Sunday, January 8, 2012

CNN Sucks Really Bad

This article is part two in our Sucks Really Bad series. For part one, please see, "Newsweek Sucks Really Bad."

Unless you've spent a lot of time lately sitting in airports or being over 60 and scared to death of Mexicans, you probably haven't been watching CNN at all. Good.

The Daily Show and our national weariness with 24-hour news has made mocking CNN fashionable, but that doesn't mean that it isn't also reasonable. As tired and easy as it is to pause at a cocktail party to inveigh against the spackled shallowness of Snooki, it doesn't change the fact that Snooki is cultural garbage.

If you watched CNN's coverage of Tuesday night's Iowa Caucus results, you saw something of almost zero informational value being wasted at great expense. To achieve the same effect in your own home, take 20 singles, station a dog in front of your toilet, then make it watch you flush them one by one. It doesn't understand what you're doing, and what you're doing is essentially meaningless, but, hey: MONEY TOILET.

CNN doesn't settle for merely one MONEY TOILET. On Tuesday, it had both the MAGIC SCREEN, the SOCIAL MEDIA SCREEN, and, of course, Wolf Blitzer.

Blitzer is a news magician: when anything of substance enters his orbit, he makes it disappear. He spent Tuesday night in an expensive suit throwing softballs and hitting keywords after the break. After one commercial, he even said, "I can only say three letters: Oh Em Gee!"

It's anyone's guess what Blitzer's purpose is, since he no longer primarily soft-pedals Israeli ethnocracy in Palestine or writes sympathetic portraits of spies who so loved Israel that they tried to spy first for South Africa and Pakistan and then took regular payment. He maintains a Dr. House-like trimmed level of white stubble, which makes him look sophisticated yet edgy — like, in his spare time, when he's not busy knowing fuck-all about actual news, he knows fuck-all about motorcycles or free climbing or MMA. He parades around with a pen and a pad of paper like those hopeless souls who go to Home Depot and desperately want the sales assistants to believe they know what they're looking for.

Wolf was not enough for CNN. They hired Ari Fleischer, the former Bush White House Press Secretary who is so repugnantly dishonest that he was still claiming in 2009 that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks and who was judged too incompetent or too toxic to work on Tiger Woods' rehabilitation. Put that in perspective: Woods, a man who apparently sportfucked every C-grade escort in the continental United States, had no use for a man who couldn't plausibly slime the U.S. into a fraudulent casus belli with a beggared, isolated mass murderer. Ari did get a blowjob once, but it wasn't one of those dishonorable Clinton-type blowjobs, and if anything the story sounds more degrading than most of Tiger's. CNN put him on the analyst front lines.

Fleischer was joined by Dana Loesch, radio personality, unlettered intellectual flatline, Tea Party member and Andrew Breitbart stooge. One supposes her presence indicates CNN's determination to reject FOX News' platoon of prevaricating, serially misinformed blonde paleoconservative talking-points fembots with a prevaricating, serially misinformed brunette paleoconservative talking-points fembot. (You know who likes Occupy Wall Street? Nazis! You know what totally wasn't astroturf? The teaparty!) During CNN's coverage, she baldly claimed that Rick Santorum hadn't made racist comments about whites being forced to foot the bill for blacks siphoning money from the welfare state, which prompted Roland Martin to sternly shut her down and say outright that she was wrong. To be fair to her, she did seem to notice and care — not because she was caught saying something absolutely untrue, but because Martin seemed to be violating the rules of TV journalistic ethics by mentioning it out loud.

O, Roland Martin, the poor non-idiot of the CNN crew. Informed, reasonable, black — you could spend the entire night of Iowa coverage just watching his soul die. On CNN, calling on him for his opinion seemed like a gesture of last resort, while on MSNBC, you couldn't hear from anyone other than Al Sharpton for minutes at a time. It almost makes you want to give over to thoughts of conspiracy: nobody wants to hear from the black commentator who isn't immediately undermined by the weight of his own considerable baggage.

It's not like the left in general got much help from this panel anyway. The only occasional bailout Martin received came from the Cajun Nosferatu, James Carville, who is usually no help to Democrats at all. While he calls an entertaining horserace, his stock in trade is a more sober version of the culture-war and demographic abstractions than those his fellow panelists usually trade in. As soon as he departs from the numbers, CNN's flattening of debate means that his homespun schtick amounts to the same absence of substance but greater style. His presence also says everything about their conception of politics.

Consider: CNN's idea of political balance was a panel consisting of a Bushie clown, a Tea Party bozo, a centrist Democrat operative who helped do an end-run around the progressive wing of the party to "triangulate" away from labor and blacks to a "center" in the 1990s — and, finally, poor, permafucked Roland Martin. This was "balanced" in the same way that a yardstick can span three feet — yet, on the left end, have a marking of 1 INCH and on the right end have a marking of 1 MILE. There's a middle there, in the media's abstracted math, and it doesn't matter to them what kind of see-saw real geometry creates.

Then there were the analytical satellites — who, Donna Brazile's limp centrism aside, further exposed CNN's dedication to "the liberal media" by hiring every second-rate Cleon Skousen currently stoking race war in the United States on behalf of Wall Street. Alex Castellanos spouted vague impressionistic nonsense while looking like a cross between Hercule Poirot and Mr. Belvedere that hadn't been let out of the closet for the last 20 years. Standing next to him was none other than Erick Erickson, who edits, which provides slightly more upmarket "Obama is a Stalin Nazi" editorials for people who consider World Net Daily too obvious. He also regularly publishes this sneering grotesque.

Mary Matalin was on the ground in Iowa, saying things about candidates' appearances and how she felt about them. Were they appealing, were they warm, did she like them? Take an email from your aunt about fabric swatches she's considering for her new sofa, change the names to GOP candidates, and you could generate Matalin's analysis. (Matalin is married to Carville, which proves that Democrat-and-Republican matches can work, if both of you suck hungrily at the same power-teat and make sure that neither of you have anything to say.)

Meanwhile, Piers Morgan chattered on like your uncle. You know the one: the guy whose opinion on any topic grows in inverse proportion to his knowledge of it. The analogy ends there, though, because, unlike Morgan, your uncle probably does not belong in prison. Morgan kept interrupting other "analysts" to say things like, "Now, but I think Americans will like Rick Santorum," which is a provocative conversation starter, provided that no one you're speaking to has spent more than two minutes reading anything about Rick Santorum.

Morgan is another damning example of Americans' willingness to assign gravitas to anyone with an English accent. He clearly knows nothing substantive about the candidates; his estimations devolve to his personal reactions, and he's shallow about even his own solipsism. Say what you will about England's journalism, but if we shipped them a self-satisfied dipshit editor bedeviled by massive career errors, subpoenas for wiretapping and general insipidity, they'd put him on a reality show called, Who Wants to Meet a Massive Asshole? (The show would be a runaway success.)

This, then, was the fearsome news team CNN deployed to teach you nothing you couldn't learn by hitting REFRESH on the page of a blog in between levels on an FPS game or while watching NCAA Football.

CNN's crowning moment came when they had to telephone a middle-aged Iowa woman and wake her up to get the caucus results. There they all were, standing around, listening to the voice of a regular person. Blitzer, Morgan, et al. Anderson Cooper even showed on screen, doing that thing where he squints and looks really concerned. With the CNN MAGIC WALL and SOCIAL MEDIA SCREEN and its anchors and analysts and set, there must have been at least $20 million staring back at you, all of it waiting on an Iowa worker, who gave them the story.