Television sprawls: this is its nature. It has spread from the living room to the bedroom, to our computer screens, to our phone displays, it is waiting for us in bars and lobbies, it is tucked into our cars and our subway stations. It is ubiquitous to the point that we probably interact more with the personas on screen than many of the people populating our daily lives.
At this stage, possibly the only thing that can save us from irreversible absorption into the affairs on television is bad television. Bad television is what we are used to, it is what is on every channel, it reminds us we should be watching less television, and the worst of the worst can even provoke hearty laughter.
The real danger is charlatan television – television that pretends not to be entertainment, or rather a programme that believes it is in earnest. This impostor television is best exemplified by news programmes, where self-appointed experts and analysts team up with pampered-faced broadcasters to contaminate our pipelines of information. While Fox News is more threatening than all the rest combined – even though a stranger to American customs would be convinced that Sean Hannity is a master of satiric hyperbole – there is one newshow in particular that has illegitimately won the respect of thousands for supposedly having integrety and conviction.
I had thought dinosaurs were extinct before watching TheNews Hour with Jim Lehrer for the first time in my teens. Coincidentally, that very night, I went to bed early for the first time in years. The News Hour is an advocate of the truth-boring nexus; stories are narrated by that fluctuating voice that always ends an interesting fact by elongating the last word of the sentence. The colour coding of the newsroom itself is just blue, different shades of sorry old blue, that agonising left versus right debate. Mark Shields simply can not articulate himself no matter how hard he tries and it is getting pretty late in the game now for a political analyst to learn to articulate his political ideas. David Brooks, on the other hand, is silver-tongued. Brooks would like us to believe that he is a good guy, a nice man. He would like us to believe his moralistic “the voters in this country get the representatives they deserve” is not an acolyte’s bow of deference to the financial overlords of this country.
Moderate masquerading as progressive, The News Hour makes the claim that to be objective is to be passionless, to be utterly uncharismatic. This is a dangerous notion. There is no objectivity in politics. If you are not picking a side then you are implicitly making a choice: the status-quo. Don’t let the old white men fool you. This is entertainment that soothes middle-class guilt. This is a riccola for the liberal with a sore conscience.