Celebri-spiral™: Enough Already

Our culture is in a celebri-spiral. We're conflicted over our ridiculous, growing celebrity culture consumption via magazines, websites, and TV shows. In 2007, my love/hate conflict made me take to the blog-o-sphere. All writing on this site © Dave Singleton 2009.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

February 18, 2007: The Sunday Talk Shows-News or Spin Cycle Gossip?

As my mea culpa for a week of celebri-spiraling, I decided to watch the Sunday morning talk shows, which focus on politics. Maybe I'd learn something new about policies that affect our country, insights into our elected leaders, and inner-beltway analysis of important legislation before Congress.

This would be penance, I thought. But it didn't exactly turn out that way. Here's what I found:

Meet the Press. Tim Russert hosted White House mouthpiece Tony Snow, a former TV reporter who's learned the tricks of the trade from both sides of the media fence. Now he's on the inside, no longer grilling. Instead, he's sidestepping and spinning, if you ask me. He totes the party line-with a clear, direct broadcaster's tone-about Iran, Iraq and North Korea. I am so tired of this administration and it's talking points!

Here is a sample that we have heard repeatedly:

MR. SNOW: Well, the president also understands that—look, the way the president’s put it is pretty simple. If you ask the American people, do you like the way things are in Iraq right now, the answer is no, we don’t. We think they ought to be better. We would like to see more success. We want the Iraqi government standing up in terms of taking a higher profile on security, taking a higher profile on reconstruction, being more serious about political reconciliation and reaching out to its neighbors, doing the hard work of becoming a democracy that can stand on its own. So we understand that sentiment...I—look, the president understands that war’s tough, they’re unpopular. He doesn’t like having to be at war and would love to be able to return the forces home. But the cost of leaving before we’ve succeeded is too high for this president or any president to risk.

This Week. Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper extra-ordinaire and, of course, I have a gripe against him for his anti-gay stance. Even so, I really don't need to spend time with him and his wife, Ann, to talk about his presidential campaign, why they decided he would run, and how she’s doing with her multiple sclerosis, diagnosed in 1998. It feels very manipulative that he'd bring his wife out now, to start building his national image. She also helps deflect tough questions.

Late Edition. Wolf Blitzer welcomed Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist who is also a master (or mistress) of soundbytes, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, New Mexico Govenor Bill Richardson, and - ready for it? - Penn Jillette, entertainer and magician (that was how he was billed.) They debated who could win in 2008 and if "the West" will play a large part. Well, of course it will. As will the South, East, Midwest, and North.

Fox News Sunday. Lucky us, Newt Gin-grinch (you heard me) told host Chris Wallace on Jan. 21 that he’ll run for president only as a “last resort.” Whose last resort, don't you wonder? Gingrich has said he won’t make an announcement until September. Hold your breath, people. He is a master of soundbytes, and seems to miss the celebri-pol spotlight.

Face the Nation. Bob Schieffer discussed the "axis of evil" (Iraq, Iran and North Korea) with Sen. Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Democratic presidential candidate who just stuck his foot into his mouth a few weeks ago by calling Barack Obama clean and articulate, and Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana, the committee’s ranking Republican. Did we learn anything new about a potential war with Iran or the standoff with North Korea? Not really. Then we heard from news leader Doyle McManus and Josephine Hearn, who covers Congress for The Politico. As one listing noted, you may remember her from the memorable headline on her story: “Sanchez Accuses Democrat of Calling Her a 'Whore,' Resigns from Hispanic Group.” Now there's some politics we can all get our minds around! What did I learn? Polls like Rudy Guiliani over John McCain, probably because of his 9-11 popularity. Big surprise.


After a few hours of channel surfing and TIVO'ing, what did I take away from all this?

Bush is cagey and one-note about his Iraq policies. The administration is being secretive about Iran and North Korea. Tony Snow is defending Bush at all costs, because that's his job. The vast right wing conspiracy can't wait to "swift boat" Hillary. Barack is riding a wave of goodwill that could crash onto shore if he makes one mistake, since he has no record to speak of to back him up. Rudy Guiliani is still riding the 9-11 wave. Pundits are speculating about who's the likely Presidential nominee for Dems and Repubs. The hosts of these news shows are forceful and direct in their questions, but where exactly are the news and insights? Do we learn anything new?

Mostly, I heard lots of spin and speculation. Last time I checked the definition of speculation, it wasn't so very different from gossip. I am not sure my "mea culpa" was radically different from celebri-spiraling.

Sometimes the political news is sharp, insightful, provocative, revealing, and hard hitting. But not always. Sometimes, it's just dressed up gossip. Sometimes, cronies can't help but give us other a break and let the spin cycle run indefinitely.

I leave you with this quote I found that made me laugh as I considered our political news landscape, and the uneasy confrontation that should (but doesn't always) exist between journalist and subject:

I hate newspapermen.....I regard them as spies.....If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast. - General William T. Sherman


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