when a “news” network trolls the world

…it very likely looks something like this:

A couple of weeks ago, we learned that the flagging news network is looking to revive Crossfire, the horror show of partisan bickering that it featured for more than two interminable decades beginning in the early 1980s. When Jon Stewart went on the show in late 2004 and begged the hosts to “stop hurting America,” it was as though the veil had been lifted and everyone finally realized how awful it truly was. The show was put out of its considerable misery a couple of months later.

And now it’s coming back. According to a report today in Politico, CNN is in talks with former Clinton and Obama aide Stephanie Cutter to represent the left on the new Crossfire, and on the right, a man everyone in America needs to hear more from: Newt Gingrich.


"Uh, frankly, I don't know why anyone would hire me either, frankly."
“Uh, frankly, I don’t know why anyone would hire me either, frankly.”

As I am very much merely Some Guy on the Internet, and CNN is, well, basically an endless Jon Stewart joke factory at this point, I had no real hope that CNN would try to craft a new “Crossfire” that would elevate cable news discussion as opposed to rolling around in the slop with all the rest of it. But why Newt Gingrich? I mean there are hacks and then there are hacks, and they’re all looking at Newt, saying, “Man, that guy is REALLY a hack!”

It’s nice to see more important people noticing this, also, too, like Charles Pierce:

Who do they think will watch this mess? And do they honestly think that sheer Gingrichian intellectual pyrotechnics are going to win viewers away from, say, Chris Hayes on the one hand, and crazee-bananas Bill O’Reilly on the other? To whom does he speak? The “sensible center”? If CNN is supposed to be the earnest big brother standing between the brawling children of the right and left as represented by Fox and by MSNBC, the way to do that is not to start cutting paychecks to the most overrated political thinker of the past 50 years. Is there no end to Gingrich’s ability to grift himself some coin from the mainstream media suckers he otherwise derides?

and Alex Pareene:

These two [Cutter and Gingrich] don’t give one much hope for a relaunched “Crossfire.”

The popular, Jon Stewart argument against “Crossfire” was that it was just insincere, theatrical argument for the sake of argument. But “Crossfire’s” sin wasn’t strictly that it had arguments, it was that the arguments were more often than not shallow and partisan. That’s what happens when you hire party hacks. It’s true that watching the show made you dumber, but it didn’t have to.

When you hire ideological journalists or passionate commentators, from a background other than electoral politics for one party, you tend to get better debate. If a host or guest is more committed to the success of their ideas and ideals than the success of their party, the conversation will be better, even if that host or guest is a lifelong party line voter.  Politicians and their former flacks and consultants and strategists, though, are seldom remotely interesting thinkers.

Pareene agrees with me that the evolution of cable news since “Crossfire” was mercifully ended has made a “talking heads shout uninteresting talking points at each other”-style show pointless, because you can get a regular overdose of that kind of thing at all times across three channels. He sums up what I think CNN should be, better than I have been able to do (emphasis mine):

CNN should abandon the political shouting-show model to those two other channels, the ones that thrive on cheap talking-head programming, and just do news. National news! Local news! Entertainment news and sports news and lurid crime news and trashy celebrity news. Investigative journalism and newsmagazines and documentaries. Environmental news and international news and funny animal news. Anything but another show where an equal number of Democrats and Republicans talk at each other. CNN should sometimes be “Today” and sometimes be “Frontline” and sometimes be “Entertainment Tonight” and sometimes be “VICE” and sometimes (often) be the BBC World Service (or CNN International, at the least). It doesn’t need to be “Crossfire” again. No one wants that. The sort of people who do already have two other cable channels to watch.


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