtered agenda.
Cable news networks are controlled by the mitosis of ADHD television viewers. It is common knowledge that we flip channels unless we see major headline news or Sarah Palin in a skimpy dress.
The survivors of a less sensationalistic era of journalism now write within the dwindling pages of the New York Times or Washington Post. I beseech you; appreciate un-dramatized journalism while it’s still here.
So my fellow patriots, let’s take the high wrought. If every spent five minutes a day researching the issues and candidates’ political views, without John King’s input, we would have better politicians (nobody listens to Captain Obvious). And we hopefully wouldn’t know who Newt Gingrich was.