The conclusion to 2009 has me wondering; when it comes to trashy journalism, is it the presentation or the subject matter? Do we really care about Tiger Woods, Lindsey Lohan, Michael Jackson, or Paris Hilton? Do we really pass on good informative journalism in favor of gossip and screamed opinion? I have been hearing about the short attention span of our nation for years, but it would appear from blog traffic (not this one’s mind you) that we are willing to spend time reading the news. Why then, do we not spend more time on the content (and therefore advertising) provided by solid news sources like the PBS News Hour?
Ratings don’t lie when it comes to television (radio is more suspect). CNN picked up steam when Nancy Grace, a walking, screaming, rights-violating banshee of a host moved into a prime slot. There can be no question of the ratings dominance enjoyed by the brash and confrontational opinion merchants on Fox News. Nor can there be any question of the people chosen by Fox News rivals MSNBC to track down the cable news leaders. The obnoxious and loud Chris Matthews, followed by the pugnacious and loud Ed Schultz, and capped by the abrasive and confrontational Keith Olbermann represent the most competitive lineup fielded against Fox in recent time.
It is the hair-splitting that most folks can’t stand when they read a column like the Rational Middle. The preachy and often nit-picky focus on details that aren’t very important in the grand scheme of things is a turn-off to many of us (yours truly included). We hate it when someone corrects our grammar (is it who or whom?), and we despise it when someone misses the humor in a joke because the joke wasn’t “accurate” (just shut up and laugh know-it-all!).
For several generations, we have hated math class and sentence structure with equal zeal. With each succeeding generation, we have forced the status-quo to move ever so subtlety away from precision. As a nation we have become sloppy. Facts are important only when they serve the proper master, and sources are valuable only if they can be manipulated. When a comic does the manipulation in pursuit of a joke, the act has value. When a politician or “journalist” does the manipulating, it has the capacity to slowly destroy the country.
The Rational Middle wishes all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The year 2009 has, at times, been a year of turmoil and discontent. It is important at times such as these to note that the Earth is still spinning and the Sun is still rising.
For those of you able to spend the season with family and friends in the sharing of food and drink, remember that there are many who do not share in your good fortune. I know that even as I look forward to new challenges and success in the new year, that I am grateful for what the old year provided.
In the new year, the RM will follow the same plan for posts as the author intends for meals; smaller and more frequent. We shall see what fate these resolutions meet in the new year. As always, the rational middle waits for your comments and looks forward to the thoughts of friends from the right, left, and center.
Pot-committed. When you have bet so many of your remaining chips that you feel you must stay with a hand even when you know the odds are against you. This is a very real predicament in the world of high stakes poker, and it is where Senate Democrats and the President feel that they are with the reform bill.
But are they really? They have committed time and energy to this effort, but they have not staked out a real position in a political sense. Most of the members of the House who voted for the bill are safe for reelection, and the Senate hasn’t really done enough on the bill to be pinned down. Most of the country tells pollsters that they like the individual elements of the bills presented, even while they tell the same pollsters that they don’t like the brand the insurance companies have successfully slapped on the package. Despite this, enough senators have stepped forward to say that they won’t let the bill come to a vote without the good stuff being removed. As a result, the good stuff is gone. So why vote for it when it is not a good bill?
Football and politics have a lot in common; and by football I am mean charged-up and violent American football. Careful preparation and brute force are foundational elements for both “sports”. The ability to get the job done, regardless of ethics, feelings, sunshine, or puppy dogs is also prized in each arena. One tactical element existing in both politics and football that I cherish, is the misdirection play. The premise is simple; get the defense moving one way, and go in the other direction. Well-designed misdirection plays often feature another nasty (and fun) ploy, the trap block. The defender chasing the play is influenced into a block that he never sees coming. The hit, properly delivered, can have the tendency of making that player, well, less aggressive for the rest of the game.
Misdirection is run in politics all the time. In fact, it is run by all parties, in every legislative session, at every level of American politics. In football, the play is designed to influence and trap the opposition; in politics, the play is usually designed to influence the voter and trap the opposing lawmaker. Witness the last major funding authorization for the Iraq War under President Bush. Both Democrats and Republicans crafted funding bills, and both contained major items not related to the war. These items were traps for the other party, existing only to force lawmakers into a vote that they would have to defend in the next election. It is certainly something that informed voters should be aware of when considering the next negative ad campaign they see (from either party).
The BCS, or bowl championship series, is upon us again. Every year, the big money schools in the big money conferences go through the exercise of mirror-worship and player exploitation, and every year their media apologists are ready to explain why it is good for sports.
Bull crap! Thirty years ago, when there were a handful of big bowls laced with tradition and meaning, a Division I playoff for college football was a difficult concept for many to swallow. Today that tradition is largely gone, but supporters of the old paradigm remain committed to the place of prestige that their favorite schools hold in the minds of sports fans. Today the BCS, Heisman Trophy, and TV networks in bed with college ball, are committed to ensuring the preeminence of schools from the elite conferences. The Heisman, supposedly given annually to the “best player in college football”, is actually awarded to the ‘most statistically sexy player on a winning BCS-eligible team whose school has effectively promoted him’. If that sounds like a mouthful, then the sentence does its job.