Lost in Wonderland

By David Glenn Cox

Boy oh boy, has CNN ever stepped in it this time or what? Their Town Hall with the orange apocalypse has ignited a firestorm like space lasers had done it. CNN’s failing was in their approach. Presenting it as a legitimate Town Hall (actual knowledge gaining programming) when it was a one-act theater piece, a circus presentation live from hell.

Had they put two minutes of Rod Serling in front of it smoking a cigarette and explaining the bizarre, they might have won an Emmy.

Or they could have presented it as live theater but because it was the actual Donald Trump rather than an actor portraying Trump, It must be filed under reality.

The lesson that cable news networks have learned over the years is 24 hours a day is a lot of time to try and fill. Lots of folks all working on the clock. Writers’ producers, camera people, management. Take your time there’s no hurry, no hurry at all. So, when free material falls into your lap no matter how heinous, it’s hard to say no. If it was your decision, what would you do? Remember, $$$$$!

Come on kids. This is Capitalism at work! The shining land of the lowest common denominator. “I’m standing here beside Al Capone’s secret vault.” Who shot JR? “Eye Caramba.” Television can do a really good job sometimes. But you can’t always expect Shakespeare out of Archie & Jug head. They’ve got to work with whatever appears out there.  

I watch a lot of news clips. I don’t normally watch CNN unless it’s something really important. Shit, and they say baseball is slow. So, they’ve adopted this committee approach. The host begins with the topic and leads off. “Record amounts of snow in the California Mountains is leading to record Spring runoff. We turn now to our expert panel of CNN experts, on the subject of snow melt.

Then they each take turns exploring the obvious from different perspectives, like 6th graders giving book reports. And then everyone reflects and looks profound followed by a dog food commercial or six. This is off the subject but is it a law? That you can’t sell insurance of any kind in this country without insulting the viewers intelligence?

Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Massage.” Like the Super Bowl, it’s all about the commercials. Advertisers looking for the next “Where’s the Beef?” or California Raisins. Which explains why I watch a lot of news clips. I came for the news, not someone’s opinion of the news. And all of a sudden, a three-minute news story becomes a half-hour program. And we’ll be right back.

How about an ostrich landing on the moon? How about Flo talks motorcycle insurance with the Hell’s Angels? The more bizarre the idea the better. Even Rod Serling would cry, “Someone get me the hell out of here!” How about this annoying theme music played over and over.

 Are you salivating yet? I think I hear Pavlov coming with the can opener. So, when you look at the intellectual surreal level of the commercials aimed at the public. Management sees nothing wrong with giving Trump airtime, it’s no worse than their usual fare.

Now remember, Trump had famously and repeatedly called CNN “Fake News.”  Yet here he is. Orange and in person. Starring in his own “FAKE NEWS” town hall event. Even a narcissistic  paranoid psychotic would have to make a mental note of that. You meet the same people on the way down you met on the way up.

“Where’s the Beef?” Who reached out to whom here? I can’t really imagine them bullshitting around the table at CNN. “I’ve got it, let’s reach out to Donald Trump and see if he wants an hour of free airtime. We could have a town hall! With focus groups of people willing to appear on camera and look uncomfortable and forgettable.”

 Daddy was on network TV once, coast to coast! Right off the pages of Fahrenheit 451. The television machine will now let you speak to the world. “Isn’t that right Mildred?”

So here comes the train wreck. Pile three hundred pounds of bullshit into a three-piece suit. Wind him up turn on the lights and watch what happens next. A partisan crowd under carefully controlled conditions. Guaranteeing Trump, a friendly crowd response and big softball questions. “This is YOU TV! For you the viewer!”

Of course, a lot of folks on our side of the fence got real upset about CNN giving Trump any airtime at all. Just because the man’s a liar, sex abuser, fraudster, and a criminal. Its people like that who ruined Charlie Sheen’s career.

But Trump will draw the Fox News crowd to their telescreens. They like Fake News if it’s Trump Fake News. They will spit and curse CNN the whole time, but they’ll watch. Then you have a couple million others who can’t resist the temptation to watch.

Personally, I can’t. I’ve tried, but my thumb goes instinctively for the remote button as soon as Trump begins to speak. I can barely stand the clips and prefer to read about it. It’s a hell of a world, isn’t it? A cable news network willing to pick up free money off the floor.

“The outrage will only up our ratings! And he’s bound to say something outrageous! We’ll be cutting edge! And we will be eating the lunch of the Fox News executives in the process. What better way to kick the competition when they’re down? But to scoop them with their own medicine.

How could CNN say no? Trump is the undisputed leader of 30 to 50% of the Republican vote. Which is another commentary all by itself. This is 2023 and this is the state of today’s whacked out Republican Party. They laugh and guffaw like drunken hillbillies as Donny does his live performance art. A few years ago, they could claim ignorance of Trump’s wayward ways and criminal intents, but that’s not possible anymore. The veil of ignorance has been lifted. They must be willfully ignorant now.

Trump is convicted and proved liable again and again, and yet, the Republican voters don’t seem to care. It makes you wonder if George Orwell had any imagination at all or not? Trump’s appearance makes anything Orwell ever thought up look like a prayer meeting, stale and out of date. We’re lost in wonderland now. The commercials are the programming, and the programming becomes the commercials.

It’s Alice in Wonderland time, and reality is unwelcome here. So, Trump can appear on CNN and say or do anything he likes. Twenty minutes later, he can say or do the opposite and suffer no hardship for it. The Trumpers aren’t here for the issues; they’re only here for the show.

“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” ― Frank Zappa

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