Where corporate loyalty takes us: Last Sunday, Tom Brokaw did three hours on C-Span’s monthly program, In Depth.
Brokaw has always seemed like a basically decent person. Around the 2:30 mark, he got an intriguing question from a viewer. To watch the whole program, click here:
QUESTION (5/6/12): I do have a question regarding bias in the media, and that is— You know, I watch Fox News, I consider it almost an arm of the Republican Party. I watch MSNBC, I consider that an arm of the Democratic Party. And it’s very frustrating to try to access news that comes through unbiased. And I was wonder if you would comment on that.Oof! In the past, Brokaw has sometimes complained about the clowning on MSNBC, right there on the channel’s air. Now, he had been put on the spot about Fox News and MS!
His answer was truly awful. Here’s the way he began:
BROKAW (continuing directly): You know, I hear that a lot. For as long as I have been doing this, people have accused the press of being biased one way or the other.Say what? Two observations:
Bias, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Fox News and MSNBC, when the sun goes down, they have very distinct points of view. But it’s transparent, they don’t try to hide it. We know that Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly take great pride in their conservative principles. Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews and the others who are on MSNBC are what they like to call “progressive slash liberal.”
During the day, Fox News does a good job in covering the straight news, by and large. Sometimes you think you can see in their political coverage a kind of residue from the night before. But on big breaking stories that are non-ideological they do fine, so does MSNBC.
It’s absurd to say that Fox does a good job in the daytime hours—to suggest you have to look real hard to spot a residue of the channel’s point of view. That’s also an absurd account of MSNBC’s daytime programming.
Brokaw is dreaming if he thinks these channels function that way in the daytime hours. Beyond that, look what he says about Hannity and Mr. O.
It’s true! Everyone knows that Hannity and O’Reilly are conservatives; it’s true that this fact isn’t hidden. Similarly, everyone knows that Maddow is a progressive, and that Matthews is pretending to be a progressive now that his channel's corporate business model has changed.
Everyone knows the point of view of these cable hosts. But that doesn’t speak to the basic problem of their cable programs. Hannity’s viewers know he’s conservative. That doesn’t mean that they know when he hands them bogus facts, crackpot logic or highly selective presentations.
Both of these channels now traffic in bogus facts and crackpot logic. Their viewers have no obvious way of knowing when the bullshit has started to flow.
Brokaw has been paid mega-millions by the corporation down through the years. Such massive payments tend to buy silence. Can he possibly believe what he said?
As Brokaw continued, he gave us his solution to the problem of cable news—and he knew who to blame for that viewer’s dilemma. It’s time for average folk to get off their asses, he thoughtfully said:
BROKAW (continuing directly): Here’s my advice: We have to be more proactive as news consumers, everyone! There was a time when you could just be a couch potato. You get up in the morning, get the morning paper watch a little bit of the Today show—Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, I hope later Dan, Peter or Tom—and you’d be pretty well served.Get off your aspics, you couch potatoes! It's time you did some work!
Now that screen is so crowded and the voices are coming at you from so many directions that you kind of have to get up on your toes so to speak and be mentally alert to who’s trying to manipulate you, what information holds up from what source over a long period of time, what serves you well, what’s coming to you in some particular context...
(There was more, but you get the idea.)
Friend, are you handed pure BS when you turn on your TV machine thingy? It’s time for you to stop being so lazy! You’ll have to change your way of functioning! Our guild certainly won’t!
Earlier that day, on Meet the Press, Brokaw churned some piffle-pure centrist claptrap, harmonizing with Diane Swonk. His performance there was groaningly bad.
On C-Span, matters got worse.