I want to revisit something you mentioned in our last meeting. You speculated as to the possibility, however remote, that CNN may have knowingly facilitated the election of Trump as part of a long-term marketing project. I apologize if this is a bit out of step, but do you actually believe that the folks at CNN could be that diabolical, could be that forward-thinking?
[Well, I don’t know if it is still controversial to suggest that CNN is, above all else, a commodity. It’s a product that is sold to a group of consumers, and like any other commercial venture, the goal is to make money, as much as possible. Accordingly, the show will be produced and designed with an eye on the prize, the prize being cash. And as Jon Stewart, formerly the country’s most trusted newsman, recently observed, the rise of Trump was very, very profitable for the news media. All of the attendees helped themselves to cake. Hell, even this blog has more legitimacy than it would have in 2014, simply because the emergence of Trump has caused so many of us to ask, “Is there no one out there to tell us the truth?”]
Right: they would have had to consider the possibility of Trump winning the election. There’s no way they didn’t see what was happening to the media during Trump’s ascent, including what was happening to their own network. It would have terribly negligent of them to overlook the scenario wherein Trump actually wins it, even if they do sincerely hate the man—and, on the basis of what you say, it doesn’t seem like they dislike him at all.
[Of course, this is hardly proof of some nefarious, multidimensional strategy on the part of CNN. I readily admit: it’s a bit of a stretch to say that CNN engaged in some covert reverse psychology to escort Trump to the Oval Office. I’m not making any declarative statements about what CNN did with the information they had. All I’m saying is: we should think more than twice about the intentions of these media conglomerates. And no, we can’t let ourselves off the hook by saying, “It’s all about money”, as if something this malignant could be so simplistic.]
As you say, it’s multidimensional—the strategy as well as the problem.
[Ah, but wait: are you talking about the strategy to solve the problem, or are you talking about the problem behind the strategy?]
Oh, God: my head is spinning. Something’s awful. That’s all I’m saying. Let’s bypass the question of the profit motive and take a look at the matter of the product. As you said, CNN is a commodity, but what kind of commodity? What is CNN, anyway? Have you ever sat down and asked yourself, “What the hell is this thing that I am watching?”
[At its best, CNN is an interpreter. There are several different languages being spoken by the agents of the D.C. powerbrokers, and CNN is responsible for translating that senseless shibboleth back into English. Unfortunately, CNN is almost as politically illiterate as we are, and the nonsense that passes for a rendering is, in reality, twice as idiotic as whatever was actually being said in the first place.]
Is that to say that CNN is pseudointellectual?
[Among other things. But, yes, it’s pseudointellectual, and that distinguishes it from the cognitive culture that’s been developed by Fox.]
You don’t think that Fox is pseudointellectual?
[It sort-of is. Tucker Carlson, obviously, but I don’t know . . . there’s something especially ghastly about CNN’s claims of refinement, and scholarship, and so on. Fox is equally abhorrent, possibly even more so, but differently. Fox specializes in a more zealous patriotism, something that might be labelled “faith” in the mythology of American moral perfection. If CNN is an interpreter, then Fox is more of a filter, a screen that shelters us from the grotesque essence of America, past and present.]
But doesn’t CNN operate as a filter, as well? People who receive all of their news from CNN may not have any idea that the DNC conspired against Bernie Sanders, and there’s no way they would know that Hillary Clinton was obviously aware of what was taking place from the very beginning.
[Right, but that is a particular problem pertaining to a specific issue or concern. Similar things are still taking place today, obviously, but even that is of less pressing interest than the personal story of Sanders’s individual experience of injustice. For many years, Fox was tasked with reassuring its viewers that such sickening behavior never occurs in the United States. CNN will—on occasion, at least—acknowledge the existence of such stateside scandals.]
And Fox will now, as well?
[Fox will acknowledge it when it concerns some wrongdoing by the Democratic Party. CNN does the opposite. This is one example of the gradual leveling of the two networks: while CNN used to be slightly more respectable than Fox, the distinction has become nearly meaningless here in the Trumpish Age.]
Do you have anything to say about Hannity’s appearance at Trump’s rally?
[No. Anybody who was uncertain about that man’s political affiliation prior to the night of the rally obviously benefited from the stupid stunt, and it gave CNN something new and exciting to complain about, as well, so it seemed like an easy win-win to me.]
Call me cynical, but I couldn’t see what was so shocking about it, either. It was unprofessional, I grant you, but was it really so surprising? I don’t see what kind of line, what kind of boundary of decency or, God forbid, of ambiguity was crossed when Hannity took his place alongside Trump.
[And for those of us that do, we might want to ask ourselves whether Obama crossed any kind of line when he went on Jimmy Kimmel Live and lampooned Trump a couple of years ago. Shouldn’t that have raised disturbing questions about the capacity of ABC News, who shares a parent company with Kimmel Live, to fairly report on Obama’s presidency—and, in turn, to cover Trump’s campaign?]
And what would happen on the off-chance that Trump were to win? Wouldn’t ABC News have a hard time convincing its viewers of its standards of unerring objectivity?
[It’s all a bad joke, one that becomes coarser and coarser the further it is extended. Forgive me if I don’t exactly mourn the revocation of Jim Acosta’s ticket to the White House. Something tells me that, in the hierarchy of victims, he ranks somewhere beneath the pyramid’s base.]
And even if he doesn’t, who knows? Maybe it’s another victory for CNN, earning the right to say that one of their own was banished by the boogeyman himself.