Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Here's a Thought
I have an idea. Let’s make 24-hour news networks illegal. At this point I have absolutely no idea what it is that they actually bring to the table. They regularly ignore important news in favor of random crap like what the Octomom is doing or how Michael Jackson’s funeral is going. They operate as propaganda for one side or the other in political disputes. When they’re not doing that they often create false equivalencies by giving equal time to Good Idea A and Loony Argumentative Moron B in order to cover “all sides” of a given “debate.” Pro tip: When one side is espousing reality (say, that Barack Obama is an American citizen) and the other side is not (say, that he was born in Kenya and that everything has been set up to create a weird Manchurian Candidate sort of situation), then you don’t have to give equal time to both sides. If there is no coherent, reality-based opposition then there aren’t two sides. And, seriously, news organizations manage to do this correctly all the time. You don’t see CNN talking about the latest NASA launch, then bring in a flat-Earth person to argue the opinion that there’s no such thing as an orbit. You don’t seen FOX News bring in advocates for the moon landing hoax side. I also don’t recall 9/11 Truthers getting any air time back in the day. Yet we have to hear from the Tea Baggers whenever the health plan debate comes up. We have to hear from the anti-vaxers whenever H1N1 immunization comes up. We had to hear from the Birthers when they were manufacturing a controversy. But the worst, the absolute worst, is the election coverage. Races get handicapped two years before they happen. Actually, the 2012 Presidential election got handicapped on the day after the 2008 election. Since Sarah Palin was declared the probable Republican nominee back in November and December of last year she’s quit her job, “written” a terrible book, gone rogue, and helped hand the Republican seat in NY-23 over to a Democrat. Methinks that might have an impact on her chances to get the Republican nod come 2012. Meknows that it ruins a lot of theories about her political trajectory that were being advanced a year ago. Yesterday we had a random grab-bag of elections that no one in their right mind should care about outside of the local electorate. From what I understand the New Jersey gubernatorial race was a clothespin vote of the highest order. NY-23 was interesting due to the sideshow nature of the whole thing. And Virginia…well, we’ll get to that in a second. The 24-hour news networks spent the last several weeks letting us know that this was The Most Important Election Ever since the Last Most Important Election Ever and in anticipation of the Next Most Important Election Ever. It got so bad that the Daily Show last night showed a clip of a panel discussion on CNN. The topic? What will everyone on the panel be saying about the election results tomorrow? Seriously? I need to know your speculation about what you’ll be speculating about tomorrow? That’s a complete waste of everyone’s time. But that’s what the 24-hour news networks do. The reason for it is simple. They need to fill air time. No one needs 24 hours of news. Hell, no one actually gets 24 hours of news. It’s a couple hours of news, followed by some random opinion shows. Or, in the case of FOX News, it’s a couple hours of opinion shows followed by some “news” shows reporting on the opinions expressed in the opinion shows. And, of course, the ultimate goal is to sell ad space. So we get watered-down, sensationalized crap. And we have to hear about how the Virginia gubernatorial race tells us something about the Presidential race in 2012. It doesn’t. What it actually tells us is something about the Presidential race in 2008. But that’s an inconvenient truth to the news networks. The Virginia governor election cycle lags a year behind the national elections. Take a look at the list of Virginia governors and you’ll notice an interesting pattern. Since 1978 the Governor of Virginia has had the opposite party affiliation of the sitting President. The start of this pattern coincides nicely with the Southern Strategy. From basically the end of Reconstruction until 1970 the Commonwealth of Virginia had Democratic governors. At the tail-end of the ‘60s the southern Democrats started to realize that they had far more in common with the erstwhile Party of Lincoln than they did with the former Party of secession. The first couple terms of Republican governorship, then, were a result of individuals switching party affiliation, not massive party shifts. This is evidenced by one Mills Godwin, who was elected governor in 1965 as a Democrat and again in 1973 as a Republican. Since the end Godwin’s second term, however, the Governor of Virginia has been of the opposite affiliation of the President of the United States. Yesterday’s election of Bob McDonnell serves to extend the run of Virginia contrariness. It’s a portent of absolutely nothing looking forward to 2012. It’s not a referendum on the Obama Administration any more than the election of Democratic candidate Chuck Robb in 1981 was a referendum on the Reagan Administration. Unfortunately for anyone involved, that inconvenient set of historical data doesn’t make for good TV. It makes for a couple semi-interesting paragraphs on a random blog that doesn’t even sell ad space. So it’ll never make it on CNN. I say it’s time to ditch the 24-hour news cycle and the networks that pretend it matters.