SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 2023
The person who died in jail: Jerry Springer died last week. He was one of the most monumental frauds in all of American history.
In fairness, as of today, so is (almost) everyone else! For the most part, Jane Coaston avoids discussing the actual sweep of this problem in this morning's New York Times, in a column which carries this headline:
We Are All Guests on ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ Now
Springer hailed from Cincinnati, where he once served as mayor. As it turns out, Cincinnati is Coaston's hometown, and Coaston's a good, decent person.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Coaston watched the former mayor "gain a foothold in local cable television." In this passage, she describes (one small part of) where that foothold took us:
COASTON (4/29/23): Mr. Springer, who died on Thursday, saw his show become a huge hit in the 1990s despite being largely loathed by people who thought of themselves as cultured. Because the show definitely wasn’t that. It was a show about people who have sex with animals. And people who engaged in incest with siblings. It featured so many fist fights between guests and even between guests and the audience that you can easily find Jerry Springer fight compilation videos on YouTube, if you’re so disposed.
It was a show in which an episode might be titled “Freaky Sex Fetishes” or “I Married a Horse.” It was also a show that habitually portrayed being gay, bisexual or transgender as the “freakish” equivalents of a woman who had sex with 70 men in 10 hours or someone called the “the Kung Fu Hillbilly.”
And there was Mr. Springer, always wearing a suit and finishing every episode by imparting a “final thought,” followed by, “Till next time, take care of yourself, and each other.” He was a calm, bespectacled flight attendant on a plane headed directly to hell.
[Springer] once claimed that he wanted his television show to be serious, with serious interviews with serious people. But the ratings seemed to soar when the guests on his show spent less time debating the Iran-contra scandal and more time debating whether women with [Sorry. You'll have to go see what it says yourself].
As Springer learned and showed the world, sex with animals sells, as do the fistfights which follow! Meanwhile, Springer himself was a (likeable) master fraud—a likeable fellow who pretended to be dispensing "final thoughts" as he raked in millions of dollars by going as dumb and as low as it can possibly get.
That said, (almost) everyone (who matters) is Jerry Springer now! In this passage, Coaston discusses one (relatively minor) part of that deeply destructive story:
COASTON: [H]is particular brand of tabloid television gave way eventually to a landscape littered with reality shows in which people can brazenly broadcast their lives without the filtering mechanism of a studio talk show. There’s a direct line from the Springer show—which peaked in 1998 as the most-watched daytime television program in America, entertaining and horrifying nearly seven million Americans every single day—to the semi-staged mayhem of reality TV, which exploded following “Big Brother” and “Survivor” in 2000 and continues today with shows like “Real Housewives.”
Good God! As of 1998, Springer was hosting "the most-watched daytime television program in America!"
In Coaston's telling, this led on to the stupidified "reality" fare which now dominates basic cable.
What the heck happened to basic cable? Let us count (a few of) the ways:
Coaston mentions Real Housewives. That sprawling, braindead franchise dominates Bravo, a cable channel which, per its name, was originally intended to focus on the fine arts.
The pattern proceeds from there. To cite one example, The Learning Channel was originally supposed to be devoted to learning!
According to the leading authority on the topic, the channel "mostly featured documentary content pertaining to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement, and other information-based topics."
That's how it got its start! In 1992, The Learning Channel's corporate owners changed its name to TLC. The channel is now built around such dumbnified "reality" programs as 1000-lb Sisters, 90 Day Fiancé and Dr. Pimple Popper.
Not to mention this year's thoughtful new TLC program, MILF Manor.
The stupidification which made Springer a star now dominates the remnants of basic cable. Eventually, Coaston even makes this claim about us the American people in this, the age of social media:
COASTON: [T]he social media era has smashed that barrier between performative awfulness and its audience. Mr. Springer’s more insidious legacy is that we’ve all been lured through the glass and, just like his guests, we’ve all been egged on to perform our cruelest, worst, most vice-signaling behavior, all while gawking at the same behavior in others. With “The Jerry Springer Show,” we were still just the audience. Now, we’re both the audience and the guests.
According to Coaston, in the way "we" behave on social media, we're "all" Springerspawn now!
Stating the obvious, that's an absurdly sweeping claim about us the American people. That said, Coaston leaves her analysis of our nation's Springerfication right there.
As such, she's telling a story without an end. She's ignoring the most insidious part of this sprawling development.
In fairness, the dumbnification of American culture wasn't caused by Springer alone. If his program had never appeared, corporate owners of media properties would have learned that they could maximize profits by dumbing their product way, way down, as they've relentlessly done.
That said, (almost) everyone is Springer now! Or at least, almost everyone who matters.
Tucker Carlson is Jerry Springer. So of course is Donald J. Trump.
But so was Maureen Dowd, with her seven (7) columns bult around Candidate Gore's bald spot. So was Chris Matthews, rubbing his thigh as he told Gennifer Flowers what a smokin' hot babe she was, then as he trashed Hillary Clinton in ways so dumb that they defied belief.
Our blue tribe managed to sleep through all that. We then slept through a great deal more. How much more have we managed to miss?
In our view, our blue tribe is left with a basic question as we review the cultural drift Coaston (almost) discusses:
For starters, how about Joe and Mika (but mainly Joe)? Yesterday morning, were they Jerry Springer as they discussed one particular aspect of the Trump rape trial?
How about Nicolle Wallace, as she pretended to discuss the same topic on yesterday's Deadline: White House?
The things they said were highly novelized. The things they said were very familiar and pleasing.
That said, did their presentations make any sense, as judged by any traditional journalistic standard? Plainly no, they didn't.
Meanwhile, how about the person who died in prison, down in Georgia, in the astonishing circumstance described in the (online) Washington Post?
Colin Kaepernick has agreed to pay for an autopsy. Why haven't we blue tribe viewers heard even one word about that?
On Monday, we'll start addressing such questions. In our view, though, this whole "cable news" press corps is basically out of order. They're (pretty much) all Springer now, or they're at least Springer-adjacent.
Jerry Springer was a likeable person and an undisguised fraud. He gave us fistfights about sex with animals, then offered "final thoughts."
His behavior was baldly fraudulent. But at this point in the dumbnification which has emerged from the "democratization of media," how many of our multimillionaire cable stars aren't part of that same destructive culture?
Not to mention their endless array of sidekicks, dear friends and hangers-on! Are they all Jerry Springer now? If they aren't, why not?
Are they all Jerry Springer now, or was it only Tucker? We'd call that a very good question. We're glad you've finally asked!