Monday, October 31, 2016

Cable News Hacks

CNN fired Donna Brazile for leaking town hall questions to Hillary and lying about it. About time. Of course CNN hires hacks of both parties, supposedly to give their panels partisan balance. Stupid idea. What the panels really could use is some intelligent analysis. If you want hacks on the air, treat them as witnesses to be interrogated, not as commentators with independent worthwhile opinions.

Ben Mathis-Lilley says it's time to purge the hacks. Hell yes.

Promoting the interests of politicians is just what political operatives do. But the practice of paying operatives who personally benefit from the success of certain candidates/narratives to make ostensibly earnest, objective declarations about American politics is an absurd one. (And one that flows from the oft-derided "gotta hear both sides" teeveeland paradigm in which there is is no objective reality, only two parties making competing claims between commercial breaks.) Paul Begala, Karl Rove, Ana Navarro, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Frank Luntz and their ilk dip in and out of roles as journalistic "contributors" to cable news networks to take paid work for candidates, parties, and causes. In many cases, the journalism and the business overlap. (In July, Slate overheard Fox News' Rove at the Republican National Convention pitching another convention-goer on a "tremendous opportunity" apparently involving a massive government contract.) The pundit panels that networks convene after debates and big speeches are, in essence, pitch meetings in which strategists sell themselves to prospective clients.

The most obvious ongoing exemplar of this idiocy, of course, is former Trump goon Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as campaign manager in June and then immediately hired by CNN. Trump kept paying Lewandowski until August, and Lewandowski was seen on Trump's camapign plane (among Trump's aides, not among other journalists) in October. If Trump wins and Lewandowski's view of the race becomes conventional wisdom, Lewandowski benefits personally; CNN is basically paying Lewandowski for the privilege of televising a daily infomercial called "Help Corey Lewandowski Get a Plum Job in the White House While Lining Up Consulting Gigs for 2018."

CNN wholly deserves the flak it deserves for employing this modern Goebbels. But if CNN didn't pay him, another network would. The only thing that can stop the cycle is general public shame, a revolt of the cable-viewing proletariat in which we join together to call on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox to fire allthe Lewandowskis and Braziles, so that we may build, anew, a society in which more deserving and insightful experts become TV politics personalities. I'd suggest that more networks start booking Slate bloggers, for example—but then again, I'm biased.

The practice of employing these people is just a more insidious version of the old and rightly despised Crossfire, which John Stewart was able to shame CNN into dropping.