March 10, 2008
Oh Tucker, we hardly knew thee and now you are gone! The news this week that MSNBC will be canceling the show “Tucker” has sent shockwaves through the fake news industry. This of course would be sarcasm as mostly, nobody really noticed or cared that the once bow-tied buffoon will soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed but this move does represent a victory for progressive causes and should not be dismissed without some celebration. Hopefully it is also a harbinger for future shifts in the industry and a restoration to balance in the media.
Mostly known for having Jon Stewart hand him his lunch on his old “Crossfire” show at CNN, Tucker joined the ranks of the fake news business a couple of years ago when MSNBC thought the way to go was to mimic Fox News as much as humanly possible. At least on crossfire, Tucker was “cast” correctly as being a right wing goon. Since then he has had to pretend that he is really a misunderstood “centrist” or “moderate” and that he possesses some form of objectivity that deserves to be rewarded with a prime time news analysis show. He apparently listened to the focus groups which told him to ditch the trademark bowtie, which really reinforced the “guy you love to hate” persona that served him so well on Crossfire. Fortunately, it was not enough as America has started to realize that they actually like their news reported and not pre-packaged.
I find the entire thing ironic as I had the strange displeasure of actually watching Tucker just last week. He had on some wild eyed guy telling him why Obama’s message of change was simply not to be trusted. The “expert” went on to assail the character of Obama as well as his close friend; the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick. There was not even the slightest attempt by the guest to be objective. It was simply put; a Fox News style hit-piece, through and through. The sickening part though was to watch Tucker pretend to be neutral, asking questions feigning innocence which were designed to elicit more slandering of Obama. At the end Tucker summarized by “asking” the faux expert; “so when Obama says he wants change, I should doubt his sincerity? Hmm, ok thanks!” I remember looking in disbelief at my television wondering how long such tripe can last in our society. Thankfully the answer has come in and Tucker is on his way out.
Why should progressives celebrate this as a victory? Because amidst the clamor of an election year and the cries for impeachment, media deregulation remains one of the 800-pound gorillas in the room no one seems willing to talk about. It is a core “macro” issue for progressives; or at least it should be. There was a palpable shift in media under the Bush administration as rules and regulations were eviscerated. Propaganda became news. The “Fox Model” became the norm. This included turning news into entertainment. The truth became a malleable property. You had news debate formats spring up where the person or guest on the right was always an extremist and the person on the alleged “left” was always a milquetoast moderate. The result was a tangible shift of the debate in this country to the right while the middle, became the “left.” You already has administration apologists such as Chris Matthews in premier time slots where they pretend to ask tough questions but the bias literally drips off the screen and into the living rooms of America. The thing about hosts like Matthews though is they are vague enough where it was always defensible that they were not complete sell outs. That also changed this decade as we saw the rise of blatant partisan hacks as “news” professionals. Again, following the Fox Model, other stations started employing blatantly partisan operatives and trying to pass them off as objective news analysts. I will refer to this as the Scarborough Era; named of course for the next guy that needs to go, Joe Scarborough. Having no shame, MSNBC hired Joe Scarborough and tried to transform him into a “regular Joe.” Never mind that his prior occupation was a republican Congressman! Recently MSNBC has had to move Joe out of his 9PM timeslot and dump him in the morning lineup; hopefully a signal that he will soon be panhandling with Tucker.
I thought I had noticed some shifting this past year. Suddenly the guests that were supposed to represent the left were actually from the left; such as MSNBC using Rachael Maddow of Air America regularly. But the departure of Tucker, a false agent of the Scarborough Era, signals that the shift may just be serious and growing. Once “Morning Joe” Scarborough joins him, we can truly realize that perhaps the deregulation cycle has come full circle. Just as the people revolted in 2006 at the polls, they are revolting against the propaganda machine that is mainstream (corporate) media. As much as the corporate media needs to bow to its masters, it also must follow the money. Keith Olbermann has proven that the truth can still sell in America.
So Tucker, we part ways here. It must really be a relief for you. Now you do not have to pretend you are something that you are not. Look, I know you are not Sean Hannity, but I also know you are not a moderate or centrist. You have always had a conservative agenda and that is ok in a free society. But when you disguise that conservative agenda and call it news? That is where the line gets crossed. You crossed it and today America caught up to you. So good riddance Tucker. Call Fox, I am sure they are still looking for a few good shills. If you are lucky enough to land another show I will remind America now what Jon Stewart pointed out for us all so many years ago when talking to you on Crossfire…
“You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show."
Amen Jon, Amen.