Beast Banner Nov 16 - 30, 2006
ISSUE #110
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Features

ArrowThe 10 Most Ridiculous Things about the Midterm Elections
Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Worst Show on Television
An election night diary
Matt Taibbi

ArrowFEELINÊ HAGGARD
Forget the gay hooker; was Pastor Ted a tweaker?
Alexander Zaitchik

ArrowCrush, Kill, Destroy
Screw bipartisanship; it’s time for revenge.
Allan Uthman

Local BEAST

ArrowCult Classic
Pseudoscience and Psychedelics in the Church of Scientology
Ian Murphy

Departments

ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Terrorist Emboldener

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
Borat, Saw III, Flags of Our Fathers, The Santa Clause 3

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
Tool Box, Another Einstein Weighs In, Army Ad's Still Got It, A Real American Hero and more

The Worst Show on Television

continued - page 2

10:46 p.m. Barack Obama on CNN; becomes the fourth Democratic politician on air this evening to mention the "anxiously awaited" Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq. The talking points for both parties have been abundantly clear since shortly after 8 p.m., when the first whiff of a Democratic sweep filled the air. The Republican politicians (win or lose) all start off thanking the Lord in their post-race speeches, then move to thanking (in order) their wives, their kids, and then, if they are senatorial losers, the senior Republican senator from his state who provided him with "the best friend I ever had" during this difficult race.

The Democratic talking points, meanwhile, are "a new direction," "change" and the anxiously awaited Baker-Hamilton report. Obama appears to be standing on his tiptoes while he talks in an effort to look Lincolnesque, much like John McCain will seem to be doing later this evening when he appears draped in flags and practically wearing his Straight Talk '08 bumper stickers, drooling for power like a fruit bat with rabies.

11:00 p.m. CNN calls the Connecticut fifth congressional for Chris Murphy, with incumbent Republican Nancy Johnson fucking the dog. This is the Democrats' 10th pickup of the evening and Anderson Cooper mentions that the "magic number" is now five. All of the CNN panelists and over half of the MSNBC panelists will be dead from sports cliches by morning.

The worst episode would probably be a nasty interview on MSNBC the following morning with Tom DeLay, who was surprisingly ubiquitous after the election wipeout, popping up on several channels to remind America that he hadn't been convicted of anything yet, not exactly. In his post-race assessment the following morning DeLay would spit out one sports cliche after the other. "The Democrats didn't win, the Republicans lost," he began, explaining that the Republicans had faltered by being too timid. "If you play not to lose, you'll lose," he said. Asked if he still thought Karl Rove was a genius, DeLay scoffed. "Of course," he said. "Just because you lose one ballgame, doesn't mean you're not a genius anymore." A prolonged discussion of the "ballgame" ensued.

With each passing election season the format for political coverage on TV morphs even further in the direction of sportscasting. Most of the networks on this election night quite baldly copied the NFL Countdown format, with one Max-Headroom/Chris Berman celluloid host figure (Anderson Cooper, Chris Matthews, etc.) set off to the far left on a set with four "expert analysts." On CNN the roles of Tom Jackson, Michael Irvin, Steve Young and Ron Jaworski were filled by the likes of Candy Crowley, James Carville, Bill Bennett (a dead ringer for Peter King) and J.C. Watts, and the general topics of discussion -- who would win the big game, whose prospects for next year were better, which coaches needed to be fired, what halftime adjustments needed to be made -- were virtually indistinguishable from the real football shows. Jeff Greenfield to Wolf Blitzer, just before midnight on CNN, sounded like a man talking wild card possibilities for the Jaguars three weeks short of the playoffs: "They need three of these four states to take the Senate," he says. And choose your cliche, Wolf. Inside straight? Run the table?

Wolf: "Whatever it is, we'll be here, we'll be watching until it's clearly resolved one way or another."

Any reporter worth his AFTRA card can see that this is the same job, that there is absolutely no difference between pointing out that Indy has a soft second-half run defense and that the Knoxville and Nashville precincts, if they come in late, will come in hard for Harold Ford.

The thing that people should be concerned about isn't that the news networks are choosing to cover politics like a football game. It's the idea that both televised football games and televised politics might represent some idealized form of commercial television drama that both sports and politics evolved in the direction of organically, under the constant financial pressure brought to bear by TV advertisers. Both politics and sports turned into this shit because this format happens to sell the most Cheerios, regardless of what the content is. If you work backward from that premise, and start thinking about what the consequences of that phenomenon might actually be, your head can easily explode.

There were really only a few genuinely interesting things that happened on this election night, but all of them were blown off by the TV goons because they didn't fit into the winning-and-losing sports narrative. The Sanders win was one story, but another very interesting one was the Kent Conrad/Dwight Grotberg Senate race in North Dakota. This one was never in doubt, as Conrad completely wiped out Grotberg, but what was interesting was that both candidates agreed not to run negative campaigns and went to great pains to comport themselves like gentlemen in their public appearances. In a world where social responsibility actually played a role in editorial decision-making both candidates would have been extolled at length on the networks and celebrated for their positive contributions to the political atmosphere -- but given what a catastrophe a return to dignified campaigning would be for the TV news business, it's not at all surprising that these guys didn't even get their own blurb in the CNN baseline crawl.

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