Tag Archives: Rachel Maddow

What’s Wrong with Television Journalism

Wow, what a post by Kai Nagata

Aside from feeling sexually attracted to the people on screen, the target viewer, according to consultants, is also supposed to like easy stories that reinforce beliefs they already hold. This is where the public broadcaster is caught in a tough spot. CBC Television, post-Stursberg, is failing in two ways. Despite modest gains in certain markets, (and bigger gains for reality shows like Dragon’s Den and Battle of the Blades) it’s still largely failing to broadcast to the public. More damnably, the resulting strategy is now to compete with for-profit networks for the lowest hanging fruit. In this race to the bottom, the less time and money the CBC devotes to enterprise journalism, the less motivation there is for the private networks to maintain credibility by funding their own investigative teams. Even then, “consumer protection” content has largely replaced political accountability.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it creates things like the Kate and Will show. Wall-to-wall, breaking-news coverage of a stage-managed, spoon-fed celebrity visit, justified by the couple’s symbolic relationship to a former colony, codified in a document most Canadians have never read (and one province has never signed). On a weekend where there was real news happening in Bangkok, Misrata, Athens, Washington, and around the world, what we saw instead was a breathless gaggle of normally credible journalists, gushing in live hit after live hit about how the prince is young and his wife is pretty. And the public broadcaster led the charge.

He continues with this.

Jon Stewart talks about a “right-wing narrative of victimization,” and what it has accomplished in Canada is the near-paralysis of progressive voices in broadcasting. In the States, even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace admitted there is an adversarial struggle afoot – that, in his view, networks like NBC have a “liberal” bias and Fox is there to tell “the other side of the story.” Well, Canada now has its Fox News. Krista Erickson, Brian Lilley, and Ezra Levant each do a wonderful send-up of the TV anchor character. The stodgy, neutral, unbiased broadcaster trope is played for jokes before the Sun News team gleefully rips into its targets. But Canada has no Jon Stewart to unravel their ideology and act as a counterweight. Our satirists are toothless and boring, with the notable exception of Jean-René Dufort. And on the more serious side, we have no Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow. So I don’t see any true debate within the media world itself, in the sense of a national, public clash of ideas. The Canadian right wing, if you want to call it that, has had five years to get the gloves off. With a majority Conservative government in power, they’re putting on brass knuckles. Meanwhile the left is grasping about in a pair of potholders. The only explanation I can think of is they’re too polite, or too scared. If it’s the latter, I think it’s clear enough why.

The Climate of Hate

Paul Krugmann writes,

It’s important to be clear here about the nature of our sickness. It’s not a general lack of “civility,” the favorite term of pundits who want to wish away fundamental policy disagreements. Politeness may be a virtue, but there’s a big difference between bad manners and calls, explicit or implicit, for violence; insults aren’t the same as incitement.

The point is that there’s room in a democracy for people who ridicule and denounce those who disagree with them; there isn’t any place for eliminationist rhetoric, for suggestions that those on the other side of a debate must be removed from that debate by whatever means necessary.

And it’s the saturation of our political discourse — and especially our airwaves — with eliminationist rhetoric that lies behind the rising tide of violence.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

Of course, the likes of Mr. Beck and Mr. O’Reilly are responding to popular demand. Citizens of other democracies may marvel at the American psyche, at the way efforts by mildly liberal presidents to expand health coverage are met with cries of tyranny and talk of armed resistance. Still, that’s what happens whenever a Democrat occupies the White House, and there’s a market for anyone willing to stoke that anger.

But even if hate is what many want to hear, that doesn’t excuse those who pander to that desire. They should be shunned by all decent people.

He expands on the underlying fuel for the hatred in Friday’s column

One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.

This deep divide in American political morality — for that’s what it amounts to — is a relatively recent development. Commentators who pine for the days of civility and bipartisanship are, whether they realize it or not, pining for the days when the Republican Party accepted the legitimacy of the welfare state, and was even willing to contemplate expanding it. As many analysts have noted, the Obama health reform — whose passage was met with vandalism and death threats against members of Congress — was modeled on Republican plans from the 1990s.

But that was then. Today’s G.O.P. sees much of what the modern federal government does as illegitimate; today’s Democratic Party does not. When people talk about partisan differences, they often seem to be implying that these differences are petty, matters that could be resolved with a bit of good will. But what we’re talking about here is a fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government.