FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nature (and Television) Abhors a Vacuum

by

Is it just me, or has that 24-hour news cycle “model” launched by CNN turned around and bitten the hand that feeds it? Not only has the amount of faux-news and warmed-over commentary reached epic proportions, the term “talking heads” has never been made more explicit or nauseating.

The late, great Jack Germond, one of America’s most respected print journalists, liked to remind people—particularly television people—that newspapers used to publish noticeably shorter editions on those days when there wasn’t much news to report. After all, if it was a slow news day, what were they expected to do—insult the readership by endlessly repackaging the same story while they waited for something to happen?

Alas, while reducing content may have worked for newspapers, the ubiquitous news and discussion shows on cable TV don’t have that “luxury,” because despite there being nothing fresh and insightful to report—and all the old stuff having been chewed up and regurgitated several times—the networks have no choice but to plow ahead, keep on talking, keep on sifting through the wreckage, no matter how repetitive or mind-numbing. The simple truth is that these programs have been scheduled in advance and the sponsors have already paid for air time.

Recent events in Ukraine and Gaza are prime examples of this. Because the events occurring in these places are so riveting and tragic (innocent people dying, dwellings being demolished, lives being ruined), it makes absolute sense to want to continue covering them, even if, in truth, pretty much everything pertinent had already been reported days earlier.

As tragic as these stories are, the reality is that until something genuinely “news worthy” occurs, there is very little new information to report. It’s no one’s fault. There’s no blame to assign. There simply happens to be such a thing as a “lull.” In fact, ideally, these Gaza and Ukraine stories could be covered with a five-minute update from time to time, just to keep the viewers apprised of what’s going on.

But these news and commentary shows don’t come in five-minute doses; they come in half-hour or one-hour blocks, with somber-looking pundits sharing a split screen or pontificating at a panel table. And despite the paucity of content, there is no way in hell CNN or MSNBC or Fox News would ever consider “going dark,” and waiting for something worthwhile to report.

So not only are we exposed to the repetitive, mindless chatter of retired military officers and intelligence wonks pretending to know more than they know, there is no point in changing channels, because it’s only going to be more of the same. When there’s a lull, there’s a lull, and changing stations won’t remedy that. You can’t invent fresh news when there isn’t any.

All of which doesn’t erode these programs’ credibility or determination so much as reveal their superficiality. How refreshing it would be, on a slow news day, to have a five-minute update, followed by a re-run of the “West Wing.”

David Macaray is a playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition).  He can be reached at damacaray@yahoo.com

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail