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Up Against The Hard Break

Cable news an accomplice to all we have been through these past four years, up to and including January 6, 2021

A mob supporting then-President Donald Trump and his lie that the 2020 election was "stolen" storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021.

A mob supporting then-President Donald Trump and his lie that the 2020 election was "stolen" storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. (Photo: Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Cable news is the default place to watch events, such as the January 6th, 2021 eruption in Washington DC. Apart from bearing witness to the human avalanche flooding the Capitol, we were also subjected to the cliches and shallow phrases being coined on the spot and then repeated by the next hired hand at all cable stations. The insufferable posturing of the well-paid anchors (an ironic appellation for these persons) wears thin quickly. They have been signaling their virtues as they have posed being stunned by the president for four years. In fact, they aren't stunned - or shocked - or speechless, but grateful in their own perverse way. They mug for the camera as they report, "what he has done this time" and under their breath, they thank him for giving them a show for the night.

Gore Vidal called us - the United States of Amnesia. And this isn't about remembering the Russian or French Revolution. Sure - the extreme disparity between rich and poor sets the stage for a siege of government buildings. Yes - feeling for decades that we do not have representative government can become the parched underbrush for a flash wildfire. The current hysterical analysis is aimed at the spark - this strange, bloated man who spit fire at the dry underbrush, and who is, in truth, not an anomaly. He is a logical conclusion of decades of government distrust, and January 6, 2021 was a flaming whirlwind.

So when I hear the indignation and horror from the likes of Tapper, Cooper, Lemon, Todd, Joe, Cuomo - I say, please. You and your handlers and bosses made the monster - gave him air and validity day after day - hour after hour. Cable and Network news stood this man up for all the months leading up to the election and then used him as programming in the ensuing four years.But as the cable stations and their copywriters and personalities reported breathlessly about what was happening before their eyes and their lenses I thought back to 2015/2016 and remembered the months and months that these same stations and personalities had this unbalanced word salad spinner on their "shows" nonstop. He had 2 billion dollars of free air time and an open line to every well-paid personality on every cable channel and network news. Hell - he was a guest on SNL - dancing coolly in a blue light.

He was not a worthy news story - he was entertainment. He had nothing really profound or constructive to say. He was Howard Stern and Jerry Springer and Judge Judy rolled into one inarticulate oil slick. But because Cable and network "news" is NOT commercial-free the powers that be there must book the adrenaline rush. They would cut away to every rally - they let him call in - they bemoaned how unlikable Hillary was - they booked and booked this certifiable case study of a narcissist again and again.

Anderson Cooper regularly would have on his show this very odd spokeswoman for Trump - Katrina Pierson. Also - Kayleigh McEnany would be on with him often. Both were photogenic in a Fox kind of way and Anderson let them say any crazy off-the-wall angry rant they seemed to have prepared. They would spew insane garbage about Hillary - unchecked or even queried by the hapless host, whose only job was to let them unravel in their coiffed, robotic well-spoken way. He kind of smiled in a bemused "get a load of her" way. My question was, what qualified them to be on any show? "Trump campaign spokesperson?" Maybe once - but somehow the bookers at CNN et al thought they were arresting and provocative and somehow the station could measure how much the viewers stayed with the show.

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And of course, the main act himself was the crackpot who was the jackpot and all the stations and networks kept pulling the one-armed bandit. Were they unaware of the kindling that populated America? Were they oblivious or indifferent to what toxicity they were piping into the dilated eyes and ears of the malcontents? He was the high-pitched avatar of a certain kind of demented tribal patriotism and it played.

Any media news company's only responsibility is to make sure the ads they sell, mostly to drug companies, are viewed by as many people as possible. So when I hear the indignation and horror from the likes of Tapper, Cooper, Lemon, Todd, Joe, Cuomo - I say, please. You and your handlers and bosses made the monster - gave him air and validity day after day - hour after hour. Cable and Network news stood this man up for all the months leading up to the election and then used him as programming in the ensuing four years.

There needs to be a law. If you call yourself a "NEWS" network, channel, or show - No commercials - No musical underscoring. CNN - Cable NEWS Network - if you are NEWS you are not programming for adrenaline rushes. You report events. Emotions may happen on their own but that cannot be your agenda. Fox NEWS - no commercials. MSNBC - no commercials, graphics, or underscoring. I know this has been well-trod territory but it needs to be revisited. The same way you cannot call certain things medicine - or food - you cannot call what you serve up to the American public NEWS if your eye is on the hard break for the ten things you have to sell before you return to the "urgent" matter at hand.

Trump is just one consequence of this current model. Overall, the statement to all of us with this way of presenting vital, civic, national, international, and political information to us is, your main human value is as a consumer - not as a thinking citizen. In fact, we don't want you thinking, we want as many emotions as we can manipulate out of you. We want you in a state of vulnerable receptivity to products - again, mostly drugs.

I repeat - this needs to be a law. In the meantime, all personalities on these networks, please stop performing and posturing - spare us all your ire and indignation and try to understand how the umbrella under which you function is, with your consent and participation, an accomplice to all we have been through these past four years, up to and including January 6, 2021.

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis was a playwright, writer, actor, and political activist.  He has been a contributor to Common Dreams since 2001. Bill died on February 26, 2021, at age 69, after a battle with COVID-19. Bill's Broadway debut — “Mass Appeal,” earned two Tony nominations and became a staple of community theater. Bill wrote the screenplay for the 1984 film adaptation of "Mass Appeal," starring Jack Lemmon and Zeljko Ivanek. Bill's personal website is here.

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