Ed Driscoll

The MSM: Closed-Circuit TV for the Ruling Class

“‘CBS Evening News’ Ties All-Time Low,” TV Newser reports:

The network newscast ratings for last week are in and “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric” tied its all-time low in total viewers with an average of 4.89 million tuning in during the five days.

The low was set last June, when ABC also hit its own low. (Ratings records date back to the 1991-’92 season.) Last week, NBC averaged 7.42 million total viewers and ABC averaged 6.51 million. We’ll have the full breakdown of the week shortly.

Meanwhile, an MSNBC correspondent says on the air, “I made the mistake of turning on this network in prime time last night and my head almost blew off.” Making him one of the few people who actually did make the mistake of tuning in GE’s hard left opinion network in prime time.

Can a medium completely lose touch with its audience, and start producing product solely for itself? As I written before, it happened 60 years ago in jazz, eventually transforming that genre from the popular American music to an insular art form called bebop, which eventually concluded that the audience wasn’t necessary. And the audience quickly took the hint, which is why jazz is now seen in small nightclubs and in the mausoleum of Lincoln Center, and not at your local hockey arena.

A few years ago, the news industry built a mausoleum of their own — remember the Newseum? And that’s not the only place where they’ve entombed themselves. Their news product, particularly on TV, is essentially a a closed-circuit system designed to assuage the ruling class. That you and I can choose to also watch is merely a byproduct.

A comment by a reader the other day referencing Rush Limbaugh’s line from last week that the news media are now essentially making product for themselves made we want to go back and RTWT, as it were:

When I watch CNN, when I watch MSNBC, we’re watching networks that no longer have any audience to speak of. I mean if you look at the country as a whole, the MSNBC audience could be put in a thimble, and CNN’s could be put on the head of a pin compared to the country at large. Newsweek was sold for a dollar, and all the big names at Newsweek are leaving. The only one left is Howard Fineman. The New York Times, circulation is down. Same thing at the Washington Post. USA Today, LA Times, they’re all down. When I watch these networks, or when I read Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s piece today on the panic that’s set in, both at the New York Times and at the White House over the numbers of people that think Obama’s a Muslim, it just struck me again, they have no connection with you or anybody else outside of their realm of media. The American people are not their audience.

When you turn on MSNBC and watch anything on that network, you get the sense that they’re doing that show not for an audience but for fellow journalists and for people in the White House and for elected Democrats in Congress. That’s their audience, that’s who they’re doing their shows for. Same thing for CNN; same thing for the New York Times. There is really a gulf. The media in this country really do look at the people of this country as an enemy. We’re not just a bunch of rubes, folks, we’re not just a bunch of unsophisticated Neanderthals. We are that to them, but we’re now actually the enemy. When they get this poll from Pew that says the number of people that believe Obama is a Christian is shrinking, the number of people that think he’s a Muslim is increasing, they do not look at the media themselves for maybe an explanation. They don’t look at the White House or Obama to try to find an explanation for this. They knee-jerk conclude that we are a bunch of imbeciles, or reactionaries or racists, bigots, or what have you.

I think the divide between media and public is as stark as it has ever been. Stop and think about this. The relationship that the media has with the people of this country is adversarial. It used to be that their relationship that was adversarial was with people in power. It used to be that people in power were those that had to be examined, had to be accountable. But now since they’re leftists, they’re not really media people, they’re leftists first, we know that, we are the enemy. We are a bigger enemy than Iranian nukes. We are a bigger enemy than Middle East peace. The American people, particularly American conservatives, but I think the American people at large. You read one of these newspapers, read Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s piece today. She’s not writing it for you. She’s not writing it to inform you. The New York Times is not concerned with informing you. Neither is MSNBC concerned with informing you. When F. Chuck Todd does his stand-up at the White House, F. Chuck Todd is talking to other White House reporters who he hopes are watching his work and making sure that they approve of what he’s saying. He’s also hoping they’re watching in the White House and approving what he’s saying. And when Chip Reid of CBS does the same thing, the same thing is happening. And whoever the ABC White House correspondent, whenever that guy does his stand-up at the White House he’s thinking of all the other correspondents at the other networks and the White House and making sure they approve of what he or she is saying, not us.

So we have these two issues, this mosque business, what is it, 68% of the American people oppose the mosque being built there. We have this “what religion is Obama” story, and both of these the media profess not to understand the reasons we think what we think. And they thus assign the reasons, that we have bigotry or a lack of sophistication or ignorance or what have you. And it’s kind of striking me more profoundly than it ever has. I think the key word is “adversarial,” because they’re just Democrats. They’re just leftists. And when they fail to persuade us; when they fail to control us; when they fail to properly affect our opinions; then they get mad at us. Not at themselves. MSNBC has one audience member they care about, and that’s Barack Obama. They exist to please him and to do his bidding. Everything else is a distraction. MSNBC, New York Times, CNN, ABC, doesn’t matter, the professional left, that Robert Gibbs thinks need to be drug tested. Everywhere it is a battle between them, the professional left, whether they’re professors or media people, politicians versus us, the amateur right, they’re the professionals. We are the rank amateurs.

The media used to claim that their job was to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. It’s just the opposite now. The media exists to comfort the comfortable and to make them even more comfortable, to please them, to promote them. So when things aren’t going well for the regime, then of course there’s gotta be an explanation for it. It can’t be that the regime is bumbling around making all kinds of mistakes and doing stupid things. It has to be that we amateurs just don’t get it.

Say, what industry does that remind you of? Here’s what Mark Steyn wrote about Hollywood in early 2006, after (counting the ramp-up and production time to get new movies out) at least three years of Hollywood ignoring, one after the other, the big stories of the first half of the decade: 9/11, Afghanistan, and the liberation of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq:

Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Thirties but they were serious about their leftism. Say what you like about those Hollywood guys in the Seventies but they were serious about their outrage at what was done to the lefties in the McCarthy era — though they might have been better directing their anger at the movie-industry muscle that enforced the blacklist. By comparison, Clooney’s is no more than a pose — he’s acting at activism, new Hollywood mimicking old Hollywood’s robust defense of even older Hollywood. He’s more taken by the idea of “speaking truth to power” than by the footling question of whether the truth he’s speaking to power is actually true.That’s why Hollywood prefers to make “controversial” films about controversies that are settled, rousing itself to fight battles long won. Go back to USA Today’s approving list of Hollywood’s willingness to “broach the tough issues”: “Brokeback and Capote for their portrayal of gay characters; Crash for its examination of racial tension . . .” That might have been “bold” “courageous” movie-making half-a-century ago. Ever seen the Dirk Bogarde film Victim? He plays a respectable married barrister whose latest case threatens to expose his homosexuality. That was 1961, when homosexuality was illegal in the United Kingdom and Bogarde was the British movie industry’s matinee idol and every schoolgirl’s pinup: That’s brave. Doing it at a time when your typical conservative politician gets denounced as “homophobic” because he’s only in favor of civil unions is just an exercise in moral self-congratulation. And, unlike the media, most of the American people are savvy enough to conclude that by definition that doesn’t require their participation.

A KNOWN WOMAN These films are “transgressive” mostly in the sense that Transamerica is transsexual. I like Felicity Huffman and all, and I’m not up to speed with the latest strictures on identity-group casting, but isn’t it a bit condescending to get a lifelong woman (or whatever the expression is) to play a transsexual? If Hollywood announced Al Jolson would be playing Martin Luther King Jr., I’m sure Denzel Washington & Co. would have something to say about it. Were no transsexual actresses available for this role? I know at least one, personally, and there was a transsexual Bond girl in the late Roger Moore era who looked incredibly hot, albeit with a voice several octaves below Paul Robeson. What about that cutie with the very fetching Adam’s apple from The Crying Game? And, just as Transamerica’s allegedly unconventional woman is a perfectly conventional woman underneath, so the entire slate of Oscar nominees is, in a broader sense, a phalanx of Felicity Huffmans. That’s to say, they’re dressing up daringly and flouncing around as controversy, but underneath they’re simply the conventional wisdom. Indeed, “Transamerica” would make a good name for Hollywood’s view of its domestic market — a bizarro United States run by racists and homophobes and a poodle media in thrall to the administration.

You can certainly find new wrinkles on “racial tensions” — Abie’s Wahhabi Rose? — but Hollywood “controversy” seems more an evasion of controversy. If you want it in a single word, it’s the difference between the title of George Jonas’s original book — Vengeance — and the title of the film Steven Spielberg made of it — Munich. Vengeance is a point of view, Munich is a round of self-applause for the point of view that having no point of view is the most sophisticated point of view of all — a position whose empty smugness is most deftly summarized by the final shot of the movie, the Twin Towers on the New York skyline. For a serious film, it would be hard to end on a more fundamentally unserious note.

But then it’s hard to be serious when you’ve made a virtue of dodging the tough choices of the age. The BritLit blockbusters currently keeping Hollywood afloat — Harry Potter, Narnia, Lord of the Rings — may be ghastly multiplex crowd-pleasers unworthy of great artists like George Clooney but they’re not a retreat to the periphery in the way that Hollywood “seriousness” is. Spielberg’s lingering shot of the World Trade Center wasn’t even the most exquisitely framed banality of the year. That honor goes to The Constant Gardener, which may yet win Rachel Weisz an Oscar for her role as a passionate anti-globalization activist who dies in mysterious circumstances. At one point Ralph Fiennes is doing his signature stare, peering elliptically into the distance, when the camera pulls back to show him as a little stick figure dwarfed by the mega-multinational pharmaceutical company’s corporate headquarters he’s standing outside.

Oh, come off it. The Constant Gardener is distributed by Universal Pictures. Don’t they have a big office? If King Kong’s standing outside waiting to get past security to find out why his residuals check has bounced, then Universal might look like some little Mom ’n’ Pop operation. But stick any of the rest of us on the sidewalk and we’d be like Ralph Fiennes outside Big Pharma. That’s Hollywood: No one lavishes more care and expense on saying nothing.

As Yoda would say after clicking through his DirecTV guide past NBCBSABCNNMSNBCHN, no, there is another.

Related: “Dying industry tries to regulate its way back into your life.”

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