Even when growth is steady and prosperity seems to lurk around every bend for anyone willing to take out a mortgage being given them, there is much amiss in the world.
Imagine then, what things can be like in times like these?
That’s right, folks, we’re crossing the Rubicon. Things have gotten into some serious muck and there’s little that can be done to turn this car around with any kind of haste. I find myself feeling an unexpected sense of glee – an elated feeling, not of vengeance or righteousness (we’re not quite there yet) but rather an excitement of the unknown, much like the thrill of hearing sirens when you’re the one flipping the switch on the fire truck.
By now you’ve all heard of or seen the whole CNBC thing with Jon Stewart. Ho ho! Some of you might have been following the thing from its inception, and a few of you I know for a fact saw the whole thing coming. You’re the ones who don’t get your news and commentary from a fake news show (no matter how much harder it nails things than the mumbling muppets that precede it, running for hours at a time without saying anything of note. Not to mention the muppets making prank calls that comes before the Daily Show. Or was that CNN? Wait, which channel was that?)
In any case, how could you have missed it? It received as much attention, even in the mainstream media and its seventeen or so live hours of television, as if Kelly Clarkson had been caught using some kind of performance enhancing drug. And while many tuned in and were entertained, probably changing the tax bracket of most Daily Show writers, some people had actual analysis of their points, which were godd ones.
MSNBC, for its part, tried to stay unbiased – but, hey. It was never really fair to expect much from them on this one, being one of the sibling stations at the heart of the whole affair. That said, at least David Gregory did an interesting job in trying to get a panel of “experts” to say something. Nothing happened, of course, because all of his “analysts” had their own agenda to tout, their own talking points they would stick to. But he did a better job trying, I think, than did most of his colleagues. And in the end he repeated his question enough times that if you were waiting for an answer, at least you would remember the question and the fact that it went unaddressed. That’s better than the typical cud that sleazy jackass, Eric Cantor (R-VA), was fed the cameras.
Other stations did their thing and said their piece, paying lip service to the fact that it was a story they couldn’t ignore. But the NBC station’s reactions were, naturally, the most interesting because they had a stake. CNBC, for instance, didn’t react much at all for a whole week, prompting Jon’s ridiculous use of Viacom’s name for the first time since I can remember. And then they made the terrible call of letting Jim Cramer go on the Daily Show and act as pseudo-knee-jerk spokesperson for the network, which worked heavily against all of them and made Cramer out to look like a 3rd grade bully confronted by the 7th grade brother of a kid he’s been harrassing.
But I was disappointed.
Even in the runup to the show, Stewart’s interview with Cramer had become so touted, so polarized, as things are want to do in America, that it boiled down to looking and feeling like a trial of Jim Cramer’s picks and sound effects, what with the multitude of clips. It left one almost wondering what show we were watching. Maybe that’s what CNBC wanted all along and we have to give that serious thought. If they’re that organized about their image, they could be well-organized enough to have pulled off some of the dubious deception that Jon accused them of during his talk with Cramer, though I doubt that very much.
But I digress. The only thing still worth noting where this mess is concerned are two point made in the interview by Cramer and Stewart themselves, respectively.
One is what Jim Cramer said, that in today’s dynamics of journalism politics (is that a new term? Can I call it?) a reporter can’t interview someone and then report that he lied his balls off. It would be access suicide. Cramer spoke of these boundaries that journalists can’t cross, a point I agree with, however reluctantly. It’s true. If you do that as a journalist, you’ll never get another interview.
But the reason for that is that we, as readers — as an “informed public”, I guess I can say — have allowed leaders to get away with the notion of “no comment”. We’ve turned our “right to know” into a privilege they’ll give us so long as we don’t ask questions they don’t want to answer, or insist that we be told the truth.
I want to blame Nixon, but I suspect he only started the ball rolling. Reagan’s the real monster in all this and one day soon, I’ll explain how.
Don’t get me wrong though — I’m all about privacy. For individuals. But once you’re in the hot seat man, you owe me. You’re accountable. The idea that statesmen can turn down an interview from The Press when they carry a badge is as mindless as the notion that you could refuse to be arrested by a cop. Dammit, man, there are rules.
The second point is what Jon Stewart said, that we hope that these same journalists who report on the interviews they conduct at least don’t take everything their subjects report to them at face value. One of the reaons The Press is “trusted” is because they are trained professionals, studied and experienced in finding the story, fact-checking it and smelling out the lies. And if you can’t get the guy in the seat accross from you to tell the goddamned truth, that’s when the real work starts. Research. Investigation. Questioning. Not rushing to print what the man wants you to say. Otherwise, you’re just turning The Press into a PR firm.
This lack of ownership of the financial news is very familiar and if you think back to 2003 you’ll remember why. Running up to the onset of the invasion of Iraq we had similar symptoms, and we failed just as miserably today as we did then when reporters interviewed state leaders, took their word for gospel and printed it for all to see. No one seriously challenged what sounded flimsy, investigated what sounded suspect and straight up called the liars out on what were clearly false statements. That The Press committed these omissions so reliably and consistently shows, at best, incompetence, and at worst, malice.
And today’s mess is just a different tone of odd. How long, oh lord – how long?