Gossip TV and a cool family feud!


Let them entertain you: We don’t know if we’ve even seen such an undisguised evening of Gossip TV.


The featured news report on page 1 of today’s New York Times concerns a startling event. Essentially, the national Republican Party is refusing to fill empty seats on our nation’s most important courts.

“Senate Republicans on Monday blocked President Obama’s third consecutive nominee to the country’s most powerful and prestigious appeals court and insisted they would not back down, inflaming a bitter debate over a president’s right to shape the judiciary,” Jeremy Peters writes at the start of his front-page report.

This time, the rejected judge is named Robert Wilkins. We just entered “Wilkins” into the Nexis search engine. The name wasn’t mentioned, not even once, on cable “news” channels last night.

What names were mentioned on cable last night? Which names drove the gossip? The names included Rob Ford, Mary Cheney, George Zimmerman and Alec Baldwin. On MSNBC, Willie Robertson was named by Lawrence and by Chris Hayes.

Robertson is the star of Duck Dynasty. Rachel discussed that program too, although she skipped Robertson’s name.

(Rachel, in a wonderful moment: “If you haven’t watched it, you owe it to yourself to watch it, just so you understand your country.”)

Who broke the coffee table at the home of Zimmerman’s girl friend? Lawrence opened his program last night with a segment on that topic. On CNN, Anderson Cooper opened his 10 PM program like this:
COOPER (11/18/13): Hey, everyone. Welcome to AC360 Later.

Tonight, Oprah Winfrey's allegation. She says no one ever says it, but everybody is thinking it. President Obama, she says, is being disrespected because of the color of his skin.

Agree or disagree, it's quite a conversation starter. We will take her up on that.

Also, the Cheney family feud over same-sex marriage. And Alec Baldwin's eruption. We begin, though, with Toronto's crack-smoking mayor, Rob Ford.
It’s a conversation starter! All last week, we were asked to consider who said what to whom for what reason in the Dolphins locker room.

If you are extremely gullible, you may believe that this constitutes an attempt at reporting the news. We’re inclined to see it as something else—as the flight of multimillionaire TV stars into “conversation” and gossip.

Can we talk? They don’t give a good goddamn about topics affecting millions of people. Why have they been peddling Rob Ford in giant doses? Two weeks ago, Chris Hayes blurted:
HAYES (11/6/13): People around the world are finding out what we already knew, admitted crack-smoking mayor of Toronto Rob Ford is endlessly entertaining after his wild press conference yesterday.
It’s endlessly entertaining! One week later, Lawrence blurted too. “Coming up, the latest, and we hope the last, performance by the most entertaining mayor in North America. Toronto’s Rob Ford is in the spotlight tonight.”

Let them entertain you!

If you’re highly gullible, you may believe you were handed last night’s menu for reasons which extend beyond entertainment and the stoking of tribal furies and pleasures. If you choose to believe that, let’s consider the quality of analysis you get when these topics are examined.

Consider Frank Bruni’s column today about those “Cheney family values.” As he starts, we ask a basic question. Is this a discussion of news? Or is this dick-tugging and gossip?
BRUNI (11/19/13): If Liz Cheney, whose bid for the Senate has always had a stench of extreme opportunism, wants to discuss traditions and values, I’m all for it. Let’s start here: Isn’t there a tradition of close-knit family members’ taking care not to wound one another? Is there not value in that?

From the moment that Liz decided, from the perch of her longtime home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, to act the part of an honest-to-goodness Wyoming resident and challenge an incumbent senator (and family friend) from that state, she must have known that the issue of same-sex marriage would come up. It is, after all, a prominent thread in the news. It’s also a prominent thread in stories about her family, given that her father, Dick, bucked his party to become an early Republican supporter of same-sex marriage, and given that her lone sibling, Mary, has a female spouse.

She must also have entertained speaking out against it, because that’s what she ended up doing on Sunday, on Fox News, saying that she believed “in the traditional definition of marriage.” And she must have foreseen that this would pain Mary, who was married last year and whose two children are being brought up with the understanding that their family has the same dignity as any other.

But she plunged forward anyway, disregarding the inevitable discord. As Jonathan Martin reported in The Times, Liz and Mary aren’t speaking to each other now, and there’s a long shadow over the Cheneys’ holiday get-togethers.
Question: Do you understand why you’re being asked to ponder the “long shadow over the Cheneys’ holiday” plans? Why is anyone supposed to care about that?

Leave aside that obvious question. Instead, examine Bruni’s fitful attempts at logic.

According to Bruni, Liz Cheney “must have known that the issue of same-sex marriage would come up” when she chose to run for the Senate. At present, Cheney is fifty points behind in the polls, making us wonder why any of this is being treated as news.

Whatever! In the passage we have posted, Bruni almost makes it sound like you shouldn’t run for the Senate if 1) your sister is gay and married and 2) you oppose same-sex marriage.

Bruni knows that doesn’t make sense. And so, after making a point of mentioning Cheney’s niece and nephew in the most personal ways, he tries to reason his way past that obvious point.

His attempts at logic are very weak. This is a simple-minded attempt to disguise the culture of gossip:
BRUNI (continuing directly): Is any political office worth that? Would victory redeem the public message that Liz just sent to her niece and nephew? I’m imagining her awkwardness the next time that she goes to hug or kiss them (and I’m assuming that she’s a hugger or kisser, which may be a leap). If there’s not a knot in her stomach, then there’s nothing at all in her heart.

Having a lesbian sister doesn’t compel her to support marriage equality. Having a gay relative doesn’t compel anyone to. There are earnest divisions here, often driven by deep-seated religious convictions.

But Liz’s decision to chart a course and publicize a view bound to offend her sister is entirely volitional. It’s also entirely different from airing other ideological disagreements within families. Conflicting views on abortion or the death penalty don’t challenge the very structure and foundation of a loved one’s home. Questioning the validity of a marriage does. You’re not saying that you part with the way someone thinks. You’re saying that you have qualms with who they are, and this is a statement—a sentiment—you can keep to yourself. Even once Liz had elected to run, she could have chosen to say that the issue of gay marriage wasn’t going to be part of her campaign.
She could have said that the issue of gay marriage wasn’t going to be part of her campaign? Really? So when Chris Wallace asked her about that topic, she was supposed to say that she won’t reveal her position?

Same-sex marriage remains a political issue. It’s silly to think that a candidate can say she won’t talk about it. But when the children seek the chance to gossip about their favorite bête noirs, they will say any fool thing to move the project forward.

For our money, the problem started in the passage below. Wallace had already asked about Cheney's position on same-sex marriage. He then moved on to this additional question:
WALLACE (11/17/13): You talk about your position against same-sex marriage. Your sister, married—who is married to a woman—put out this post. She said, “For the record, I love my sister”—you—“but she is dead wrong on the issue of marriage.”

CHENEY: Yeah. And I—listen, I love Mary very much. I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree.
When did that start? Do we normally ask a candidate to state her view on an issue, then to respond to something her sister has said?

Wallace waved the checkered flag and set the gossips off. Basically, that’s what you get from the multimillionaires who pretend to do news on TV.

This country is spilling with real news topics—real news topics which involve the interests of gays and black kids, among other groups.

The gossip groupies don’t care about that. As we have proven down through the years, they would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before they’d discuss the interests of black kids. They simply don’t care about people like that. They prefer entertainment and gossip.

They care about gossip—and they care about ratings. Let them entertain you!

The most ridiculous segment ever: The most ridiculous segment ever was broadcast on last evening’s Hardball. It involved Michael Dukakis’ ride in that tank in 1988—and yes, it was a full segment.

Was that segment really broadcast? Or did someone slip us some acid?

Final question: Do these people cover Rob Ford because he’s so much like themselves?


  1. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but I found Lady Gaga's opening sequence on SNL to be IMMENSELY entertaining in the old Broadway tradition. That's what I tuned in for.

    That being said, I think it's strange that just about every news show I watch features a juicy segment from a recent comedy show, whether it's from SNL, Jay, David, Jon, Stephen, perhaps even Tosh O. That's not what I tune in for.

    Is it news when somebody paid millions to be funny is actually kind of funny? Or in order to keep us entertained for an hour, journalists now have to get help from the professionals? Perhaps it's only a matter of time before David Gregory starts giving us cat videos or maybe home videos of world leaders falling down in some undignified way or losing their pants. Then he'll even-handedly illicit commentary from telegenic "strategists" from either party.

    1. Well, I think it's like this. Colbert, Stewart, even often-lame SNL are much smarter than anyone else. Maybe the comedians have always been.

      Real comedians. I await Mr. S (and his devoted commenting crew) on the latest Zimmerman developments.

    2. And political humor is an American tradition that dates back centuries, all the way at least to Thomas Nast and through Will Rogers. Their humor, when it is good, has a way of slicing through the BS.

      Yes, I also anxiously await Somerby's insightful analysis of the latest in the Zimmerman saga. While others might see "pattern and practice" here, Somerby might remind us that we don't know for a fact who broke the coffee table. It's just her word against his. After all, he was so calm and collected in his 911 call when the cops were pounding on the door. He couldn't possibly have started this, could he?

  2. Bruni says Liz Cheney's bid for the Senate "has always had a stench of extreme opportunism," Presumably, that's because she's running on her family name. Of course, this situation is common in politics. E.g.: GW Bush. Hillary Clinton, a host of Kennedy's, John Dingell, Jr., etc.

    1. Hillary Clinton isn't running on her name. She is running on a lifetime of involvement in public service projects. Read her vita before you make more of these stupid remarks. In contrast, Cheney, Bush Jr. etc. have done nothing at a similar point in their careers in elected office.

    2. "Hillary Clinton isn't running on her name...."

      Most ridiculous comment ever, remind me to support any other candidate.

    3. "... remind me to support any other candidate."

      Sure thing. Support a liberal and help the citizenry of the U.S.


  3. It is a Slow Shutdown. Instead of the fast shutdown forced by the House Republicans.

    The Senate Republicans are slowly shutting down Uncle Sam by filibustering and holding nominations, keeping hundreds of judicial, executive, and advisory positions empty.

    I agree with Somerby: legislators shutting down the government ought to be big news.

  4. No matter what Oprah may say, President Bush was continually ridiculed by supporters of Democrats and President Clinton was ridiculed for disgracing the Presidential office.

    1. That Clinton disgraced the office of president is something that tribalists have a tough time admitting.

      I look at it this way. The whole impeachment thing was an incredible waste of time, energy and resources, certainly falling far short of the standards of "high crimes and misdemeanors" set by the Founding Fathers, many of them quite the philanderers themselves.

      At the same time, had my daughter been a low-level employee who was giving the President blow jobs, the only thing that would have prevented me from kicking the hell out of him would have been the Secret Service.

    2. Had your daughter been an adult (as Lewinsky was at the time), it would have been none of your business who she gave blow jobs to, and if you kicked anyone it would be assault and you would be arrested. Had this been anyone but Clinton and had Lucienne Goldberg not broken the law by wiretapping Lewinsky, none of this would have come to public attention -- it would have stayed private as acts between consenting adults are supposed to be. The vendetta against Clinton is at fault here -- not Clinton disgracing anyone or anything. Sex is part of life and it is no one's business who does what with whom, as long as it is within the law, as this was. The whole impeachment effort disgraced the Republican party -- I know several people who switched parties after that, they were so ashamed of what was happening.

    3. Wow! Yet another Internet lawyer. Well, thanks for the law lesson, counselor. But you obviously aren't a father.

      Look, if my daughter ever has a boss who uses her for blowjobs, strings her along, then dumps her, he's in for a butt-kicking.

      Yes, Clinton was indeed the target of a right-wing witchhunt. But wrap your brain around this: He was damned stupid, and what he did to his own wife and child in the process was inexcusable.

      Good grief, did he really think he could use one of his young female employees for blowjobs and not get away with it?

    4. Anonymous @7:28P,

      If your adult daughter has consensual sex with her boss, she might have some problems. If you're incensed to the point of assault because your adult daughter had consensual sex with anyone, then you've definitely got a problem. I realize that in cyberspace anybody can play the vengeful father, but if you kick someone's butt in retaliation you've now got two problems.

      How did Clinton string Lewinsky along? Did she claim that Bill was going to leave Hillary for her?

      What Clinton did with Lewinski wasn't public business. What Clinton did to his family is between them.

      Is it just the blowjobs that have you theoretically enraged? Would handjobs have been OK? How about anal?

    5. Deadrat, do you EVER write anything that doesn't amount to ponderous sophistry with a side of uninspired attempts at insult?

    6. I'm with you, Anon7:28pm.

      Adultery is usually consensual, that doesn't make it right.

      No, it's not "private" when the uber-boss takes up with a much younger, low-level govt employee and uses the Oval Office as a tryst sight.

      It's not okay that he does it during a sexual harassment discovery process against him (finding a pattern of sex in the workplace is ground zero in that process), so that he has to lie, let his lover (ash tray would be a better word) and sign a false affidavit. When his secretary is called by a Grand Jury, he has to get her into his office and coach her in a lie "We [lewinsky and he] were never alone. Right..."

      I don't care who went after Clinton. Politicians are targets (ask Sarah Palin) and Clinton proved true all their assessments of his narcissism, weakness, and perfidy, and then some.

      He should have resigned.

    7. "Did she claim that Bill was going to leave Hillary for her?"

      Yes, actually she did, and testified to that in her deposition. You can call her an "adult" and she was past 21, but basically she was a starry-eyed kid who was getting rather intimate sexual attention from her boss, who happened to be the president of the United States.

      This affair also lasted for quite some time. As much as you want to blame the young woman, this wasn't a case of her walking into his office and saying, "How about I give you a BJ?" and that was it. There were also late night phone sex calls originating from the Oval Office.

      Again, not an impeachable offense. Far from it. And what Starr did to get the story he was after from witnesses, particularly Lewinsky and her mother, should send chills down the spines of anyone concerned about civil liberties.

      So deadrat, stop being so "tribal". This isn't a case of "their side" being 100 percent wrong and "our side" being 100 percent right.

      Bill Clinton was an absolute idiot who cared only about his momentary sexual satisfaction, and nothing about Monica, Hillary or Chelsea -- until he got caught.

      And yeah, some doofus does that to my daughter, age of consent or not, I've certainly got a problem. And so does he.

    8. Anyone who has a 21 year old daughter but wouldn't be incensed if her lecherous old man boss banged her will have a daughter who's knocked up by 15.

  5. Having a lesbian sister doesn’t compel her to support marriage equality. Having a gay relative doesn’t compel anyone to. There are earnest divisions here, often driven by deep-seated religious convictions.

    And it is often NOT driven by deep-seated religious convictions, so Bruni's citation of that possible motivator is useless, but he includes it because he knows it might bring readers who don't believe religion should decide government policy over to his position. Bruni says an earnest division obligates one of the earnest parties to silence herself on the issue but not the other which means he believes "earnest" means "earnest but wrong."

    Bruni has no special capability to declare one opinion wrong on an issue for which there are multiple viewpoints, not one decisively more moral or ethical than the other, but that doesn't stop him.

  6. Although, this is the 5th time George Zimmerman claims he has been the victim of an unprovoked attack.
    His story in the Martin shooting was bullshit. Martin didn't attack him unprovoked.
    He'll get arrested again, Zimmerman. He's got a problem with violence, and when he gets in over his head as a result of that problem with violence, he reaches for a gun. Not good.
    This will end badly. The Florida police should be ashamed they believed such an obvious load of BS, given Zimmerman's past history.

  7. Anonymous at 6:51 AM,
    If you paid attention here, you'd realize the 17-year old who got suspended from school and smoked pot (you know, being a typical 17-year old) is the violent one.