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The Very Serious Debate, Starring The Very Serious George & Charlie

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We like to joke about the "very serious" traditional media. The truth is that while they claim exclusive lordship over integrity and professionalism -- not to mention a corner on the world's supply of pants made of smarty -- they're really a freak show with serious haircuts and suits. They're a wing of the Republican corporatist conspiracy against America. And the very serious moderators of last night's Democratic debate couldn't have been less serious if they had been wearing clown suits made of dildos while simultaneously tickling each other with monkeys.

I don't really even need to write this. The nation has witnessed, firsthand, George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson for who they really are: pandering yellow journalists. Carnival barkers. They're Penn & Teller without the talent or insight.

To wit... 50 minutes without a single substantive question. Fifty.

Hell, a 50-minute episode of America's Funniest Videos, for example, is at least good for a talking cat or a sucker-punch to the nards. Of course, that's not meant to impugn either of the Democratic candidates for their part. Here we had two members of the very serious traditional media going after two Democrats in ways which they have never challenged members of the Bush administration -- despite the Bush Republican record of disaster after disaster after disaster. In fact, George and Charlie made the FOX News Channel debates, with all of their Love American Style graphics and fire alarms and wacky fart sound effects, look like the goddamn Continental Congress.

I was just waiting for Charlie Gibson to hurl a fist full of lapel pins at Senator Obama while shouting, "Where's Natalie Holloway, Senator? Where?! Prove to me that you don't have her locked inside of your Silence of the Lambs dungeon, you pinhead!" Then Stephanopoulos with the inevitable, "Senator Clinton, do you think Senator Obama is more patriotic than the dreaded Bat Boy?"

Whether the questions were about Wright and Bosnia, or about guns and Iran, every single topic was framed from the perspective of the Republicans, with an eye on what the Republicans might say about him or her in the general election. So, I have to ask: since when did this become a primary race about which Democrat most resembles George W. Bush and John W. McCain?

It confounds logic that, on one hand, Senator Obama is repeatedly asked to explain why rural America is bitter, while, on the other hand, his qualifications for the presidency are being evaluated based on his goddamn bowling skills. Seriously, what the hell is going on here? The Bush Republicans are responsible for perhaps the worst economic crisis since World War II. They're responsible for a $3 trillion occupation and decades of future blowback. They're responsible for selling our sovereignty to foreign governments. They're responsible for trampling our liberty and national character. And there was Senator McCain on Hardball the other night talking about war in Iran, while pledging to make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the super rich. Both of which would make matters far, far worse.

Meanwhile, how are we evaluating the would-be Democratic nominee? Based on orange juice, of course. Why? Because the Republicans say so.

After the beating we've taken regardless of party or ideology, we ought to be demanding -- as a nation -- that the Bush Republicans shut up and sit down for a while (in a figurative sense of course). In other words, the party that spent this decade masturbating to videotape of George W. Bush clearing brush while America was raped and beaten into transcontinental buffet of shitkebobs, doesn't get to dictate the rules this time. No sir. And shame on Stephanopoulos and Gibson for allowing it.

Last night exemplified the pathetic truth that the very serious traditional media would otherwise be lost and confused without its Mad Libs script for presidential elections. It's a script that's been systematically and deliberatively co-written by Rove-style operatives in conjunction with corporations for the purposes of ratings, ad revenue and ever-narrowing control over the government. The script serves, first and foremost, to help the Republicans, and it takes the painful burden of "original thought" and "insight" off the shoulders of pundits such as the two hack/sock puppets who hosted last night's debate. Win, win.

What we have seen recently -- and especially last night -- has been nothing less than the very serious traditional media attempting to sculpt and shoe-horn the narrative based on what has been previously scripted by their authoritarian, oligarchic bosses. That is... The Democratic nominee has to be elitist and effete. The Republican has to be a cowboy (a maverick IS a cowboy, by the way). Democratic gaffes help the Republicans. Republican gaffes are silly "senior moments" or "plain-spoken" talk. Diplomacy is weak. Endless war is American. And on and on and on.

The most disappointing aspect to this Bush Republican script is that Senator Clinton is pandering to it, and her recent performances are almost as transparently bad as the George & Charlie Puppet Theater last night. The goals, at the end of the day, are similar. For the television news media, it's about ratings no matter what. For Senator Clinton, it's about winning no matter what. She has abandoned her integrity in favor of Republican tactics. I fail to see anything which is admirable or redeeming when Senator Clinton invokes "San Francisco" (which is Republican code for "gay"); or when she implies that Senator Obama isn't ready to protect us from the evildoers; or when she chugs a shot and beer in plain view of an entire nation of impressionable teen girls (while inexplicably attempting to ban video games with her friend Zell Lieberman).

Senator Clinton's desperate pandering to the Bush Republican script notwithstanding, the debate last night proved that the very serious traditional media is only "very serious" about distraction and superficiality. But those flaws are only the means to a larger end. Last night's debate proved what we've all been observing. To paraphrase the great Naomi Klein: it's increasingly impossible to tell where Karl Rove ends and where the very serious traditional media begins.

The ABC switchboard phone number:
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Bob Cesca is a writer, director, and producer as well as the founder of Camp Chaos Entertainment, an animation studio based near Philadelphia. He's written and produced literally hundreds of animated shorts as well as music videos for Iron Maiden, Meat Loaf, Everclear, Yes and Motley Crue. Just after 9/11, Bob produced and (more...)

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