This past September, I spent 17 days in Greece as host of the third City Weekly Greece tour (watch for info on our 2018 tour coming soon, he parenthetically adds in shameless plug). While there, my combined time consuming television was no more than 90 seconds total. All of those seconds by accident, never once turning on a hotel television, catching only glimpses of the endless soccer game loop broadcast into Greek taverns and on ferries all day, every day. As for Greek soccer, I am solidly with the red team.
Here and there, I also caught snippets of Greek news broadcasts. I'm not a complete stranger to Greek news, having once subscribed here to a couple Greek cable channels in an effort to learn how to speak Greek. I can now engage in light conversation ("I have lost Jennifer Aniston. Have you seen her?"), but the real benefit of Greek TV was that I learned to cook. Listening to Greek chefs tell viewers to add a spoon of this into a bowl of that and to stir was a much easier pathway to speaking Greek than watching news.
Greek news is barely different than our own. There's lots of screaming, shouting, finger-pointing and talking over each other at such a pace that it often doesn't matter which language is spoken—I end up understanding neither—so when I tune in at all, I'm in for the entertainment factor. When it's all over, I only understand there's an animated fake good guy and a grotesque fake bad guy and both are getting worked up over damn near nothing. That story can be told in any language.
Back home, I've been tuning into cable news once again. I hadn't watched Fox News since the 2008 elections. Is Laura Ingraham the new Greta Van Susteren? What's with this Tucker Carlson guy? So dour looking, so incredibly smarmy. Who is "I can't believe I'm getting away with this shtick" Jesse Watters? How is it that Tucker and Jesse never got punched in high school? Only Sean Hannity (aka the Lizzie Lape of broadcast news thanks to his questionable relationship with Donald Trump) remains in his bed-wetting, hyperventilating night slot.
Although I'm certain Rachel Maddow is the smartest of the lot of nightly cable news personalities, I've never warmed up to MSNBC's lineup. That leaves me with CNN, which therefore lies between MSNBC on the left and Fox on the right as the voice of reason. Trouble is, reason often translates into boring, and nighttime cable cannot survive if it is boring. Boring just lays there. Boring doesn't fight back hard when it is labeled Fake News. The best fighter on CNN is Ana Navarro. It sure isn't Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon. They both appear to be good, honest guys and dedicated journalists. But, be real—in a street fight, who do you want on your side? Them, or the karate kid, Hannity?
If I've learned anything since watching nightly cable news again, it's that it is indeed a street fight. It isn't about news at all, it's performance TV where truth and lies don't matter, only ratings do. And if it takes outrageous acts of treachery to get there, so be it. That's where it becomes as it is today—dangerous. No matter how far you might think Hannity will sink or climb, it's never enough because that only sets a new bar. Over the years, a body slam and a choke hold weren't enough to hold the attention of WWE fans, so wrestlers began falling on shards of glass, throwing chairs at each other, throwing themselves from high ladders, fighting women and little people, with each new 'wow' factor designed to bring fans back into the arena.
Like pro wrestling, nightly news has enough truth to it to beguile one into thinking that all the extraneous acting is also true. Despite what our president says, it's not the news that's fake, it's the actors, the hosts, the stars of the show, are. When a story breaks that our president doesn't like (Russian interference) or doesn't understand (global warming) all he needs to do is make the claim of it being fake. That sets up the stars of cable nightly news to unleash their individual staffs into the ether to find supporting evidence on either side of the Fake News claim. Then the shouting and wrestling match begins.
Soon, viewers are left not watching a discussion about the issue, but the stars of cable news go at it—"Kill her, Sean! Grab a bigger stick, Anderson! Nice move, Rachel!" Like we are supposed to, like we were raised, we go to where we find comfort. Simplistically, intellectuals—jazz music fans, opera fans—go to MSNBC. The NASCAR crowd along with MMA bleeders love the screaming action on Fox. CNN? They try hard, they get a trophy, but no matter how well they perform, they'll always be considered a lesser game than football.
When we accidentally hit Fox instead of MSNBC, it's like hearing everything in a foreign language. That's not good for anyone. It drives us to mostly stay tuned to our familiar stations of passion, each fed by a backdrop of leakers, insiders and snitches who trust hosts will do the dirty deed of throwing a chair in order to distract from the razor pulled from the shoe. The cheating is OK if you don't get caught.
Our political scripting is no different than a WWE event—it's just heels versus heroes. It's not the dialogue; it's the action. Ric Flair knows that. So does Trump.
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