The robot reporters of cable news—and the real reason Olbermann was fired

(Update, 12:55 p.m.: there does appear to be a reason why Olbermann was fired, and it’s a doozy. See Kathlene M.’s quote of Jack Wheeler, below. If Wheeler is right, the entire mainstream media has missed what’s happening, which is that NBC’s new owners are purging MSNBC of its nutty leftism and moving the station to the center.)

I learned about the epoch-making event last night because I happened to be watching CNN and saw Anderson Cooper interviewing people about Keith Olbermann’s departure from MSNBC. It very quickly became clear that, beyond the bare fact of the announcements by the station and Olbermann that Olbermann and the the station were parting ways (as reported by the New York Times and other outlets), there was no news to report. Neither the station nor Olbermann had given the reasons for the breakup. It was not even known if MSNBC had fired him, or if he had quit.

Yet despite this total lack of information of the reasons for the split, Cooper went on at length intensely interviewing one media figure after another asking them the reasons for the split. Though none of them had anything to say about it, he kept on interviewing them.

There’s something seriously wrong with cable TV news. They insist on talking and talking about something about which there is nothing further to say. If Cooper and his station had been sane, they would have run an item on Olbermann, giving the available information, and then returned to other stories. But the driving compulsion to cover a “breaking story” to the death, even though there’s no further information on it, keeps them talking on and on about nothing. It’s sick.

- end of initial entry -

Kathlene M. writes:

Jack Wheeler predicted Keith Olberman’s firing on January 14. Good news: there are two more firings to come (link is to a subscription site).

Wheeler wrote:

As you may know, Comcast is completing its purchase of NBC from General Electric. The FCC’s fascist chairman, Julius “Seizure” Genachowski, is placing a host of hamstringing conditions for approval, but the deal will be closed soon.

Good friends of the HFR [a reference to Wheeler’s “Half-Full Report”] are on the inside of Comcast, who say that the firing of hyper-liberal Jeff Zucker as NBC President/CEO is only the beginning.

What Comcast COO Steve Burke (who will replace Zucker) will do next is fire Keith Olberman, Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow from MSNBC, realigning it away from the moonbats and towards the right (which Burke will call the “center”).

This realignment will carry through to NBC News and all NBC programming. It’s not that Burke and other Comcast honchos are Tea Partiers. They’re businessmen who think allowing liberal ideology to trump the bottom line is asinine. They also have no intention of allowing Fox to continue eating MSNBC’s lunch. Ergo, say goodnight, Keith, Ed & Rachel.

John P. writes:

You mentioned this way that CNN reports endlessly on stories where there is nothing much to be said. I’ve noticed this before and found it irritating. Last night there was a very long segment on some minor improvements in Rep. Giffords’s case with intensive interviews of doctors who surely have better things to do with their time. I had to change channels eventually.

I have nothing against the congresswoman and hope she will recover, but there are thousands of badly injured people in the U.S. trying to recover step-by-step. This obsession with a relatively obscure member of Congress makes CNN look like a state news organisation—the Communist News Network.

Bartholomew writes:

LA wrote:

“There’s something seriously wrong with cable TV news. They insist on talking and talking about something about which there is nothing further to say.”

I agree. There is something wrong and “sick” as Mr. Auster later put it, about people who do this. And there is also something wrong and sick about all of the viewers who compulsively follow their every meaningless word.

It reminded me of my own (now past) obsession with blogging, or more exactly, with reading blogs over the past three years. At first, when I discovered VFR and a few other blogs, I was so overwhelmed and refreshed by the truth that I found there, that I wanted more and more. I kept returning, hoping to find more precious truth. I found myself frustrated and annoyed when Mr. Auster or another blogger would fail to update his blog frequently enough to satisfy my insatiable thirst for more. (And isn’t this at the root of Conservative Swede Syndrome? Blogging becomes a substitute for Scripture, and bloggers a substitute for God. When both fail to satisfy, as all mortal things inevitably shall, the idolater becomes angry with his god, either as a hungry infant sucking at a dry tit, or as a humiliated worshiper avenging his self-degradation before a man no greater than he.)

This went on for two years, I think, without my realizing what I was doing.

Finally, God made it clear to me that reading blogs so incessantly and so habitually was destructive: I was neglecting other parts of my life. He showed me how to stop.

I am now much more careful about when I read the blogs, and I do so after I have read and meditated on the Bible that morning. I only read blogs, in short, when I don’t feel that I need to. And the moment I feel that I need to read just one more, I ask God for the strength to turn it off and get doing something else.

I read blogs as though they were Scripture. I turned to bloggers like LA constantly for truth. But not even a blogger as prolific as LA can feed me truth every hour of the day; only God can do that. It is perverse and wrong for me to turn to a blog and expect to find in it what I can only find in the Bible: the Truth.

It is every bit as perverse and wrong for the masses to turn to these cable TV shows every minute of the day as it was for me to turn to blogs. And unlike the bloggers such as LA who know well when to be silent, to do other things and thereby (and perhaps unwittingly) remind their readers to do likewise, these cable TV shows encourage the very opposite. By being the “24 hour” news network, they present themselves as a “24 hour” source of a good thing, and encourage their viewers to treat them as such. (I can still remember as a kid when the public TV network broadcast a multicolored blank screen during the night hours. On Saturday morning, my brothers and I woke up early and stared at it expectantly waiting for the countdown to the first program of the morning, our favorite cartoon. Does any network still black out over night? Doesn’t that mean something about what they expect their viewers [not] to do?)

They might not mean to present themselves as a “24 hour” substitute for truth and the divine, but how can they reasonably expect their loyal viewers to see them in any other way? If they do not intend for people to sit glued, watching their TV sets for 24 hours straight, why do they present programming for 24 hours straight and bill that programming as useful, good and necessary? What part of their programming would they have us miss? Do they ever say, Coming up at 11 is the special you should miss so you can get some sleep for tomorrow? No, they don’t. They tell us “You won’t want to miss our special report at 11” … and 12, 1, 2 and so on. Do they not imply that every minute of what they have to say is worth every minute of our time to hear it? The only escape is simply not to believe them. To assume they’re lying, and to decide we will want to miss what they’re presenting, so that we can get on with the rest of life.

Put another way, if we believed in the value of their product as they present it to us, what else should we do but sit dutifully in front of our TV screens for every minute they are broadcasting (round the clock)? And if we did so, how could we avoid destroying ourselves?

The problem with cable TV isn’t just the meaningless ramblings of Cooper et al. It’s that the meaninglessness is presented as something good, and the presentation never ends.

And the TV watching audience willingly believe these lies for the same reason I tried so eagerly to treat VFR, Vanishing American, Guy White, and a few others in the same way (allow me to stress here, though, that unlike the cable TV shows, NO blogger I have ever read has ever presented himself in this way): we are all starved for the truth, and we are, like lost men in the desert, looking high and low for wherever we may find it.

It’s yet another symptom of a society in very serious decline.

Scottie writes:

There is often no news to report and this is because cable is on 24/7 and the airtime must be filled. Unfortunately for the purveyors of nothing, there really are slow news days, or no news days, so they are compelled to fill the void, if necessary, with nothing and the nothingness of inane talking heads. Remember the day-long “slow speed” OJ Simpson chase on CNN and the rental trucks loaded with ballots on the highway for hours on end during the 2000 election fiasco?

Howard Kurtz wrote a very good book called Hot Air: All Talk, All The Time about this. It was written in 1997, so it’s been some time since I read it, but one interview that stays in my memory was with Margaret Carlson. She admitted that when she was still on the talk show circuit or “gravy train” (her words) she often found herself saying, “things even I don’t believe.” So there you have it. Thank God we have people like you to counter the nonsense. You really do need your own radio or television show as someone once suggested.

Kathlene M. writes:

I just found independent verification of what’s happening at Deadline Hollywood’s website, although Schultz and Maddow are simply being moved to new time slots. Maybe firings will come later.

Deadline Hollywood writes:

But word has been circulating for months now that the new owners have wanted to “tinker” with MSNBC and had many changes in store, including a right turn for the left-wing cable channel so that it represents both political points of view more evenly. It is well known that both Comcast chief Brian Roberts and NBCU chief Steve Burke have donated heavily to the Republican party with Burke more recently donating money to a few Democrats as well as heavily to Republicans. Roberts was a co-chairman of the host committee at the 2000 Republican Convention while Burke raised at least $200,000 for George W Bush’s re-election campaign.

[end of quote]

Actually Maddow’s show remains at her 9 pm time slot and Schultz’ show will be moved from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. We’ll see how this prediction of a “right” turn pans out. I think it’ll still be liberal, just not hyper-liberal. At least the outrageous Olberman will be gone for awhile until he returns in some new incarnation elsewhere.

Gintas writes:

Bartholomew’s comment is excellent, I think I’ve sometimes slipped into the same thing. Getting away from the Internet for a while altogether is a good thing to practice.

Speaking of the emptiness of our news media, Solzhenitsyn’s 1974 essay “Live Not By Lies,” written just before he was arrested and exiled from the Soviet Union, is applicable.

He offers practical advice for us:

And from that day onward he:

  • Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.

  • Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.

  • Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.

  • Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.

  • Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.

  • Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.

  • Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.

  • Will immediately talk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.

  • Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

The whole essay is worth reading. It’s important to live by the truth; it’s more important to live by the truth than to win. If you look at many blogs where they’re about winning, I think deep down they’re not about truth (for example, Gates of Vienna and the memes thing). If a man is willing to lie to advance his cause, in the end he’s just promoting the kingdom of lies.

LA replies:

Imagine a man who not only declares publicly that he lives by lies, but who demands that everyone live by lies, and who adds that if others strive to live by truth instead of lies they are being divisive! Such is the editor of Gates of Vienna.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 22, 2011 08:45 AM | Send

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