BREAKING POINT

I can't handle much cable TV news these days, and I rarely see any outside of a public setting. Walking past one of the many flat panels in the gym last evening I caught about three minutes of CNN, bringing my total number of CNN-watching minutes in 2016 to approximately five, plus or minus three.

The network was doing what it and every other network have been doing and will continue to do all year: "analyzing" the election. You know the drill. Very Serious People giving the Beltway Consensus take on why this or that happened, who said what, what it all means, and a bunch of nonsense pronouncements about non-events that will be forgotten as soon as others crop up tomorrow to replace them. The pro-Trump pundit was unknown to me, some D-list Howard Kurtz wannabe who bore an uncanny resemblance to a younger, less physically fit Paul Blart. Everyone played their parts well. He said some stuff. The CNN anchor nodded, listening intently. The other pundits waited their turn to say something insipid. The exchange got "spirited," culminating in that throbbing pulse of healthy political discourse that is Crosstalk.

It looked and felt…strained. Everything about it was familiar, both to me as the viewer and to everyone involved directly. Hell, the script hardly changes except for the candidates' names from election to election. This time, however, it really feels like someone is going to snap. One of these people will go full Howard Beale. It's only May and their professional demeanor as a group is already strained to breaking with the thought, "Are we really going to sit here and pretend that we're taking Donald Trump seriously?" That flower of suppressed rage might not bloom until later this year, but – perhaps this is only wishful thinking on my part – it seems ready to happen eventually.

We got close in 2008 when CNN's Jack Cafferty had a moment of brutal honesty about Sarah Palin while seated directly next to Wolf Blitzer, who played the Very Serious Person role to the hilt and got a withering "Don't make excuses for her" for his efforts. "I'm 65 and this is one of the most pathetic pieces of tape I have ever seen" is about as honest as you're likely to hear anyone get in mainstream TV news.

The Trump people are right about one thing: despite the media's ratings-driven infatuation with Trump, not a single news outlet including Fox News is pulling for him. Murdoch & Co. may come around in the long run, but regardless we can already see the strain this is putting on the veneer of Both Sides Do It mainstream Beltway journalism. This unspoken sense of, "Really? We have to pretend this isn't totally idiotic and insane? Are you serious, people?" is the undercurrent to the transition from primary to general election storylines. Nobody wants to say it. Maybe nobody will say it. Plenty will rush to heap insults on him after he loses. Hopefully someone has the courage to do it before that. The odds may not be great, but they're greater now than at any point in my lifetime that somebody is going to lose it on camera when the thought of furrowing their brow and pensively discussing the merits of an asshole reality TV mannequin who once wrestled Vince McMahon and has no issue positions of any kind overwhelms them. Everyone has a breaking point, even the blow-dried careerists who pass for journalists these days.

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34 Responses to “BREAKING POINT”

  1. mago Says:

    How much time is left?

  2. Mo Says:

    You're right, the dramatic tension mounts.

    Chinese media workers have to be superb actors and say just what they're told to – and not say what they're told not to discuss.

    US journalists, however, magically censor themselves without any threat of prison or harassment of their families. So will the shame become overwhelming? Will the charade fall apart? Or will they desperately cling to their incomes for fear of falling?

  3. Coises Says:

    Those folks yelling out their windows are Trump's constituency.

    No concepts, no coherent plans, no perspective… but they are as mad as hell, and they are not going to take this anymore.

  4. NickT Says:

    Ah, but just think, Ed, in what other age could Ramsey Bolton have become Speaker of the House?

    So you see, there are consolations!

  5. tbsbet Says:

    Yes folks, this Saturday is international Take Our Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, the Free-Range holiday that’s celebrated just the way it sounds: We all take our kids to our local park and, if they’re 7 or 8 or older

  6. HoosierPoli Says:

    This is the exhausting thing about politics: whatever is happening NOW is the MOST. IMPORTANT. THING. EVAR. What happened yesterday is a distant memory; last week might as well have been the Revolutions of 1848. Anyone with a memory can see the trick that's being pulled. Unfortunately, in such an intellectually toxic environment, disengagement is really the only rational strategy.

  7. Talisker Says:

    The breaking point has already been reached at the top levels of the British government. Prime Minister David Cameron and the newly elected mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, are standing by their descriptions of Trump as "stupid" and "ignorant".
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/17/us/politics/donald-trump-david-cameron-sadiq-khan.html

    UK Prime Ministers did not criticise US Presidential nominees like that in public. Not ever. Especially not a Conservative PM talking about a Republican. The UK Conservatives still get all misty-eyed about the Thatcher-Reagan partnership during the Cold War. But now precedents are being broken.

    Cameron isn't doing this out of high moral principle. He correctly calculates that saying nice things about Trump will make him look like a fool, costing him credibility and potentially votes. Unfortunately, the calculations of US television news may be different.

  8. Katydid Says:

    The cognitive dissonance needed to be a Republican is just astounding. From the first second Sarah Palin opened her mouth, it was obvious she was not the candidate one would hope she would be. Instead of having a rational discussion about it, though, the right's response was "Shut up–yer jus jellus cuz she's PURTY!". Donald Trump? What more needs to be said, really?

  9. Dave Dell Says:

    Writing as a third generation Union member, pro-choice, anti-war Vietnam veteran, Democrat from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, living in a deep red state I have to say that nominee Trump was the best of the 16? assholes that constituted the "deep bench".

  10. doug Says:

    Everyone has a breaking point

    I am not sure that true for all. Once you sell your soul, there is not a redemption ticket. And a few have sold.

    PRO TIP: time shift all your TV viewing. FF through political news and all commercials. Wait 10-15 minutes to watch a show, while you record it. Then start watching. Your life will improve. Try this for 2 weeks. You will never go back. OTA DVR's are available if you don't have cable/sat.

  11. Katydid Says:

    @Dave Dell; we thought that 2012's "deep bench" was laughable? 2016's was even more absurd.

  12. Anubis Bard Says:

    This should be interesting. For a pretty significant chunk of the discontented masses – Trump is the stick they are using to poke the eye of the Establishment. And that includes the media. I don't think the Wolf Blitzers of the world are capable of being provoked, since they aren't capable of embarrassment, but I think you're right that someone is going to lose it.

  13. Paul Says:

    Ed you sure got a lot of mileage out of a few minutes of watching CNN. I think my stats professor would say you really massaged the data on that post.

  14. Safety Man! Says:

    While not as flashy, I do notice similar eye ticks when "serious" political people talk about Bernie Sanders.

  15. c u n d gulag Says:

    Ed, I love ya, but it ain't gonna happen.

    The people on TV get paid a lot of money to ignore the obvious. People don't see what they're paid not to see.

    And I suspect they get bonuses for propping-up Republican candidates, and making these raving bigoted loons seem like viable options.

    And think of the poor make-up people. What will they do to earn a living if they couldn't put tons of lipstick on conservative pigs?
    Just look at how much effort they take to grind Cheetos into fine powder, to use for tRUMP's make-up!
    And how they make that dead ferret on top of tRUMP's head look even better than the spray-on hair they used to advertize on TV years ago!
    Ok, ALMOST better…

  16. Vinny Says:

    FOX news isn't pulling for Trump? What about Megyn Kelly's deferential interview with Trump, and the latest FOX news poll that had him laughably beating Clinton.

  17. drouse Says:

    At least you can probably get a break tor a time over at CNN. They've got a plane crash to obsess over.

  18. John Danley Says:

    These people are stupid as hell, and they're not going to fake it anymore.

  19. ToddBC Says:

    The more relevant rant from "Network" is Beale's obituary of Edward Ruddy:
    "And when the 9th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network."

    Howard Beale was a "mandarin" of the old news networks. He had knowledge and integrity. The problem now is the folks you are expecting to break are the shit peddlers. Pure corporate shills, there is nothing there to break. And even if one of them has some glimmer of a soul, then they also know how the conversation with their producers and the corporate VP in charge of their division will go:
    -"I can't do this anymore."
    -"Well, the world can always use more bartenders."
    They also know there is always some schmuck doing the 6:00 local news in Des Moines quite willing to do or say anything if it moves him up to national.

    The corporate media is not going to stop Donald Trump. Servile Republicans are not going to come to their senses and stop Donald Trump. (Listen carefully and most of them are already starting to get in line.) All we have is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

    "And woe is us, we’re in a lot of trouble."

  20. anotherbozo Says:

    The trick will be for the Democratic nominee (whoever she is) to characterize him using g-rated language. Let alone debate the dickhead. How can even mentioning him not elevate him into adult status, imply that his candidacy is thinkable?

    This will be fun to watch, though "fun" is possible only if one pretends to be viewing from a distant planet, with the alien equivalent of popcorn.

  21. JustRuss Says:

    @Mo: "US journalists, however, magically censor themselves without any threat of prison or harassment of their families. "

    They don't need the threat of prison, the threat of losing their 6-figure jobs is sufficient. You can be damn sure they remember what happened to Donahue pre-Iraq.

  22. Robert Says:

    "You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
    Thank God! the British journalist.
    But, seeing what the man will do
    Unbribed, there's no occasion to."
    Humbert Wolfe, 1930

  23. jharp Says:

    "Are we really going to sit here and pretend that we're taking Donald Trump seriously?"

    Minus the pretend part, in central Indiana that is exactly what the media is telling us, that Donald Trump is a serious candidate.

    Unfucking real.

  24. Edward Says:

    I think the person who did this was Keith Olbermann.

  25. Mo Says:

    John Danley for the win.

  26. Skepticalist Says:

    "Lights and wires in a box"

  27. democommie Says:

    @ Mo;

    Censor is teh $uz!

  28. Sharkbabe Says:

    Just as the repuke hatemonger complex created Trump, so equally did the media and their bottomless appetite for fresh toddler bullshit. And just like the repukes, they absolutely own this thing which they now cannot control.

    Do I feel bad for the disposable on-air “talent” and their unease? No more I guess than for myself or anybody else stuck on the hamster wheel of insane humanity and pointless existence.

    The whole world is just a bad tv show anymore. Jesus, the whole Trump thing is like a Kardashian running for president. And winning!

  29. waldoh Says:

    Hey dude, I hate to break it to ya but a[n] [malicious, ignorant, blustering] asshole reality TV mannequin who once wrestled Vince McMahon and has no issue positions of any kind is exactly what America deserves for President.
    And really, in the big picture it makes no difference if it's him or Billary because they're both corporate muppets who sold their conscience, humanity and souls long, long ago.

  30. Bette Says:

    I'm with waldoh, though I don't know where he/she is. We're screwed and have been since January 20, 1981.

  31. Townsend Harris Says:

    The most fun this summer and fall: watching Trump's conservative opponents — the ones who said "never" — taking turns at dropping to their knees, pulling his withered penis from his trousers, and kissing his member. Cool. Way cool.

  32. Mike Furlan Says:

    The only thing surprising to me about Trump is that he came so early. I thought we'd have to have unemployment of 30% before he happened. But now that we've established Trump as a benchmark, imagine what comes next. Read Chris Hedges for more on this development.

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_revenge_of_the_lower_classes_and_the_rise_of_american_fascism_20160302

  33. gclub Says:

    I was driving down the road to my doctor’s appointment when I almost swerved off the street and into a tree when some photos in an incoming message popped up on my phone screen and caught my eye. We’ve been waiting for months now to get out first glimpse at the highly-rumored Creator Expert LEGO Big Ben 10253 set, and today our first photos of the box for the set have finally appeared!

  34. quixote Says:

    Sady Doyle has the best analysis of Trump I've seen anywhere. She's got him pegged. He's a chatbot that grows by whatever gets the most clicks.

    Media people who've morphed into chatbots themselves will go with the flow. Others will probably have a harder time. It would almost be worth getting a TV if I could stomach watching for more than 20 seconds.