Normally I would post the video at the end, but today let's start off with it. I fear that many readers are too young to remember this seminal moment from Paddy Chayefsky's Network (1976). If you've never seen this classic movie, you owe it to yourself to watch it. It has never been more relevant than it is today.
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship are mad as hell too.
The problem is that Bad News for Democracy Is Great News for TV Profits.
Television news has gone off its rocker and turned our politics into the equivalent of a freak show’s hall of mirrors.
The networks have grasped Donald Trump to their collective bosom like the winner of one of those misogynistic, televised beauty pageants he owns. Each pronouncement from the Sultan of Slur is treated as epic, no matter how deeply insulting, bigoted or just plain ridiculous.
You may have seen by now that recent Tyndall Report analysis of the nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC. It found that from January 1 through November, the big three had devoted 234 minutes of reporting to Donald Trump but only ten to Bernie Sanders. At ABC,World News Tonight had given the Trump campaign 81 minutes of coverage while Bernie Sanders has received less than a minute. A minute!
Some will see a conspiracy here, but the corporations which own our media only worship one thing: money. Where Moyers sees bad news for democracy, CBS head Les Moonves sees only a fatted calf [image below].
Big surprise, the problem is money. Tons of it. Trump brings ratings and ratings raise advertising revenue. What’s more, in an insane election cycle like this one, cash already is pouring in from the production, sale and placement of political TV advertising, cash that also makes television executives and political strategists wealthy.
Here’s CBS chief executive Les Moonves at an investor presentation last week, cheering on Trump and the other Republican candidates: “The more they spend, the better it is for us… Go Donald! Keep getting out there. And you know, this is fun, watching this, let them spend money on us… We’re looking forward to a very exciting political year in ’16.”
Fun? Exciting? Only if you enjoy getting rich, as Moonves apparently does, while watching the country go collectively bonkers.
This is the same Les Moonves who declared during the 2012 campaign,
“Super PACs may be bad for America, but they’re very good for CBS.”
And earlier this year, on an investors call, he said, “Looking ahead, the 2016 presidential election is right around the corner and, thank God, the rancor has already begun.”
You can hear the fictional Howard Beale of Paddy Chayefsky’s Network spinning in his fictional grave, still mad as hell.
Moonves likes to play the wise guy but he also knows that some are predicting that the 2016 presidential election may cost as much as $5 billion, with much if not most of it going to television...
One could argue that the very existence of a "successful" human like Les Moonves tells us all we need to know about Human Nature, but I won't go in that direction today.
Bill tries to salvage something of course.
The good news is that people are pushing back...
Oh, please, Bill.
If Bill is mad as hell, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi seems resigned to this dangerous craziness.
The Los Angeles Times went on to dig in to the ethics of covering Trump:
"Trump represents something of a quandary for the media, especially TV networks. Privately, TV news producers acknowledge that Trump has turbocharged their ratings…"
Essentially, TV news producers are wondering:
"How do we keep getting the great ratings without helping elect the Fourth Reich?"
Good question. Unfortunately, as soon as we pose the question, we also realize that we have traveled a long way down the Fourth Reich road. We realize that democracy in America is only a distant and fading memory.
Paddy Chayefsky's Network was far ahead of its time. He died in 1981, the same year a bad Hollywood actor was sworn in as President of the United States. If he were alive today, he surely would not be surprised to be living in the future he predicted.
Here's another unforgettable clip.