News is a drug

David Gregory must wake and bake.

In my effort to replicate the best parts of the “back-to-the-land” movement of the 70s, I’ve been trying to avoid the siren song of cheap electronics, mass-produced in China by slave labor.  I left my television back in southern California.  I gave up facebook and ipods and tivo, along with the stress those things produce.  I couldn’t give it all up, though.  I still need my pc for work, and I’m still wired.   I try to avoid using it for all the other temptations it provides, but every once in a while, the spirit gets weak.  I’ve been particularly angry about the debate over the Cordoba community center that’s been taking place lately, so I broke down and watched a couple of news shows this morning to catch up.  Now I’m coming down, and it doesn’t feel good.

One of the reasons that I was so happy to abandon my television when I left L.A. was that I felt poisoned by the constant stream of idiocy beamed out by news shows.  (“News show” by the way, is a perfect example of a modern oxymoron, since the “show” dictates the absence of anything that might be based in fact).  Anyway, I slipped up today, and caught a few minutes of Meet the Press, a show I never really liked all that much even when Tim Russert was still hosting, but one that I”ve come to despise ever since Gregory took over as host.  What a tool that guy is.

The various discussions about the Cordoba community center in lower Manhattan were as disappointing as I thought they’d be – “good Muslims”?  Really? –  but I was caught off-guard by the way Gregory slipped in the republican talking-point about raising taxes as though it were true.  Dave did the same thing on his blog a couple of weeks ago, and it made me just as unhappy to see it there, but I think Gregory has a slightly bigger audience than Dave, so it’s that much worse.

It’s bad enough that the new amnesiacs in the republican party – sorry, I keep forgetting to apply the new brand – in the Tea Party can so loudly spout off about deficits out of one side of their mouths while simultaneously proclaiming the need to re-up on the dumb tax cuts that weren’t even paid for the first time they supported them (back when they were running things and didn’t care about deficits).  Even worse than the hypocrisy, though, is the way they’re trying to spin a new version of reality to support that hypocritical position:  instead of the temporary tax cuts coming to an end as they were designed to do,  the new reality they’re spinning as though it were true is that Obama is proposing massive tax hikes.   I suppose I should feel grateful that they’re not having the news clowns call it Obama’s Ramadan Tax…   or reparations…

But okay, redefining reality to better suit their goals is, after all, what partisan hacks do.  They spout ridiculous nonsense as though it were obvious truth.  Fair enough.  It used to be that the careful viewer could discern a little space between the partisan hacks and the journalists, and in an ideal world, the journalists keep the hacks honest.  Or, at least, more honest.   Tim Russert was a blowhard, and he could get pretty caught up in the showmanship that passes for reality in DC, but at least he was willing to resist the unreality from time to time.  In contrast, Gregory seems to delight in repeating the phony talk as though he’s proud of being able to remember what he hears other people say.

Sad.  I’m going to go wander in the forest until I stop thinking about it.

UPDATE:  I’m not saying that a Nobel Prize winner has to poach ideas from me, but it must mean something that Paul Krugman’s complaining about the same thing today that I was complaining about yesterday.  (Maybe that my ego is outgrowing my cabin?)


2 Responses to “News is a drug”

  1. August 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    If you read my blog all the time you know that I don’t think highly of either party. Sometimes I put in Guest Blogs to get reactions.

    I hope you’ve read my blog long enough to know that I have distain for the political process. Political rhetoric is one of my favorite footballs.

    Just thought I’d share that with you.

    • August 24, 2010 at 10:55 am

      I noticed that the post was a “guest,” and I have, indeed, been reading long enough to note your bipartisan disdain. I share some of it, and I think you do a nice job of supporting your positions. I’ll say this for you – you cited “Americans for Tax Reform” as the source of the argument on your blog. In that regard, you showed yourself to be a better journalist than David Gregory.

      My complaint with Gregory’s repetition of the republican party’s political spin-as-fact is that he’s revealing his sloppy thinking by allowing himself to be influenced by propaganda. My bigger problem with him, though, is that he’s doing so on the air, and since he has his own tv show, that sort of unthinking promotion of sloppy thinking as news – the uncritical acceptance of lies-for-truth – amounts to a promotion of that propaganda as unchallenged truth. And this time, the propaganda is being spread outside of the purely-partisan media (Say what you will about “bias,” NBC News doesn’t actively promote and fund one particular party ala Fox News).

      And it’s not like the truth would be difficult to discern in this case. Regardless of party loyalty or how you spread blame around, it is simply untrue to call the upcoming expiration of the “Bush Tax Cuts” a tax hike, and it’s more than simply untrue to call them “the largest tax hikes in history” – as your “guest” did in your place. That’s propaganda of the worst sort – a nuanced untruth designed to fool people into mis-remembering history, and at the same time to motivate them into unprincipled action going forward. Like I said in my post, that’s what partisan hacks do, so I wouldn’t expect anything different from Americans for Tax Reform; they have an agenda, and they’re pursuing it. Gregory, on the other hand, is supposed to be a journalist. He’s supposed to call the hacks on their lies and spin, and instead he’s simply regurgitating the lies and spin as though it were true. I think the Krugman article I linked to at the end of my post accurately outlines the context of the tax cuts as they were originally enacted, and he restates the reasons why this tax package had a built-in time limit when it was first enacted, so I won’t go into that again – but as he points out, calling what’s scheduled to happen a tax hike is factually incorrect, whatever the motivation might be for making that claim. In Gregory’s case, I assume ignorance and stupidity rather than malicious intent, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

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