Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Era of Ignorance

Are we living in a unique era?  Much is being made lately of Donald Trump's stance on Obama's birthplace.  Who the hell died to make Donald Trump seemingly relevant?  Bad hair and a played out reality TV show really should not earn someone any air time.  Why do the media give such folks platforms?

I guess the answer is the cable revolution--heaps and heaps of channels with 24 hours to fill with programming every day.  So, I guess this leads to the fundamental question: the proliferation of the networks have given us Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Justified, the Shield, and so much other TV-goodness but it also allows the dreck to get recycled so that the news programs are stuck with displaying people who have been discredited multiple times (Eliot Spitzer!), so is it worth it?  Does the great TV offset the damage these folks are doing to the world?

What say you?

1 comment:

R. William Ayres said...

Keep in mind that TV "news" is now expected to earn a profit, just like the aforementioned excellent shows. Entertainment TV is what it always has been - some highbrow and clever, some lowbrow and stupid, some in between. If anything, I think the quality on the avowedly entertainment side has probably gotten better.

The casualty of this is the "news" part of TV that is supposed to "inform" us. Long gone are the people who actually took that job seriously - they're retired and/or (mostly) dead. In their place, we get stuff that masquerades as news but is in fact just blather designed to capture eyeballs long enough to show them ads. Remember a few years back when it turned out that more well-educated people were getting their TV news from the Daily Show than CNN? Jon Stewart understands this - and I think that, at some level, he really DOES want to inform.

I think this is a change that has taken place in our lifetimes, but it's not that new. My favorite moment: back in the 1990s, when the Russian submarine Kursk went to the bottom of the Arctic Sea, one of the major TV networks (I think it was NBC) brought on Tom Clancy as a "nuclear submarine expert" to discuss the crisis. These were clearly people who had given up, were just phoning it in, and figured that a best-selling author would probably attract some attention, even if all that he really knows about nuclear subs is fiction.

All in all, I don't blame the proliferation of channels, although I think that the advent of cable (which is an inherently 'private' space, unlike the airwaves) had something to do with it. Back when we had 3-4 broadcast networks, the price of using a piece of those airwaves (a public space) was to try to be genuinely informative. Lord knows Walter Kronkite, Tom Brokaw, and their kin tried. At some point, that idea died, replaced by "news as profit center". And if that's all you want to do, why not Donald Trump? He's at least as intelligent at Ted Nugent.