I hate cable news. At least 99 percent of all cable news is a bag of throwaway garbage that serves no purpose other than to confuse, distract, misinform and stink up the room. The same can be said about talk radio. It’s not that broadcasting can’t be used to inform and educate the populous, sometimes it is, but the trend has been to simply chase ratings and fill airtime with whatever is cheap and easy.
And what’s the cheapest and easiest content to produce? Opinion masquerading as news, or as Glenn Beck likes to say ‘Truth.’
Take this story for example. It’s easy for me to sit here and blast out an opinion story bemoaning the horrors of cable news, but if I actually wanted to do an investigative piece about cable news and why it got this way, well, that would take time and money – none of which I have.
But I’m not Rupert Murdoch. He does have money. He could pay people to investigate stories and produce in-depth analysis segments on things like health care reform, the Iraq war or the nation’s struggling education system. So could GE’s MSNBC and CNN, but they don’t do that.
I know, I’m taking a long time getting to my lead, so let’s get down to it.
Today, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog organization, published a story detailing the conservative nervous breakdown we’re watching unravel across this once great nation. The thesis of Boehlert’s story is that conservatives believed their own hype, and now they’re freaking out that they weren’t able to kill health care reform. Now they’re worried about what else they won’t be able to stop the liberals from doing.
What happened was that Fox News, along with other right-wing media, convinced the Tea Partiers that they were winning. They believed Fox News when they said 2 million people rallied in the nation’s capitol last September, even though there might have been 100,000. They believed Fox News and Rush Limbaugh when they were assured that after the gun-touting town hall screamers had shouted down Democratic politicians that health care reform was dead.
I believed them too. Not more than a month ago, I was convinced that health care would not happen.
But what everyone forgot is that the people get to speak in the voting booth and that’s pretty much it. Anti-war protesters couldn’t stop the Iraq war no matter how many people rallied against it because George W. Bush was elected, well sort of, in 2000, and Congress was controlled by the GOP. In a republic, the people vote for their representatives in November and it’s up to those elected leaders to lead. And leading doesn’t mean changing your mind every time the New York Times or Fox News publishes a public opinion poll. Depending on your point of view, that’s either the upside or the downside of living in a republic.
And so now that health care reform has passed, conservatives are losing their shit.
After all, late last week the nation stood on the precipice, just three “days away from the United States of America being over as we’ve all known it,” according to Rush Limbaugh, who warned that reform would drive every private insurance company out of business. Glenn Beck also went full tilt, warning that the bill represented a “turning point,” like the Civil War and Peal Harbor, while colleague Sean Hannity pinpointed the health care vote as the ‘very hour’ that America turned ‘completely towards socialism.’
The Washington Times likened reform to the “Black Plague,” and the online reaction was somehow even more unhinged. It was “RIP USA,” because with the vote, America would become “occupied by a hostile foreign power.” Indeed, a “socialist putsch” had been sprung and “America’s Day of Wreckoning [sic]” was at hand. Why? Because the Democrats’ health care legislation “will make every American a POW, strip them of their Freedoms and Liberty and shove them in a meat cellar for cold storage.”
Basically what Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Partiers want is to run the government regardless of whether or not they win elections. To them, it doesn’t matter who gets elected, what matters is that politicians do what they tell them to do. And because Fox News effectively created the illusion that they were winning the debate, right-wing fringers are now throwing a hissy fit.
When health care reform passed Congress, Boehlert wrote, “It was the sudden and rude realization that, instead, they’d spent the past few months trapped inside an echo chamber, I think, that created the volcanic and unhinged response we’ve seen play out in recent days. It’s the kind of childish and hysterical reaction I didn’t think we’d ever witness from a major political movement.”
So the Tea Partiers and other conservative groups out there need to understand that in order effect change in this country they’re going to have to organize into a political movement. It takes more than a few gun-touting fanatics to pass legislation, and most people would agree, that’s a good thing. So turn off Fox News and actually engage in the process or you’ll be left on the corner shouting to no one.