Wednesday, June 1

Memo To: CNN or MSNBC or Both

I'm sorry. My Poor Wife had the remote. There's a serious gender-role reversal in this house when it comes to the remote. I check four channels and give up. The PW runs laps. Lap after lap. All the way up, all the way down, roughly 1.8 seconds per channel excepting weather, decorating, and shopping programs, until my left eyelid starts fluttering uncontrollably and I do the Ralph Kramden impression, "GAAAAAAH!", and the cat runs for the basement, at which point she acts like she had no idea she was driving me insane. We've got the routine down cold. I should mention that she stops at shopping channels only to make fun of the merchandise, but that's cold comfort for me, and the cat isn't really happy about any of it.

I was in the kitchen and I could tell she got stopped, which typically isn't much of an improvement, just less likely to induce seizures, and this time was possibly worse, since she was stuck between CNN and MSNBC. I walked in with the yogurt which keeps me alive.

"'Deep Throat' was Felt," she says.
"I should hope so."
[Sideways teacher look; she can't help it]: "'DeepThroat' was some guy named Felt."
"Know. Read it couple hours ago."
"Who was he?"

Two things here. One, yes, I do talk like Mickey Spillane around the house, just for entertainment purposes. "Gunplay," I'll say, or "he had a heater." It's harmless fun. The other thing is, although I'm old enough that not only was I a Watergate junkie, I also felt personally vindicated by the whole thing, I never much gave a damn who Deep Throat was. Still don't. But the conversation has not drowned out the idiot box, and now, in an unguarded moment I've actually turned and faced the thing, and there's Liddy. G. Gordon Fucking Liddy. And my wife is using both index fingers now, so she can flip between a farcical roundtable discussion and a droning expert whose expertise I never hear identified at a speed which actually makes their voices rise and fall due to the Doppler Effect.

I finally had to run to the computer desk, grab the headphones and pull up iTunes, where thanks to the Roman alphabet Artie Shaw was ready to launch "Oh, Lady Be Good" into orbit like it was still 1938. So I can't be sure just which network was guilty of what, but anyway:

• G. Gordon Liddy should not be on your network, no matter who you are. Not even if the topic is Watergate. Especially if the topic is Watergate. This is not expert testimony, or gathering the widest range of opinion. It's self-serving claptrap.

• The schtick with the supposed expert who's been brought on to hammer some particular point has worn thin on me, and I never watch you. There was a guy on the panel who was convinced the military had had it in for Nixon. Sheesh, who didn't? He's now confused in my mind with the talking undertaker from the other channel who was incensed that Felt had not brought his information to the attention of the proper authorities at the time. Yeah, that worked so well for Richard Clarke, somebody yelled. Me, I think.

• If this schtick is so great, doesn't it stand to reason it'd be that much better if you actually got somebody who knew what he was talking about to explain the other guy was full of it? The military didn't break into Democratic Party headquarters. The military didn't tape every last expletive Richard Nixon uttered.

• I'm sorry, I like eye candy as much as the next guy, but the spectacle of a professional hairdo who was minus-7 years old at the time pretending a) she's conversant with the facts and b) she went in to journalism because of the heroic example of Woodstein is really more that I can take before cocktails.

• They toss to everybody, "What do you think his motivation was?" And to a man everybody, including Liddy, said, "I'm sorry, I don't know the man." This may have been happening on both channels simultaneously.

• Someone actually mused about what it would have been like "if they'd have had blogs back then."

• Somewhere along the line either the hairdo, or somebody she pitched it to, said something to the effect that "prior to this there was no such thing as investigative journalism." BZZZT. You might try digging up Drew Pearson and asking him, for starters. "60 Minutes" has been on the air since 1968, or don't you even have to learn the history of television any more? The thing that's happened since Watergate is that now every local station has an Investigative Team, and they walk toward the camera real serious-like in promos, then one of them crosses his arms. And every so often they confront a crooked businessman, assuming they can find one who isn't a potential advertiser. Investigative journalism is now known as Seymour Hersh. And he's not on CNN.


Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

Once again the sizzle is more important than the steak. My students always care more about who Deep Throat is than what Watergate was.

Teaching it today seems kinda sweet almost innocent. Most of my colleagues say stupid things like, why teach that, it happened so long ago.

I like teaching it to show what a bullshit impeachment is--Clinton and what a real one--Nixon would have been.

I hope this summer they see that Felt came forward sort of daring someone in the Bush administration to do the same. Ellsberg asked a few weeks ago why someone in the Pentagon hasn't come forward in Iraq.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this makes me shallow, but our household has had a standing Who Is Deep Throat pool for a while. I won eight fifty yesterday.
And we had a fairly similar conversation, for similar reasons, except that my use of archaic slang is not something I attribute to Mickey Spillane, though I'm not sure where it did come from.
"Mark Felt?" My partner asked me.
"Chalk or grease pen."
"No, I mean, Mark Felt says he was Deep Throat."
"That's the current theory."
"I checked the list, and you picked him."
"Yeah, well. I still had my heart set on it being Nixon himself."
"I don't know who he is."
"Ex-President. Dead now."
*sigh* "I mean, Felt."
"What am I, Wikipedia? He was a G-Man."
"You do *not* get partial credit for your Gordon Liddy guess."

It should be noted that the significant other also staked money on Pat Buchanan, probably just to annoy me, and that one of the housemates put cash on Ben Stein for pretty much the same reason.
Shallow, but harmless. And I have bus fare now.

SuzanH said...

Excellent post. I'm with you on running off to iTunes or the equivalent rather than watch one vapid piece of "news" and "analysis" after another.

It's sickening, all of it. I can't tell if it's a general moral decay or if it's just so blatant now because of the speed of information.

Either way, I'm going to go read something. Fiction.

P.S. What about Raymond Chandler? Greatest detective writer bar none.

robin andrea said...

Just got here from a link on Freshman 44. I am really glad she's sending readers over. This is such an excellent post. You capture the essence of news today so well. I didn't turn on the TV until later in the evening last night. I did get to hear a repeat broadcast of Keith Olbermann interviewing John Dean, and then later Patrick Buchanan. Not surprising, some of the Nixon bad-boys are still bitter. I am hoping, as JR Sutter wrote above, that someone on the deep inside of this administration will take Felt's confession as inspiration and decide that s/he will save us once again from the clutches of criminals.

Anonymous said...

Nice one, Riley; boy are you ever hitting your stride.

My favorite part about Nixon: both defender and detractor alike say he was "a complex man," intending entirely different senses of the word (misunderstood/fucking nuts).