I don’t watch much television. It’s not that I’ve become an unbelievably productive person because I don’t fritter all that time away in front of the tube anymore–I haven’t–it’s just that the bulk of my frittering is done in front of a computer instead. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still pretty smug about it regardless of the fact that I haven’t really benefited from it.
But there are reasons, I think, to feel smug about it, viz: I just finished spending an entire month in Dallas because I had to. I spent the bulk of that time in a hotel room. The bulk of the time I spent in the hotel room, the television was on, because it was sitting there not 3 feet away from the bed. So during the last month, I probably spent more time watching tv than I have in the past 3 years combined. And I noticed several things that one may not have noticed had one been watching television more or less constantly during that time.
One of them is that television news–all of it outside of PBS–uniformly sucks. And when I say it sucks, I mean it’s not actually news anymore; it’s pre-digested opinions about people–personalities–who simply shouldn’t matter. It’s a vanilla milkshake, a naked pandering to the fail, the people who desperately want to be among the winners, who imagine themselves at the head table where nothing real matters anymore.
I saw several Dallas news shows, along with some morning news shows, Fox news (which you might think, and I would have thought a month ago, is kind of unfair of me to use to indict all news shows, but you and I would be wrong), and CNN. I saw Wolf Blitzer and Hardball and Tucker, 60 Minutes and 48 Hours and Face the Nation.
Do you know what I learned after watching all that? I learned that Britney Spears is totally fucked up. I learned that again and again and again. Everyone wanted to weigh in on Britney. Guests were empaneled on news shows so that the reigning talking head could canvas them on their Britney opinions.
Now, I care what Britney Spears does and says as much as the next guy, as long as the next guy doesn’t give a flying fuck what Britney Spears says or does. Me and him, we could not care any less. You could not underbid us on it. We simply don’t care what Wolf’s guests think about this. She’s some kid from Louisiana that got rich somehow; good for her, but that’s all we need to know.
What we do care about is the news. What is going on in the world? What happened in Sri Lanka yesterday? What’s Putin up to? How close we gettin on that frickin cancer cure? That’s what we want to know. But we don’t spend money the way the fail do, in clumps and gobbets that depend on the television for guidance. So (apparently) we don’t get television news aimed at us anymore.
Fox news… Fox news has been an evil tabloid since its inception, spewing vitriol and obnoxiousness 24 hours a day. But CNN? When did CNN become a tabloid? When did CNN begin to spew tawdriness and fail? When did that happen?
Okay, fine. Fine. Television is not aimed at me. I get it. But television is aimed at somebody, and it is huge and relentless. And it shapes people, and that shape is conformity, banality, and failure. I get it. So I’m smug, of course, but it’s not a happy smug.