If you were watching NBC at 8:46 AM yesterday, September 11th, you may not have realized that all the other networks showed President Obama and his impeccably poised wife, Michelle, during a moment of silence, while NBC showed Kris Jenner, not taking a moment of silence, but discussing her breast implants. Though it is preposterous to think that anyone would forget what happened on September 11th, 2001, regardless of how many Kardashians act trashy at 8:46 AM in the years to follow, this is not NBC’s first gaffe this year.
Many people have been critical of NBC’s ugly disposal of Ann Curry, mishandling of Conan O’Brian, featuring of Sarah Palin as a co-host, abhorrent coverage of the Olympics, and tolerance of the public unraveling of Al Roker. To those people, I say, “NBC doesn’t have to explain its art to you, Warren.” It is no secret that the quality of news programming in this country has greatly diminished in the years since the towers fell. As a shell-shocked nation, we needed news told to us in a way that made us feel comfortable. This initial proclivity towards soft news has snowballed into each of us cherry-picking exactly what facts and angles we want to hear to gratify our delicate sensibilities. Fox News for sure started it, but MSNBC quickly joined, with CNN lagging severely in the ratings as it tries to stay mostly neutral. I am as guilty as anyone: The Daily Show was the only place I could learn about current events during the entirety of the Bush Presidency.
As a result of our intolerance for news that doesn’t fit in perfectly with our individual views of America, we have lost the ability to debate rationally. Rampant partisanship has made winning our priority over electing men and women who are smart enough to compromise for the good of us all. Corporations and politicians are able to get away with all sorts of slippery deals that are bad for our future by using rhetoric that fits in with preferred narratives. Aaron Sorkin gets to keep making the Newsroom which, despite its brilliantly made points during “on air time”, is an absolutely terrible and unrealistic show. That’s what shoving our heads in the sand has done to America.
No one understands this better than NBC. Rather than pandering to sensitive national moments and keeping around news people and programming with some integrity, they are going overboard to be terrible. NBC is the worst handled network by far, but the others are a mess as well. No one really challenges politicians on air; they soft-ball even society’s trash Kris Jenner and Chris Brown. We have allowed our national consciousness to become so fallow that we will believe anything our side tells us, no matter how preposterous. NBC so believes this point that they are willing to run their network into the ground, Joaquin Phoenix documentary style, to prove it.