Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night, my baby and me
We switched round and round till half-past dawn
There was 57 Channels and Nothin’ on
From the Album “Human Touch” 1992
These words used to buzz in my head like any Boss song, just another rhythmic beat to fill up the space on the road, in the gym, walking in a mall, anywhere a mindless tune was needed to fill in my mental blanks….and then, yesterday happened.
Started out as a typical Sunday and then the morning “news” shows came on. Every guest came with a position and when countered by another argument, they would smile and stick to their talking points, oblivious to the other party.
Then came the March Madness bracket shows. Between CBS, ESPN and TBS, I counted over 12 “experts” gracing us with their “predictions.” “Should have picked XXXX” ... “Why was YYY only a 12th seed?” … “I see ZZZZ going all the way,” and so on.
Finally I turned to C-Span with Brian Lamb. He was interviewing Fred Barnes, a conservative columnist and the executive editor of the Weekly Standard. Barnes laid out his history and his big move to national prominence -- being one of three questioners at the 1984 Presidential debates. That stint launched him as a panelist on the “McLaughlin Report,” a show characterized by the loudness rather than the veracity and lucidity of the discussion (by both liberal and conservative participants). As I refer to these sessions, which are all too frequent now, they generate more heat than light on a subject.
I wanted to ask this whole crew, from morning to night, from talk show to sports to partisanship just one question:
“What if you’re wrong?”
There’s no cost, no impact -- just have an opinion and manifest a zealotry about sticking to it, regardless of the facts.
It struck me that this is what is wrong with our discourse. We don’t discuss. We yell and when we are confronted, we just yell louder.
I think this is because there is no cost to being loud or wrong. These talking heads have no investment in the outcome. They just have to have an opinion THEY can articulate. Forget about a reasonable discussion or swaying someone. You can go to the channel that reflects your views and reinforces your beliefs.
Just tune in on a network and watch the smug faces and pressed suits of the talking class and remember while you are spending that time, they aren’t there for you.
“57 Channels (and nothing on)”