Because the Internet

Many a blogger has speculated vainly on the mysterious and often bizarre choice of guests on the network Sunday talk news programs. The two main ones being Meet the Press with David Gregory and This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Back in the days when I had a full-time job and couldn’t follow the fast-moving intrigues of the weekly news cycle, these shows were marginally useful and occasionally even entertaining. These days, as I wait for a phone call telling me I have or haven’t been hired for a network support role that would boost me back into the lower middle class, they’re worthless. By the time Sunday rolls around my cohorts and I have heard the latest partisan poutrages, talking points and counter talking points and obfuscations galore, which get regurgitated on Sunday morning verbatim, as if they were new and fresh and completely un-debunked six ways from, well, Sunday.

So it was the TV happened to be on network stations last Sunday morning, as I lasered through space-scapes and hacked a bloody trail across Azeroth and shot down Nazi fighters in my treasured, custom virtual P-38 Lightning, it struck me that video games and political talk shows share something strange in common: both allow endless resurrections from the dead no matter how much damage the character sustains in battle.

The first oddity that pierced the cacophony of fake wars waged by pixel was the visage of Steve Case on MtP. Why anyone would think a former head of AOL from almost two decades ago, a firm that peaked in 1999 only to fall from dot-com grace faster than a Siberian meteor shatters a peaceful Russian morning, would be the guy whose sage observations on Obamacare or anything else matters to the nation is indeed a mystery. Only the programs schedulers will ever know the answer, perhaps it’s Because, the Internet? But Case was at least somewhat original, downright delightful, compared to who and what was on This Week.

There, just one channel up on Uverse, viewers could tune in to learn what Newt Gingrich thought about current events. Bizarro! It’s not just that Gingrich hasn’t held an elected office since 1999, or run in a general election since before that, or that his views are as predictable and unremarkable as an elderly cocker spaniel taking an afternoon nap. It’s that he was chased out of office in disgrace for ethical lapses so profound even the far right-wing of his own Republican party couldn’t stand him any longer. And yet this is the guy that ABC thought we all needed to hear from, about what ever is new, when all people really want to hear from Gingrich is the answer to age-old various scandals he was at the center of starting at least 20 years ago. Say for example, what the hell his bullshit excuse for whining incessantly about Clinton’s affair, touting conservative family values and pimping the integrity of heterosexual marriage, while banging a 29 year-old platinum blonde DC secretary behind the back of his soon-to-be-abandoned second wife of almost twenty years?

Gingrich was joined on the panel by none other than Wrong-way Bill Kristol*. A man who has literally been wrong about damn near every major policy or political prediction he has ever made, many offered up on the very same show with the very same host. And yet no one bothered to clue viewers in that this asshat was considered a joke and an embarrassment to pretty much every serious pundit and columnist in the greater DC beltway region and beyond. You’d think, with all the windows and pop ups invading network TV screens these days, it wouldn’t be too much of a problem to warn viewers with a flashing text message every time Kristol opened his yap reading This Guy Has Been Wrong About EVERYTHING.

So the mystery remains, why do these kinds of “guests” keep getting booked on what we’re told by persistent advertising spots are the most important news programs on television today? And that’s not a trick question, I have no idea.



  1. Bicarbonate is back says

    I can’t wait to hear what your other readers have to say about this because I am miffed as you are!!!! FtB commentariat, there’s no better!!!

  2. Trebuchet says

    Re Gingrich:

    It’s that he was chased out of office in disgrace for ethical lapses so profound even the far right-wing of his own Republican party couldn’t stand him any longer.

    My recollection is that he was booted NOT for his ethical or moral violations, but because his policies — supported enthusiastically by the right wing — led to the Republican losses in the 1998 election. I’d like to believe that the 2014 mid-term will be similar. It’s kind of a forlorn hope.

  3. says

    So the mystery remains, why do these kinds of “guests” keep getting booked?

    Because they’re available as they have nothing else better to do?

  4. lorn says

    A good bit of this comes down to the way media works, what defines a celebrity, and what sells:

    Back in the 70s a certain subset of people worked to establish themselves as ‘experts’ to push their ideas and their ideology. The first big step was to call up TV and radio producers and simply state that they were available for commentary on some subset of issues. Essentially they got their name on the Roll-o-deck as willing to talk on subject XYZ. This was often a cold call and entirely independent of any story.

    Of course, in time stories did come up and the producer was stuck with the assignment of having to provide ‘background, depth, and a alternative point of view’. So it is three in the afternoon and your boss tells you to find an alternative on subject XYZ by tomorrow morning. So you flip through your Roll-o-deck and find a name and number of someone who says they would be happy to come in and talk about XYZ on short notice.

    A lot of them looked foolish and they weren’t very effective but, in time, they got better, they learned to talk in sound bites and pithy anecdotes. They learned and grew.

    Second, after a few times on the tube or radio they became defacto celebrities and recognized ‘experts’ even if their sole expertise was in presenting themselves as celebrities and experts. One their names got out there as cooperative guests their names were in the air. Media producers watch each others shows and talk. They have air to fill and need to know who to call if they need a guest, or alternative view, on short notice. Reliability and presentably are more important than accuracy of prognostication or logical consistency.

    But there is one thing that helps keep the old dance card full, entertainment value. Gingrich has honed his entertainment chops. He surfs the media wave. When he has fewer bookings he cuts inside and speaks moderately and equivocally. He whips out his professor of history act. But then, when the novelty starts to wear off he spices things up by saying outrageous things. Evil, unpredictable, bomb throwing Gingrich is back. This boosts ratings of whatever show he is on when he melts down but it is also embarrassing. People complain and threaten boycotts. The media company is forced to put Gingrich into the penalty box for a few weeks to bolster their image of being responsible.

    Of course, after a couple of weeks Gingrich will be back, all having been forgiven, the episode will never be mentioned, and he is back, properly chastened and professorial, but tanned and rested, to give it all another go. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    It is a codependency.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Consider the political cliché: never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer.

    With the lineups they use, tv “pundits”* never run the risk of being surprised.

    * from a Hindi word meaning something like “wise man” – now typically the opposite of that, except for gender.

Leave a Reply