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The Death of Cable News in One Clip

(CNN Screen capture/Twitter)

This video of Don Lemon and co., which is rocketing around the Internet this morning, reflects perfectly what I was getting at when I proposed that the media writ large has failed to live up to the challenge that President Trump presents.

CNN, from which “news” channel the clip comes, is perhaps the worst offender of all, having deliberately contrived and cultivated a stable of guests whose defining characteristic is not analytical skill or eloquence or reflexive independence of thought, but rather Possession of a Strong Opinion about Donald Trump. On CNN, Trump is the North Star. He is the point around which all must be graphed; the question to which all others must be subordinated; the one piece of data that predicts and explains everything else. Bit by bit, the channel has become Fox News with a different predilection. It is Us v. Them, without break.

And, as on Fox, the “us” and the “them” on CNN are alarmingly narrow in scope. 63 million Americans voted for Donald Trump. Are they all slack-jawed yokels motivated by hostility to geography, and facts? Do they all — or even most — have strong Southern accents? And, irrespective, is a Southern accent a predictor of stupidity? Many of my neighbors have strong southern accents. One of them is a surgeon. Whither nuance?

This particular clip has landed with such a bump because it also serves as an example of how inaccurately mediocrities tend to see themselves. Rick Wilson’s joke was second-rate and obviously pre-written, and yet Don Lemon reacted as if Wilson was Dave Chappelle — even going so far as to say he “needed” it. This behavior is learned. Since Donald Trump was elected, a certain set of political “strategists” — many of whom aren’t actually strategists, Ana Navarro — have come to see CNN as a clearing house for their bad one-liners, each sitting at home preparing zingers that they hope, once delivered, will go viral. This one has gone viral, of course, but for the opposite reason than its architects hoped: Because it is pathetic.

I’m sure that I will be told that my disdain for this clip is the product of something other than a distaste for stupidity, laziness, and a desire for better TV. “You love Trump!” “You’re just envious!” “Lighten up!” But I don’t. I’m not. And I have no need to. The world is full of hilarious and interesting people, many of whom are extremely rude about the president, about Southerners, and about all manner of other topics. None of them, alas, seem to be asked on cable news.

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