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Posts Tagged ‘Crossfire’

Appearing on Crossfire in 2004, Jon Stewart argued that the show, and others like it, were “hurting America”:

At yesterday’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, Jon Stewart concluded with largely the same message, arguing that “if we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”  Despite the cancellation of Crossfire, the overall ratings for cable news networks have not decreased since 2004:

As somebody who has grown up with the rise of the internet and cable tv, I can’t pretend that I would like to go back to some earlier age despite downsides such as this.  Clearly, cable news networks will not shut down as long as people are watching them and people seem unlikely to broaden their political horizons as long as they can connect with similarly-minded individuals in anonymous online forums.

What remains to be seen is whether those at the extremes will continue to bring viewers to cable news or whether the public will tire of these stories as the millenials graduate from college and begin to exercise political control.  Twenty years from now, will we look at Jon Stewart’s remarks and the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up in Washington as a sign that sanity was indeed around the corner or will we still be wishing for sanity’s return?

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Every time I see a link to something from Roger Ebert’s blog I think that I need to read it more often.  A link to a recent post is no different.  In the post, Ebert discusses Bill O’Reilly and the ramifications that those like him have for cultural discourse in the US.  A few highlights:

I am not interested in discussing O’Reilly’s politics here. That would open a hornet’s nest. I am more concerned about the danger he and others like him represent to a civil and peaceful society. He sets a harmful example of acceptable public behavior. He has been an influence on the most worrying trend in the field of news: The polarization of opinion, the elevation of emotional temperature, the predictability of two of the leading cable news channels. A majority of cable news viewers now get their news slanted one way or the other by angry men. O’Reilly is not the worst offender. That would be Glenn Beck. Keith Olbermann is gaining ground. Rachel Maddow provides an admirable example for the boys of firm, passionate outrage, and is more effective for not shouting.

O’Reilly represents a worrisome attention shift in the minds of Americans. More and more of us are not interested in substance. The nation has cut back on reading. Most eighth graders can’t read a newspaper. A sizable percentage of the population doesn’t watch television news at all. They want entertainment, or “news” that is entertainment. Many of us grew up in the world where most people read a daily paper and watched network and local newscasts. “All news” radio stations and TV channels were undreamed-of. News was a destination, not a generic commodity. Journalists, the good ones anyway, had ethical standards.

Obviously, change happens for good and bad and I am not going to pretend that the cultural discourse of ten years ago represented the gold standard for all of history.  Still, the fact that so many people watch shows like these makes me fear for a future straight out of Idiocracy (which has been airing on Comedy Central lately):

At least we still have Jon Stewart:

*For the first time in a while, today’s post has a soundtrack.

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