A post about nothing
Until that point, I'd believed that television was primarily about the content. I might've been naive, I admit, on account of not having watched much of it: I grew up in a family that didn't own a TV.
In TV's early days, of course, it was hard to miss the fact that the advertising tail wagged the programming dog: TV shows had "sponsors," for goodness' sake, and George Burns and Jack Benny would take time out to shill for the product and then step back onto the set without missing a beat. These days we go to great lengths to deny the connection, and we have gizmos that help us try to separate ads from content. But the basic model is still there: the viewer is the product, the advertisers are the consumer, and the programming is just a venue for delivering one to the other. All of this becomes abundantly clear if you've ever looked at a media kit. (If you don't know what one is — take a class on advertising!)
Which is sort of a long-winded way of introducing the following thought: If you want to watch TV programming for its entertainment value, go ahead — but God help you if you should ever begin to take any of it seriously. And I mean any of it, including the news and political programming that begs you to take it seriously. It's there for precisely the same reason that "Big Brother" and "Jackass" are there: to serve you up on a platter to corporations who want a slice of your wallet. And if it doesn't deliver a big enough slice, it'll eventually be replaced with something that does.
I recently traded a few comments with another blogger who I'm sure would disagree, in part, with what I've just said. And, since he held comments from guests to a different standard than the one he applied to his own comments as a host, I've now been banned from commenting further at his blog, which is why I'm posting this over at my blog.
This individual's point, if you'll allow a broad application of that term, was that liberalism is represented in the media by its most extreme wing, whom he identified as Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and Keith Olbermann, whereas conservatism holds in check its most extreme wing (Fred Phelps and the John Birch Society) and leaves its media representation to sober, reasonable, balanced people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.
In other words, according to this individual, the left wing doesn't get any more radical than the liberal pundits you see on TV. And the conservative counterparts of liberal pundits are not conservative pundits. No sir, the conservative counterpart of liberal pundits is Fred Phelps, a ghoulish preacher who protests soldiers' funerals because "God hates fags" and calls himself a Baptist even though no Baptist denomination acknowledges him. To put it another way, according to my blogger-pal, the liberal analogue of Fred Phelps is not some anarchist hooligan or Communist Party figure. No, it's a middle-aged white guy in pinstripes who makes his audience chuckle by mocking conservatives. That's as extreme as the left wing could possibly get.
So when I challenged the dude's comparison of Keith Olbermann to Fred Phelps, here's what he said:
When it comes to Keith Olbermann and delusionary behavior, I need only quote this gem of his:Now I don't doubt that Olbermann said that, even though the blogger in question didn't provide a source. Hyperbole is Olbermann's job, as it is the job of every pundit. Olbermann is paid to generate ad revenue and jack up ratings by pouncing on every controversy he can. And he frequently tries too hard. The comment comparing FOX to Al-Qaeda is indefensible. (Update: the quote is from Playboy. No wonder I missed itI don't read Playboy for the articles.)
"Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of FOX News. Fox news is worse than Al Qaeda — worse for our society. It's as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."
Any person who believes that an American news organization (which gives more equal time balance than he does on his show) is worse than those who ran planes into buildings and murdered 3000 Americans is a person who more than measures up to the standard of being Fred Phelps' counterpart.
Whether that makes him the equivalent of Fred Phelps is an apples-to-oranges calculation that armchair pathologists like my blogger acquaintance can make if they want to. It doesn't provide one iota of illumination about either Phelps or Olbermann, but the fact that Olbermann is the most extreme left-winger this fellow can think of, in the mainstream media or out of it, does suggest that he doesn't know much about the left wing.
To bring things back to more reasonable sorts of comparisons, this individual went on to assert that conservative pundits "haven't said anything comparable to that gem from Olbermann." Well, I'm already sick of Googling this stuff, but so far I've got Ann Coulter linking Newsweek to Al-Qaeda, Bill O'Reilly comparing the entire "secular-progressive movement" to Osama Bin Laden, Rush Limbaugh saying the Democrats are doing PR for Al-Qaeda, and Chris Matthews equating Bin Laden and Michael Moore. That's enough for me. It turns out that conservative pundits are the true analogues of liberal pundits after all, and they can both be counted on to say equally ridiculous things.
And when I say that's enough for me, I mean that's enough. Comment if you must, but prepare to be mercilessly mocked, since my primary assertion here is that none of this is worth serious attention in the first place.