By John Kusumi
These are delicious times. CNN is faltering, Larry King is retiring, and the network itself is basically a dinosaur on borrowed time.
It may seem natural that I would dance on the grave of CNN. In recent years, I’ve knocked it — and all of America’s MSM (mainstream media) — many times over. And, I’m not alone.
In the days of Walter Cronkite, the TV network newscasts had the ring of authority. Cronkite could sign off his newscasts with the line, “That’s the way it is,” and for the most part, that’s the way it was.
In the days of Walter Cronkite, TV news held the trust, confidence, and credulity of its viewers. In part, this was because of my next point:
In the days of Walter Cronkite, TV news had a captive audience. There were three TV networks and PBS. For viewers, there was nowhere else to go.
In the days of Walter Cronkite, the television industry was infatuated with itself — because everyone else was, too. To be “on TV” was “special.” Those who were on TV were, if not stars, at least people who had “arrived.” To go on television seemed a rite of passage for the big boys.
Politicians were so infatuated with TV, that they adopted the attitude: “If it’s not on TV — it didn’t happen.”
TV news once had all of those advantages mentioned above. No more. Clearly, these are not the days of Walter Cronkite.
In fact, Cronkite did something that really, really hacked off the powerful: he told us what was happening. It was Cronkite, not CNN, with coverage of (a) the war in Vietnam, (b) the protests against the war, and (c) Watergate. The powerful were hacked off by (a), (b), and (c), and they set out to rein in the media so as to ensure that we would (a) have favorable war coverage; (b) no protestors visible; and (c) never again have an experience like Watergate, when Cronkite and the Washington Post became heroic watchdogs, exposing corruption, and giving a good name to journalism. Never again! (Never again would be the objective of the corrupt powerful, who are inconvenienced when they are exposed and brought down.)
So. When CNN started in 1980, journalism had a good name. With Watergate, it had done its job so well, that a U.S. President resigned under threat of impeachment. Some viewers might have come to expect that if a war was going badly, they would be told! Or that, if protestors appeared in the streets, they would be told! Or that, if high crimes and misdemeanors of the powerful were uncovered, they would be told!
Boy, those old days seem unimaginable now — back in the stone age, they had wars going badly; protestors in the streets; and malfeasance at the top of political leadership! Gee! Imagine that. We’re so much more advanced than the stone age now. If we turn on CNN, we see (a) favorable war coverage; (b) no protestors visible; and (c) no experience like Watergate, with journalists calling to account some powerful people, on whom they had found incriminating evidence. It’s almost like America used to have problem (a), problem (b), and problem (c), but they all went away! It’s magic!
In fact, mainland / Communist China used to have problem (d), human rights abuses. It was visible on TV news, even on CNN’s coverage. But then, problem (d) went away! It’s magic!
CNN likes to brag about its coverage of Gulf War I (Iraq War I), because they had live television from Baghdad while it was being bombed. However, this led to the absurdity of what I’ll call “made for television war.” There was a reason for George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” strategy. That was a reprise of Baghdad getting bombed for the cameras.
CNN does not brag about its coverage of Tiananmen Square, because that was an example of problems (b) and (d), protestors in the street and human rights abuse — two topics that became verboten as the media became more and more corrupted and subborned. Since 2000, we have been watching the scrubbed version of CNN. There will be none of (a), (b), (c), and (d).
There is also none of (e) the theft of the 2000 and 2004 elections and hence, theft of democratic legitimacy in the result; (f) the inside help of the 9/11 attacks; (g) the bogusness of the Afghan and Iraq wars which CNN helped start; (h) the unconstitutional nature of attacks on American civil liberties — a raft of legislation since 2001; (i) the Unocal pipeline in Afghanistan; (j) U.S. intentions to invade Afghanistan known before 9/11; (k) Saddam Hussein’s threat to dollar hegemony in the pricing of oil; (l) questions about the 2001 anthrax attacks; (m) questions about big pharma colluding with the WHO to bring us the Swine Flu scare; (n) war crimes committed by the United States and Israel; (o) the fact that General Stanley McChrystal was behind the Pat Tillman coverup, the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and recent war crimes in Afghanistan; (p) the unadvisability of NAFTA and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act and the repeal of Glass-Stegal; (q) the Bilderberg group and word that it has green lighted an attack on Iran; (r) Dick Cheney’s conflicts of interest – indeed, the entire practice of no-bid contracts; (s) the announced fact that the Pentagon cannot account for $2.3 trillion that went missing; (t) the fact that the Federal Reserve will not account for its doings; (u) ongoing questions about AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac; (v) how the IMF bailout of Greece dings U.S. taxpayers; how Ali Velshi was pro-TARP when 99.5% of Americans were against it — or more generally, questions about how TARP came about; (x) the perils of a fiat currency issued by private bankers, rather than the Treasury department; (y) the International Criminal Court; (z) how Barack Obama refuses to investigate a, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, and x.
It seems that political correctness has expanded. At CNN, you can talk about anything you want — as long as it’s not a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, or z.
Items a – z are “off the reservation.” The goal post has moved — at an accelerating rate — as for what it is to be “mainstream.” If you hear a sonic boom in the distance, that might be the ever moving goal post, breaking the sound barrier. The only way to be mainstream is to gossip about Michael Jackson!
Remember, society can (and does) have problems a – z. But, when you turn on CNN, it’s as good as turning on Bobby McFerrin singing ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy.’ All of those pesky problems a – z go away! It’s magic!
But, because the actual problems of society (a – z) remain, this is also CNN, deliberately avoiding its own relevance — choosing to become irrelevant.
Increasingly, audiences don’t buy the magic act, and they have been tuning out. Good for them. The audiences would be upright, concerned Americans — people who would have respected Walter Cronkite. Meanwhile, the CNN crew are no better than hired actors, giving a television portrayal of ostensibly responsible, yet proscribed and contrived, newscasts. They are certainly a disgrace, if not to Walter Cronkite then to his profession.
Now, having punted its relevance and lost its audience, CNN will try urgently and desperately to reinvent itself. Can they succeed? That seems doubtful, because real journalism would require the reinstatement of topics a – z (the problems of society). More likely, they will order up a new hairpiece for whoever replaces Larry King. Superficial changes will be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I believe that they will keep their aversion to substance, and therefore keep their irrelevance.
Why? Because, as an outpost of corporate America, as they might say, “We can’t have any ruffled feathers around here.” To actually go to the topics of a – z would inconvenience the corrupt powerful, and hence would ruffle some feathers. In corporate America, they are really the cowed and the cowardly, trying desperately to color within the lines of political correctness, even while that playbook changes, and the goal post moves briskly. They are a school of fish — jellyfish. What CNN needs is a vertebrate. Cronkite is dead, but his corpse could do a better newscast than CNN.
Meanwhile, Herbert Hoover is dead, but his corpse could do a better presidency than Barack Obama. While CNN kisses its ass goodbye, America is also kissing its own ass goodbye. This is grisly.
We can imagine what I would do if I walked in to CNN as a turnaround CEO. But I’ll sign off this article instead. They don’t pay me for my advice; and, one of my maxims is: “Big boys are supposed to be able to pull up their own socks, and tie their own shoes.”