Part 2—In place of “chronic outrage:” What are you hoping for in the new year? Yesterday, we noticed that Jonathan Capehart was making a thoroughly modest request:
“All I want for the new year is the banishment of ‘post-racial’ anything from all social and political discourse.”
So requested Capehart.
In truth, almost no one ever says that we live in a “post-racial” world. For that reason, we thought Capehart’s dream for the new year was small.
Go ahead! Dream a larger dream! How would you like to see our society function?
Yesterday, the question came to mind when we read about declining ratings at The One True Liberal Channel.
In his weekly New York Times column, David Carr listed several media players whose jobs may be on the line in the coming year. This was his assessment of the recent performance of MSNBC president Phil Griffin:
CARR (12/29/14): Those familiar with television news will tell you that Mr. Griffin is one of the smartest people around, but you wouldn’t know it from MSNBC’s ratings. Stalwarts of the liberal-leaning channel—“The Rachel Maddow Show” and “Morning Joe”—are posting some of their lowest ratings ever and some of the fixes that Mr. Griffin has come up with—Ronan Farrow, anyone?—went nowhere.For more on the year’s cable news ratings, you can just click here.
Cable news outfits are always compared with Fox News, but that channel is in its own business, which involves grilling and serving red meat to devoted conservatives. With a Democratic president viewed by many as disappointing, and control of both houses belonging to Republicans, liberals are less interested in tuning in to chronic outrage. It’s been said that television news is a business where elections, in the form of ratings, are held every night, and by that measure, MSNBC is losing its base. Eventually, attention will focus on both the overall approach and the leader of the ticket.
As we’ve noted in the past, TV ratings are not a measure of quality. In theory, a cable news channel could improve the quality of its programs while losing ground in the ratings.
That said, MSNBC has had a tough year in the ratings. In Carr’s somewhat snarky assessment, this means that liberals have become “less interested in tuning in to chronic outrage.”
Is that what MSNBC sells? Not entirely, no.
That said, tribal outrage plays an increasing role at emerging liberal sites like MSNBC and the new Salon. In our view, these sites tend to eschew the notion of building bridges. Instead, they're inclined to revel in the driving of wedges.
“One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” So said Robert Frost.
In our view, a progressive could do much better than be a driver of wedges. That’s especially true when the driving of wedges is pushed along by the invention and disappearance of facts. Increasingly, this is the practice at corporate liberal news sites like MSNBC and the new deranged Salon.
In recent decades, the driving of wedges has tended to work for “the right,” at least on a political basis. We aren’t sure the practice is suited for serious work from “the left.”
What is your dream for the new year? Over Christmas, we found ourselves thinking, via Miep Gies, about a replacement for chronic outrage—Dr. King’s unembarrassed “love ethic,” which he hailed long ago.
Next: Revolutionary refusal