Wednesday, September 16, 2015

De Bait Nite

Something weird has been happening lately over at already-weird CNN. It's gone from being the War On Terror propaganda network to being the War For Terror propaganda network. It's morphed from scaring people about ISIS creeping across the borders to murder us all in our beds to thrilling people about Donald Trump creeping into all of our beds by way of his relentless presence on our video screens. 

Even the terror promos are eerily similar, right down to the drumbeat-heavy Doomsday soundtracks. When you don't see Jihadi John glaring at you, you see Donald Trump glaring at you. There's even a countdown clock to make it even scarier.

If you happen to watch tonight's debate from the alleged safety of your bed, you will probably watch the dumbness oxymoronically streamed over your smart device. I don't think this has anything to do with Trump being easier to take on a smaller tablet than on an over-sized wall screen. And it's not just the false sense of security you feel from cowering under the covers as you clutch your gizmo. I think it has to do with the convenience of being able to click back and forth from watching the festivities to checking out the various live analyses of the festivities. It is incumbent upon you to compare your reactions to those of the corporate pundits also watching in unreal time. Do you believe your own lying ears that these clowns are sociopaths, or do you trust the experts telling you that Donald Trump is semantically winning by a landslide, and that hurling vitriolic word salads is tantamount to an intellectual zinger of historic proportions?

Even if you have intelligently cut your cable cord to protest both the outlandish price and the outlandish content, CNN is generously providing tonight's show for "free" over the Internet, waiving the usual fees and sign-up rigmarole:
The cable network announced it will lift that paywall from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. the night of the debate and feature the live stream on its homepage. The move is meant to "showcase the value of 'TV Everywhere'" — the name CNN gives to its streaming service. 
CNN's Andrew Morse, who heads the network's editorial operations in the United States, told Mashable the company is banking on giving its streaming feature more exposure. He told the website CNN is not concerned about losing ratings, because he believes people with a cable subscription will continue watching on traditional TV. 
"I think if you have a TV and you're sitting in front of a TV and you have a cable subscription, you're going to watch the debate on TV," he said. "If you don't happen to be sitting in front of the TV, it's historic moment that we think people are going to seek out."
If I do take the hyped-up bait and watch the "debate," I will probably view it on regular TV. (Month after month, I've been swearing that this is the month I'll finally cancel cable. And then every month some event makes me change my mind. This month, it is the Pope's visit. My "provider," Time-Warner, is even adding a special Pope Channel to bait me as a continuing customer. And I am ashamed to admit that I am taking de bait.) Of course, whenever I watch "the news" I do so while obsessively playing Bejewelled on my iPad. My attention span is shot to shit by all the smart devices littering up my life. I suspect that I am not alone.

CNN knows this, and is hyping up the debate for all it is worth. And it is worth many, many, many billions of dollars. The cable outlet is reportedly charging 40 times its normal rates for ads running during the debate. A 30-second spot usually costing $5,000 will go for $200,000 tonight. Not quite Super Bowl territory, but getting there.

Jake Tapper (whose adenoidal delivery always makes me want to rip my cable cord right out of the wall) is the lead moderator of tonight's extravaganza. He admits that he is more interested in sparking a fight among the contenders than in holding their feet to the fire. 

Not for nothing have I been referring to the Eternal Campaign of Cluttered Mindlessness as "Neoliberal Death Match" over these many months. As the L.A. Times' Steven Battaglio writes,
 If the commercials promoting CNN's Republican primary debate Wednesday make it look like a highly anticipated pay-per-view boxing event, it means they're working.
"That was the idea," CNN President Jeff Zucker said last week. "This is Round 2 of a heavyweight bout."
Or the second episode of a wildly successful hit show. CNN anticipates its largest audience ever when Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and nine other contenders meet Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. It would achieve that plateau by getting 75% of the 24 million viewers who watched the first GOP debate of the 2016 presidential race on the Fox News Channel on Aug. 6, the surprise must-see TV event of the summer.
And from the New York Times:
 “Jake Tapper is going to do whatever he can to get the candidates to go after each other,” said a strategist advising one of the candidates, who declined to be named delivering what could be seen as a criticism of the network. “If somebody is knocked out, CNN will be happy. In the first debate, the moderators controlled the candidates; in this debate, the candidates will have to moderate themselves.”
 Though the moderators say they will look for opportunities to let the candidates interact, they may have to tread carefully to avoid appearing as instigators. The network garnered some criticism in 2012 for its handling of several memorable debate moments.
The piece refers back to John King baiting Newt Gingrich on his history of marital difficulties, and Candy Crowley fact-checking Mitt Romney in unreal time. No mention is made of the fact that the two Green Party candidates were prevented from creating a real ruckus during one Rombama Show by being handcuffed to chairs at an undisclosed police location so that the staged theatrics could continue without actual democracy cluttering up the script.

Although CNN apparatchiks insist that their version of Neoliberal Death Match will be more staid than the sports arena venue of the last bout, tonight will be every bit as much of an unreality show:  
A CNN construction crew also built, from scratch, the elaborate scaffolding that elevates the debate stage to eye level with Reagan’s Air Force One, adding grandeur and history to the already striking backdrop.
It will be Mr. Tapper’s first time moderating a presidential debate. Just days before the event, Mr. Tapper appeared relaxed and confident as he took a break from the preparations.
But, he admitted, part of the thrill of the debate is that even he, scripted questions and all, does not know what will happen.
“It’s difficult to control my 5-year-old son,” Mr. Tapper said with a half-laugh, “much less a 55-year-old governor who thinks he should be ruler of the planet.”
Hehehehehe. Grandeur, meet surrealism. History, meet comedy.

David Uberti of the Columbia Journalism Review is not amused:
The framing is mystifying at best. Trump’s spontaneity and vulgarity make him more compelling than his counterparts in the GOP race, to the point that CNN’s own journalists have openly remarked about the glut of media coverage. Trump’s politics-as-entertainment is inherent to his campaign. But rather than holding an important discussion that happens also to be captivating, CNN’s pre-debate promotions have openly framed Wednesday’s contest as entertainment. They are fueling an already out-of-control wildfire: The debate is not just a live event to highlight differences between presidential contenders, but rather a title fight between Trump and the world.
As Nan Socolow so pithily responded in her comment on the New York Times article,
A cluster of dunces up there tomorrow night on the wannabe POTUS Second Republican Debate stage - provided by CNN with The Gipper's Boeing Air Force One the backdrop of the "intimate" venue, adding "grandeur and history" to the Second Two-Tiered GOP Primary Debate of this campaign 2016. As we recall the monumental goofs and memorable moments of previous Republican debates, we will be looking forward to a few of the candidates falling into the California tar pits of also-rans tomorrow night. This is the pinnacle of American tragicomedy. Fifteen Conservative Tea Party declared candidates bashing each other like sock-puppets delivering sound bytes to one another for a couple of hours while the American couch potato heads scarf down doritos, cheez-doodles and other finger-lickin' good junk snax, washed down with neon colored sodas and faux waters in plastic bottles. It is - as first-time Presidential Debate moderator Jake Tapper avowed - thrilling that we don't know what will happen. Maybe there will be a "you're no Jack Kennedy" moment. Maybe an explosion or implosion of a few leading contenders. This is high drama among the Republicans and we have no idea when the first of the primary debates on the Democratic side will occur. CNN is the dubious beneficiary of this "combative spirit". What about all the Americans who can't afford cable-tv? How will they receive the news of tomorrow night's debate? Maybe they have more worries in their lives than the Debate Watchers.
Just be careful not to wet the bed with your fake bottled water as you watch the schlock horror. Also watch out for Dorito breath and telltale orange fingerprints on your touch screen. Be especially wary of stray popcorn kernels. Those things are even deadlier than terrorists bearing knives and the political/media knaves selling them.


annenigma said...

I might watch the debate on CNN online if I don't have anything better to do - like read a book.

I cut cable tv out about 3 years ago and use a digital antenna that I bought online for about 50 dollars (there are many options). Mine looks like a flat piece of plastic and can be hung behind a picture frame on a wall.

Although I get 42 free channels, all with the same digital clarity, I only watch a few of them (many are religious, probably funded by the LDS church). I do watch the local and national evening news on one of the broadcast networks. I also watch programs on the PBS stations which now includes the Create, Kids, and World channels which the cable company doesn't carry. I was most surprised to find I get the refreshingly commercial-free and interesting RT. (Thanks Vladimir!) That's my favorite tv source for world news and serious discussion(as well as humor from Lee Camp), but mostly I get my news from various internet sources.

If anyone is interested in finding out what over-the-air channels are available for free in your area, this website is helpful:

Jay–Ottawa said...

Annie, you are on the right path and encourage me to take it a step further.

I'm probably the oldest guy around who checks in on this site. Septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians––no, I'm not going to tell you to which cohort I belong––are a lucky lot. They favor radios and old laptops. They cut the post-modern cable to the "news" ages ago, and the reason they're holding up traffic on the interstate is not because they're texting something naughty to a girlfriend. As usual, they're just being careful. Besides, even when both hands are off the steering wheel, you still can't thumb tap a smart phone while pushing a walker. Geezers have a lot of time on their hands by the time they reach the rocker and they avoid so much aggravation by staying away from "efficient" electronic devices. That's probably why we curse less than the young.

Poor x, y and z generations, along with any other post-moderns not included in that list. They're so hooked on all that expensive paraphernalia. They have no choice but to look at junk while eating junk and turning their lives into junk. Hate to tell you, but you become what you eat.

This evening, I'll be curling up with a book that's commercial free from cover to cover. But do tell me tomorrow how it all goes tonight.

Pearl said...

Jay: Thank you for enlightening me on what a nonagenarian is. I spend my evenings reading and responding to noxious articles in the NYTimes, giving free advice to
Sardonicky members and cleaning up the kitchen. Since I have to watch my blood pressure will forego the show tonight but occasionally peek in to see who has made the biggest fool of themselves and hope a heart attack follows the speaker.
I welcome your clever sense of humor and wish you lived next door.

From a fellow nonagenarian who hopes geezer Bernie wins the race. Just wrote him an e-mail, scolding him about drones and Israeli support in his agenda.

What book are you reading tonight?????????? Hmmmm.

Pearl said...

A heart attack following the speaker is for him not me. But perhaps I am being too unfair and he is really a nice guy or girl who is just misled by reading the America press in the evening.

Will said...

Generation Xer here. Hate cable, love my phone. (That little screen is where I read Sardonicky every day, so sue me!) Not watching even a second of the debate. Like Jay, I'll wait till tomorrow to get Karen's take on the whole sordid affair.

In the meantime, here's Trump interviewing Trump on Jimmy Fallon last week. I think he's ready for tonight. Enjoy the show, everyone. :)

Jay–Ottawa said...

Thank you, Pearl, for enlightening me on what a nonagenarian can be.

A few weeks ago I pulled down a book I bought more than thirty years ago and never touched. It's about time I crack it open. Just another one of those magisterial biographies by an academic: G. W. Allen's "Waldo Emerson." What happened to the "Ralph," you ask? Well, Emerson didn't like the first part of his trinomial name and around his high school years he told everyone to call him Waldo. And so they did for the rest of his life. Professor Allen (a nonagenarian) died in 1995. He also wrote prize-winning biographies of Walt Witman and William James. He last taught at NYU: "Writing biographies is a one-way transaction in friendship."

See what all those folks stuck to the TV are missing.

Meredith NYC said...

Is Nan Socolow a journalist? She sounds familiar.

I am not watching Gop debates....I have low forbearance. I admire those who can stand it.
This gives me a chance to read, which I am behind in.

In case our democracy was not weakened enough already it’s the Dem party itself doing more damage. They’re letting 3 Republican debates dominate the media spotlight, with no Dem debates to counter them. Not ‘til Oct 13, a very long time. It's a crime, and somebody should pay for it.

See article in Esquire, by Charles Pierce—
The Democratic Revolt Against the DNC Chair Begins.

The 4 debate schedule was set up with no input from DNC executive committee. Many are unhappy, but she is adamant—no changes.

Says some state Democratic Chairpeople are trying to oust Wasserman Schultz.

“Many think the party is putting itself at a strategic disadvantage.

While the Republicans are not shy about sitting the crazy aunts and uncles right there in the front parlor, the Democrats seem reluctant to show the country Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders.

The idea that W. Schultz has loaded the dice in favor of a frontrunner who now appears to be in more than a little trouble -- has taken root.”

"New Hampshire's not going to put up with one debate for their entire state, an early state, that happens between Hanukkah and Christmas. On a weekend, by the way. Nobody's going to see that debate”

“The New Hampshire State Democratic Convention will be held this weekend. All the candidates, including Jim Webb, who currently is engaged in running the party's first stealth presidential campaign, are scheduled to speak."
Let's see what happens.

Pearl said...

An Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal on Its Bernie Sanders Hit Piece -

Interesting article about Bernie Sanders' plans for passing a universal health care plan and the savings involved and attacked by the Wall Street Journal.

voice-in-wilderness said...

I've been searching for a more meaningful term than "debate" for these gatherings and have settled on "freakshow." I did not watch last night, but from the headlines I see this morning, freakshow seems to capture the essence of this part of the media circus!

annenigma said...

I watched the debate, at least until Nova's 'Dawn of Humanity' program came on. From what I did see, I think Marco Rubio really shined - like the tip of a nuclear warhead.

Marco is one scary dude because he's handsome, articulate, and coolly passionate, kind of like Obama but with a pulse. Unfortunately the only thing he seems focused on is war and the use of military force everywhere and anywhere, especially if it helps poor little Israel. He makes Lindsay Graham and John McCain look like doves.

Marco Rubio a very, very dangerous man in my book.