Neil Postman's "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" years ago and recommend it to anyone seeking to understand the shallow and the absurd that passes for political punditry on cable and network teevee.
Brian Johnson and Bliss Green write for the blog Postmanisms and have posted a thoughtful and at the same time depressing analysis of how the MSM have shamelessly abandoned any pretense of doing their job of elucidating for the American people the complex issues surrounding the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead, we've been given front-row seats to a circus of idiots trying to outdo themselves in irrelevancy and inanity, from Chris Matthews of MSNBC whining about having to hear, more than once, that President Obama's Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, has a Nobel Prize in physics, to the foolish clowns at FOX News repeating GOP talking points, calling BP's $20 billion fund to compensate those who were financially injured by the spill--calling it a "shakedown."
But I'll let these two talented writers explain it in their own words:
The phylogeny of Immediacy, Nowness, Hysteria, and Contingent Finality came together this week in a mere 24-hour news cycle (more like 12 hours of real time) that saw President Obama described first as wishy-washy, bland, and listless, and then as a bully enforcer demanding corporate accountability, which would make him the most relaxed “bully” in history. Doris Kearns Goodwin, a respected popular historian, practices the craft of history in situ, because her expertise fools you into thinking her snap judgments have depth. Newsweek‘s Howard Fineman is upset that the President–like an eighteenth-century poet–didn’t have the “fingertip feel,” because after all the President is only a performer, like a reality-show contestant, and his “appearance” is therefore more significant than talking about what he is doing, is not doing, could be doing, or cannot do (i.e. swim down to the well and sit on it, as some critics seem to want). Chris Matthews is bothered that President Obama mentions Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu’s Nobel Prize cred because, well, Chris, in his official TV role of “feeling” for the “ordinary American” believes that that fictional category of person feels condescended to when someone who might actually know more than they do renders a thoughtful opinion.
The staff here at Postmanisms don’t, like the “staff” at TMZ, “hang out” in “cubicles” “casually talking” about stuff they “just happened to see.” Would that our Instant Now media felt any obligation to think before speaking. An analyst’s gutbrain, the educated-person’s version of Beavis and Butt-head mocking videos on MTV, is the only thing TV wants. Let’s face it: serious thought is no fun to watch, and most viewers have been well-trained by the medium to have no patience for extended argument or analysis. At least Roger Ebert always had a longish essay of thoughtful critique behind his thumbs-up/-down. The daily reduction of serious issues (i.e. that a terminal addiction to oil is the only reason the Gulf is going to die) to matters of perception and style (a reflection of the shallowness of the medium itself) turns the entire TV-reported world into the equivalent of TMZ: the world exists only to be paraded in front of us and judged, minute by minute, each judgment final, until the next minute.