I’ve been playing poker in the daytime lately, before any sporting events come on. Even a small poker room has about eight televisions to keep the degenerates stimulated between hands of poker and sips of coffee with nine sugars. When there are no sports, the TVs are usually tuned to a stock market channel and a couple general news channels. Ive noticed that, in most public spaces showing news channels, at least one TV will be tuned to Fox News. Right wingers inhabit a delicate little ecosystem of denial and delusion and if the atmosphere is not perfectly maintained at all times, things get tumultuous. They must have their Fox News. Liberal customers and employees don’t seem to care enough to demand MSNBC, knowing it will just create a big headache when the Fox people start squawking about Marxist Muslims, so you will virtually never see it. Plus, I don’t think anyone really likes MSNBC much. So liberals and rational beings of all stripes let the baby have his bottle and assert themselves by constantly muttering pot shots about how stupid Fox is to each other.
But the most common news station in these situations remains CNN. Its only in these situations that I watch CNN. And I thought Id built up an immunity. I’d already said “fuck CNN” a decade ago. I understand that CNN is garbage’s garbage. The snotty tissues and toenail clippings left after the kinds of people CNN rigidly ignores pick out all the recyclable stuff. I have come to terms with that. Another player told me he used to watch a lot of CNN because it makes you feel like you’re informed and by being informed you feel involved. But then he realized, that’s all bullshit.
You probably know all the cliches by this point. If you go to any other country in the world that doesn’t have a 150 tall statue of the president for life at the airport, you’ll immediately be blown away by how much more informative the news is. Elsewhere, the news acknowledges the world outside of that country. It acknowledges more of what happens in that country than celebrity gossip and government press releases. They don’t give shows to the millionaire politicians who fuck you over so they can talk about how awesome it is for you to be fucked over. The talking heads seem to be well educated, knowledgeable and intelligent. You’ll often catch this whole vibe where commentators and reporters see those in power as adversaries, where American news feels like a bunch of people trying to become rich and important so they can all hobnob in the same hot tub of corruption somewhere in Aspen. Even CNN can be pretty good in other countries.
Aliens watching signals from CNN that drifted into space would have no idea that America has over 600,000 homeless people and over 2.3 million prisoners, giving us the highest incarceration rate in the world, by far. Put those together and you’ve got 1% of the population. They’d have no idea that 16% of us live in poverty, or what that is like or why it happens or about all of the barriers that are set up to keep you in poverty. There were lengthy periods when we were in 2 wars and the CNN watching alien might watch off and on for a week without discovering that fact.
And how did we get into those wars? Well, lets just focus on Iraq. Here is what we were told by officials. Saddam Hussein, a megalomaniac, regional dictator, had taken up the cause of his greatest adversaries, the Islamists. His motivation for doing this was that they were both bad guys and we were good guys. He was using Winnebagos or big rigs or something to build weapons of mass destruction that could pose a real threat to the U.S. even though nobody could find them or find any evidence of them, including neutral weapons inspectors who were in Iraq. And though Saddam was living the fulfillment of all his personal desires, he was willing to launch these weapons against us, 100% guaranteeing his death, the deaths of his sons and the end of his regime, because he was such a bad guy. Like Skeletor and Cobra Commander put together.
Naturally, CNN’s response to being presented with this narrative was, how fast can we put together some computer graphics of Abraham Lincoln riding a bald eagle that shoots missiles? After all, not only was Bush selling this story, so were Hillary and Kerry. Must be legit. And wars are as almost as profitable for news outlets as they are for weapons makers. Shit, the whole reason Wolf Blitzer is famous is because he has a funny name, a beard and was on TV constantly during the first Iraq War. I’m sure that at some point since then, CNN has grazed the fact that the war they were cheerleading has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and uncounted illnesses, maimings and birth defects. But our alien would have to watch for months to catch one of the scarce flickers of that part of the story.
None of that is new, though. This is what we expect when watching CNN. My hatred was rekindled because I happened to watch during a particularly farcical stretch of CNN that caused my head to explode several times, in defiance of all known medical science.
The biggest news during this stretch was the crisis in Crimea. This is not an event that I paid any special attention to, nor one that I especially care about. Anyway, you can always get the lowdown from some place on the internet. But the nature of the Crimean crisis made CNNs coverage of it interesting and revealing. Normally, they’d ignore or gloss over a foreign conflict that didn’t heavily involve the US, but this one was too big. So they were forced to cover a major, international event with some measure of impartiality. Nobody involved was buying advertising, or shared a proverbial Aspen hot tub with the American media. So the people who worked at CNN just kind of found themselves covering the story, largely as outside observers. In other words, they kind of accidentally became journalists. Each day, they focused on a new issue, hoping to understand the basic realities of the situation. The types of realities they are usually so studious about ignoring.
Day 1: Does Vladimir Putin care about his own people?
Seeing this text on the screen caused my first head explosion. The staff at the poker room were really cool about cleaning it up. Accidents happen. Until now, you might think that everyone who works at CNN has some sort of microchip in their head that prevents them from asking this kind of question, except in the case of third world dictators. But no, here they were asking the question and having lengthy (by cable news standards) discussions about it: even though Russia has been transformed by the miracle of crony capitalism, do the elites who run it care about the other people who live there?
Meanwhile, in America, which CNN spends 90% of its air time covering, this question is off the table. In spite of mountains of evidence that our elites are at best indifferent and at worst hostile to our well being, such a question is inconceivable.
Consider, for example, that the disparity between the income of college graduates and non-college graduates is the widest its ever been. But that getting a college degree now requires most people to take on enormous debts in a situation orchestrated by private lenders in cooperation with the government. So, your only paths to becoming middle class or better are now 1) Be born upper middle class or better and have generous parents. 2) Open a pawn shop that gets turned into a reality show. 3) Become an indentured servant to millionaires and billionaires who lend you money on harsh terms. As you probably know, higher education in other wealthy countries is still free or very cheap, just like it used to be in the U.S.
Our wars against bad guys who make ICBMs in invisible winnebagos are going to cost us as much as $6 trillion, enough to erase our $1.2 trillion in student debt five times over. A huge amount of that money is going to enrich private interests, like the ones who issue student loans. Now, all of his might sound like it is happening in a country run by elites who are so mad with greed, they’ve set out to destroy the middle class and turn the government into their piggy bank. But clearly, the people who run this country care deeply about the average person. The real question here is, does Vladimir Putin care about his own people? That’s what we should focus on: how elites are screwing common people in a distant country that has little to do with us.
Day 2: CNN’s Brian Todd reports on the American firms that make money lobbying and doing public relations for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian interests in the U.S.
I like to think that my head was only one of thousands that exploded with this story. Foreign governments enrich American companies to get into bed with our politicians? You don’t say! Why, that almost sounds like legalized, institutionalized corruption. I did a search on these lobbyists CNN just discovered and it turns out that $3.2 billion was funneled through them in 2013. Apparently, there are more than 12,000 lobbyists in D.C. I wonder if a small army of licensed crooks with unlimited budgets and free reign to bribe politicians with impunity has any effect on other issues. Maybe this open corruption, along with campaign contributions, high paid jobs handed to officials who’ve left the public sector and $20,000 “speaking fees” paid to powerful regulators should be a prevalent part of the discussion of every issue from healthcare to our next war, as opposed to pretending these issues are resolved like high school debates. Nah, I bet it only matters when Putin does it. Did you know he was in the KGB? That makes him a way bigger threat to you than a multinational corporation with a bevy of politicians in its pocket that stands to make a fortune by lowering environmental standards, creating financial desperation among their employees, throwing you in prison or cashing in on an unjust war. If entities like that are spending a fortune to access Capital Hill, what could possibly go wrong? Oh, hey, look over here! Its Putin with is shirt off! Things sure are fucked up in that other country!
Day 3: CNN asks, Is Russian News Just Propaganda?
In between taking breaks to bombard you with messages carefully designed to make you feel inferior and inadequate so that you buy a bunch of worthless crap you cant afford, CNN examined the content of Russian news to see if it was just propaganda. I know that the Russian media isn’t very free. But why would this be an important story in the US, especially on a network that rarely acknowledges the existence of other countries at all? CNN tells us to trust authority, accept war, worship wealth and celebrity and conceals the ugly underbelly of our society so fervently that Roddy Piper wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if he watched it while wearing the spcial glasses from They Live. Is the Russian news just propaganda? Is the Russian news just propaganda? I was halfway through a Joe Pesciesque torrent of profanity when my head exploded again.
Day 4: CNN examines the Ukrainian perspective in an interview with a pop singer.
My doctor told me that a fourth head explosion could be fatal and then sent me a bill for $3,000 even though I have insurance. So I was apprehensive about exposing myself to another day of CNN. Luckily, things returned to normal. This is the CNN we know and loathe. I imagined turning on a TV in London and seeing a BBC interview. The subject: The American perspective on The Gulf War. The guest: Tiffany. It was such a relief to see CNN return to its normal levels of vapid infotainment, minus the info. Before long, they would be spending 24 hours a day discussing a single plane crash simply because nobody could find the plane. It was a fascinating exercise. How can you spend days and days talking about a subject, when you have no information on the subject and the answer to every question is, we have no idea! This is what cable news is for. Twisting the absence of information into infotainment and ignoring everything important. We cant completely rule out terrorism. We cant completely rule out something other than terrorism. We cant say that we know with divine certainty that aliens weren’t involved. Here’s a bunch of meaningless crap about black boxes. Here’s some pretty lady who says shes a security expert, though, of course, she knows absolutely nothing about this case. The soothing drone of vacuity felt like sliding into a warm bath. CNN, take me away!
Still, I think CNN can be improved. Were never going to have legitimate news, of course. But if were just going to have a bunch of rich dolts babbling on with talking points, we could make it more pleasant and entertaining. So these are some changes Id like to see.
Replace Wolf Blitzer with Kevin from The Office.
Obviously, Kevin is a fictional character, but then so is Wolf Blitzer: sentient being. Wolf is the most vacant man in news and its apparent at a glance. He constantly maintains the expression of an eight year old looking at the menu in a French restaurant. Did he think of the title of his show: The Situation Room? Even when the situation room is a place where The President is deciding how many civilians to blow up with drones, calling it “the situation room” is a silly little bit of play acting. So its perfect that an infotainment show in which a man with a low IQ interviews pop singers about war would ape that title. Lets just go all the way with it. The Situation Room, with Kevin Malone. So, we may never know if the passengers on that Air Malaysia flight got to their inflight meals. Next up on The Situation Room, I talk with Debbie Gibson about how the bakery at the grocery store seems to get worse every day.
Replace Anderson Cooper with Seann William Scott.
I’m enough of a bleeding heart that I dig this slot being held by an openly gay man. I think its good for people to have confident, masculine gay rubbed right in their faces because it makes it harder to live in a little, imaginary world where gay men are all mincing pederasts who want to convert you. Also, it gives young gays a good role model because before all they had was people like Michelangelo and Oscar Wilde. However, the only time Anderson has any balls is on issues involving gay rights and that’s normally just shooting fish in a barrel. Besides that, you have extended photo ops at disasters and the usual pablum.
Also, Anderson Cooper is a proper oligarch, in case you didn’t know. A Vanderbilt. And, on top of that, he used to be an intern for the CIA. Obviously, he cant be expected to subsist on a vast fortune accumulated by using railroad workers until they died and discarding them like trash, so he makes $10 million a year from CNN. In other words, he makes what you will probably earn over your entire life about every five to eight weeks. If nothing else, he should be eliminated because he lends too much credence to the Alex Joneses of the world. He was even in a secret society at Yale. I mean, sometimes you have to take a step back and drink in the fact that this is actually the world we live in. The people telling you to embrace flying murder robots on the centrist news channel are a Vanderbilt who worked for the CIA and Newt Gingrich. We live in a Dead Kennedy’s song.
Anyway, I tried to think of an openly gay guy who is also charismatic and masculine and came up with Sean William Scott. His performance as Country Mac on Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia presented the kind of honest and decent, yet rough and tumble guy I want interviewing politicians and covering disasters. Hopefully he doesnt turn out to be a Rockefeller who interned as a drone operator and is also a 23rd degree Mason.
Replace Crossfire with The Running Man.
Crossfire is a show on which rich, political insiders have debates on whether the U.S. should be a warmongering plutocracy or a bellicose society ruled by the rich. Instead, any politician who has ever voted for or signed off on a war has his or her name put on a marble. If their name is drawn, they are sent to an underground combat zone where they are stalked by cartoonish murderers for our entertainment. Since the days when the children of the elite were expected to participate in wars are long gone, surely politicians wont mind exposing themselves to the same risk they are foisting upon our soldiers and the populations of the countries we liberate.
Replace Sanjay Gupta with more Sanjay Gupta.
Even a Grumpy Gus like me has to admit that this guy seems OK, even though I doubt we’d agree on much. He exudes compassion, understanding and intelligence, which he is allowed to do because he is a doctor. The bits of his documentaries on medical marijuana that I saw were not only fair, but forced us to confront the suffering that unjust laws inflict on of real people. There are dozens of subjects he could cover in similar fashion. I guess Gupta inhabits a magic little bubble because he is an M.D., which is why he not only is allowed to do programming like this, but has the inclination to. It reminds me of how Howard Dean got away with being authentically liberal for a while, until he made a funny sound. Maybe all news should be handled by doctors. Then corporate faux-journalists could find purposes to which they are better suited, such as volunteering for medical experiments.
Replace Erin Burnett with Judge Smails from Caddyshack.
Erin Burnett is, hold on to your hat, the daughter of a corporate attorney and a former analyst for the firm of Goldman, Sachs & Mephistopheles. She leapt from there to overtly plutocratic shows on CNBC and from there to CNN so that she can convey information about the world in an objective manner. Really, I don’t know what else to say at this point. But maybe the plutocratic point of view needs to be represented. Why be half-assed about it? On, You’ll Get Nothing And Like It, with Judge Snails, well learn why American workers deserve to have less than half the vacation time of their counterparts in Europe, Australia or Canada. Or Uruguay, Columbia, The Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia…
Instead of ignoring the facts, Smail will explain exactly why non-wealthy Americans should have worse healthcare than their counterparts in any similar country, why they should pay more for it and why the process of getting that inferior care should always be a big headache. Well imagine a utopia where large corporations continue merging until they’re all too big to fail. Frequent guest, Scrooge McDuck will provide wealthy viewers with tips on moving money overseas to avoid our already regressive system of taxation. Great news! The $26 billion paid out in 2013 bonuses on Wall Street exceed the earnings of every minimum wage employee in the country put together. The system works!
Replace Piers Morgan with a show starring Donald Trump that is broadcast in Britain but secretly view-able in America.
Did we sign some treaty with The UK that allows them to dump their biggest nonces and prats on us? Thanks Obama! If were going to take Morgan and the psychopathic chef and the American Idol tosser and even that nasty old minger from The Weakest Link, I feel like its only fair that Britain takes the worst human being in American history. This would be kind of a large scale hidden camera show. Trump would be given a TV show in England on which he’d expound upon the shortcomings of his host country and conduct belligerent interviews. He’d also have roving camera segments, during which he would barge into some pub or meeting of parliament and cram his thunderous ignorance down everyone’s throat as they sat, frozen with horror. Trump would be the only American to appear on the show. For example, he would take calls, but only from within Britain. However, the show would be broadcast in the U.S. so that we could all enjoy the payback.