My problem is I still think of the primetime MSNBC news shows … All In with Chris Hayes, the Rachel Maddow Show, the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell … as news shows. Chris Hayes, I’ll give him this, covers a lot of news (his recent series on water use in the American Southwest was exceptionally good), but Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have become so focused on presidential politics that’s about all they talk about.
MSNBC’s political coverage is goosed to the point where, if you were a Martian listening in from outer space, with no on-the-ground sources of your own, you’d think the things Ted Cruz and Donald Trump say actually mean something, and that America is on the verge of starting a land war with Mexico. Or worse.
I’m guessing (no I’m not) that the political commentary on Fox News and CNN is even more pumped up and frenetic than MSNBC’s. It has even normally level-headed journalists and bloggers all worked up:
So with Jeb! a far, far thing from a lock for the top spot, what does that leave us? I’m thinking maybe Scott Walker? Marco Rubio? One of those guys. And what happens if Hillary falls and breaks a hip, or finds a lump in her breast, or is otherwise incapacitated? President Scott Walker. Think on that for a minute. And shudder.
This is the state of our politics right now. It’s rather terrifying.
It’s too soon for that. Too soon to assume it’s all over for Hillary, too soon to speculate on who the Republican nominee will be, too soon for breathless coverage of any kind. As the comedian John Oliver observes, “There will be actual babies born on Election Day 2016 whose parents haven’t even met yet.”
Damn, though, hard news is hard to find these days. You can pretty much write television off, with the possible exception of Al Jazeera, which I keep meaning to check out but never seem to get around to. Online newspapers have paywalls, and free online news services are infested with intrusive ads, sometimes to the point where you have to click your way through two or three popups before you get to the article you want to read, and that’s if you can ignore the loud audio from the auto-playing video you didn’t ask to see.
Even if I could afford an ad-free subscription to a mainstream news outlet, how could I trust what I read there? The New York Times regularly runs hit pieces on Hillary Clinton, fed to them by Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, chair of a nakedly political commission dedicated to damaging Clinton’s prospects in the 2016 election. It’s not news. It’s stenography.
Well, now I’m being as apocalyptic as cable news, and shame on me for getting carried away. It’s not like we’re North Koreans. If you have any kind of bullshit filter at all, it’s easy to separate the wheat from the chaff on social media, and enough actual news squeezes through on mainstream media that anyone who pays attention can keep up with what’s going on in the world. It just takes a little work, but then again it probably always did.
© 2015, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.