At 9:05 AM this morning I gave up on cable news – again. I’d finished washing up the breakfast dishes and a few of their comrades from last evening, and was ready to watch some “news” for an hour or so. Five minutes into the viewing, including two channel changes, I remembered why I gave up on watching cable news broadcasts a short while back. The three V’s: Vapidity. Vacuity. Vagueness.
Vapidity: Or, in the long form, a lack of stimulation, challenge, or sharpness; tepid, insipid, and bland. This is characteristic of those broadcasters who believe that I might be remotely interested in yet another presentation of punditry discussing the semantics of e-mail transmissions. Digging actual facts out of the morass of “process” punditry reveals that FBI Director Comey was correct – there is NO indication of any criminality in Secretary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. NONE. Done. That someone has discovered a possible discrepancy in variations of the explanations isn’t news, it’s not even new. It’s part of a continuous piece of propaganda floated by the Republican Party, and its allies among the Beltway Villagers, for some “Watergate-esque” issue to continue the Clinton assault they’ve enjoyed for the last umpteen years.
If the e-mail non-story were the only example I might not be so dismissive of cable news, but it isn’t. There have been precious few attempts by the cable networks to treat any story with any depth. Sadly, many items are mentioned and the presenter quickly shifts to “what does this mean for Senator Sludgepump’s campaign?” For example, MSNBC, to its credit, did offer some actual context for the Flint Water Crisis. And now the parallel universes take the stage – in the broadcast world the issue is “old news” even though the aftermath of the water contamination is far from over; in the real world we are discovering more communities with water supplies which do not meet the maximum contaminant levels for lead – and these are getting back page, below the fold, treatment – and not a minute on cable broadcasts.
The broadcasters are content, it seems, to offer a stream of sequels to stories of limited interest to the general public instead of presenting stories involving critical national issues. Case in point: Immigration policy reform. There is a bill, passed by the Senate, languishing in the House which offers comprehensive immigration policy reform, and the GOP House leadership can’t or won’t move it. Instead of seeing and hearing intelligent discussions of the POLICY issues we are being treated to “how is the Hispanic Outreach project of the Trump campaign” doing? How is the Clinton campaign doing in the polling among Hispanic American voters?
Vacuity: In order to hit this level a broadcast needs to wade through Shallow and into Inanity. Here we go again, we all know that U.S. national elections are composed of 50 individual state elections, and still the cable news networks – months from the general election – tout their national polling. This adds a new level of nothingness to the abyss. I might as well inform readers that I have five fingers on each hand and try to pass this off as “news.”
Vagueness: This is the point in a campaign when the parties should be sharpening their messages, and providing actual examples of policy statements and plans on offer to the voters. We’re not getting that from the Trump side of the ledger – we get speeches, analysis of the speeches, and follow up interviews with surrogates who inform us that the details will be provided later. When’s ‘later?’ At what point will the reporters on camera demand some solid answers? And, should that fail, when do they point out that those Statues in the Park have no more ‘clothing’ than the policy non-statements issued by the Trump campaign and its surrogates.
There’s nothing that pleases the Press quite so much as whining about the treatment of the Press. The current whine is that Secretary Clinton hasn’t had a “full blown press conference” for X number of days and counting. Really? Since when was August a major month for press conferences by any national campaign? And, Secretary Clinton attended a fund raiser and the Press wasn’t invited! Oh dear, and we saw Governor Romney’s comment about the 47% in pool tape? Or, uh-no, it was from a bootleg tape and the press hadn’t been invited to that fundraising event. How this tells us anything about the POLICY of and plans for an administration is anyone’s guess; but, what it does tell us is that the media loves to talk about the media.
At least I know I’m not alone. There’s some comfort in reading this analysis of the situation in Crooks and Liars,
“People want truth. They don’t want talking points, or “both sides do it.” Donald Trump has broken all of the rules of party politics, and also the cable news formula. Some, like Stelter, Bolduan, Keilar and Reid have taken the cue, choosing to aggressively pursue truth-telling. Others are not.
To those who refuse to pay attention, beware. Consumers have moved on from the political pablum you serve. Only those who are bold enough to speak truth to the professional liars will survive.”
And Salon’s article about the long-lived conservative obsession with all things Clinton, especially from Judicial Watch:
“This is the same Judicial Watch that currently has the press panting over every release of the Clinton State Department emails they’ve received from their FOIA fishing expedition, rushing on the air and to print based upon the organization’s often erroneous and misleading press releases. Tom Fitton, the organization’s current president and author of the book “The Corruption Chronicles: Obama’s Big Secrecy, Big Corruption, and Big Government” proudly declared, “Judicial Watch has had more success investigating the IRS, Benghazi and Clinton email scandals than any House committee.”
Considering the outcomes of the IRS and Benghazi “scandals,” it would behoove the press to show a little skepticism. The history of this group is very clear. The first time it waged its campaign of character assassination against Bill and Hillary Clinton, it’s perhaps understandable that the press failed to recognize they were being manipulated by political operatives. The trumped-up Obama scandals added up to nothing as well. There’s no excuse for the media to fall for it again.”
However, it’s my guess they will fall for it – as long as the Three V’s are the mainstays of cable broadcasting practice.