Saturday, September 13, 2008

Snark Condescends

I confess to not watching network evening news. Why would anyone? I’m not sure exactly when I got turned off. It might have been Walter Cronkite intoning the huge defeats of Tet in 1968…despite the facts that the NVA got their collective clocks cleaned from MR-IV to the DMZ. The defeat he extrapolated was because they demonstrated that they could attack anywhere in South Vietnam. They would be losing, but the fact that they could attack made it a victory.

Or maybe it was the State of the Union address one year where I happened to be watching Tom Brokaw’s network. After each sentence of the President, Brokaw would do a voice-over commentary to explain to me what the President had just stated in plain English. That sort of condescension wasn’t what I felt I needed when seeking news of current events. Particularly if I was watching the event live.

Possibly it was Dan Rather’s demise in trying to justify his band-aided together coverage of President Bush’s Texas ANG service with clearly phony documents. It sort of filled the blanks since “Courage!” and “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” He had left the building.

Perky Katie Couric needs no additional commentary.

So, not having kept up with network “news” for at least a decade, I was somewhat taken aback when I tuned in the Palin interview and saw the aged Charlie Gibson. He had “matured” as we say. Older, more portly, decidedly avuncular, bundled against the Alaskan autumn in a rumpled tweed sport coat, fortified by an drab gray pull-over sweater and with reading glasses perched low on his not-so-chiseled nose. He looked professorial. He oozed expertise and knowledge. He was patrician, but also Solomonic. He was wise and fair, able to judge, educate and illuminate. He was here to uncover for us the charade that is Sarah Palin.

He raised condescension to a level I didn’t think possible. In a flat, monotone he posed his questions. It wasn’t, however, a quest for knowledge. It was a probe for chinks in armor. He sought not to illuminate, but to intimidate and embarrass. Did he succeed? Each of us will come away with his own interpretation of how she did.

I thought she looked a bit cautious, and she clearly got caught off guard with the meaningless “gotcha” of “Do you support the Bush Doctrine…?”

He pedantically explained that it meant we could pre-emptively attack a force which posed a significant threat to us. How nice of the gentleman. But, in the process, he revealed that he had little understanding of the broad policy implications of the Bush Doctrine. He did not even understand the meaning of any alternative. When Gov. Palin replied, he dismissed it as a “blizzard of words”…can’t he focus?

I wonder what Charlie would recommend if we knew that a rogue nation or trans-national fundamentalist terrorist group had a nuclear weapon, a chemical attack, or a biological disaster ready to unleash against New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles and a dozen other cities? Would he chivalrously wait out the first blow before destroying that enemy? Does he believe that the Soviet Union was deterred because they didn’t think we would ever pre-empt them? They squandered a lot of rubles on unneeded defenses if that hadn’t been our policy until George W. Bush.

Charlie wondered if Gov. Palin would support US forces entering Pakistan to ferret out Taliban and al Qaida operatives without Paki approval. Did he miss that Obama proposed a full-blown invasion of the area about six months ago? Or does he know that the US must grovel before rogue nations seeking approval for our policies or else they won’t like us? I wonder if Charlie would interview Teddy Roosevelt.

He was hoist upon his rusted petard, however, when he snarkily asked if she thought she was sending her oldest son, Track, on a “mission from God.” The strong implication was one of reducing her to some sort of evangelical fundamentalist on a par with the Jihadists. She patiently explained that the reference came from Abraham Lincoln, speaking to departing troops during the Civil War.

Charlie cut to commercial.

Maybe the next episode will have him wearing a less tweedy professorial mien and demonstrating a lot more respect for the governor and his audience. But, I don’t think you can scour away the liberal elitist attitudes in a couple of minutes break time to change the video tape in the cameras. I think he is the epitome of snark in the main-stream media.

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