New Hampshire's Virtual Town Hall
Something caught my eye in a New York Times story about Fox News Channel’s ratings triumph on Super Tuesday. In addition to beating CNN and MSNBC, Fox edged out NBC at 10 p.m., when NBC broadcast a special report on the GOP elections. The paper says Fox News averaged 2.61 million viewers while NBC had 2.56 million.
Here’s the curious part: “NBC’s lead-in, “The Biggest Loser,” had 6.4 million viewers between 9:30 and 10 p.m.” This tells me that most of NBC’s “Loser” audience migrated elsewhere just as the election report was about to start airing, most likely to other reality TV fair (marshmallow for the exhausted wage earner).
It doesn’t surprise me that a show like “Loser” commands such a massive audience on an important primary night: politics can be a boring game, and it takes a special mental pose to endure the banality of discussions on cable shows (where opinion is projected as fact).
First, there’s the matter of language. Judging from the nature of the questions from the youngster in our household who’s new to politics, if you haven’t mastered the annoying idiom of American politics, you’d be completely lost listening to the pundits on TV.
The words and clichés rain on you like hail: Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, cap and trade, Obamacare, Saul Alinsky, Reagan conservative, Keystone pipeline, energy independence, polarization, sacred cows, reproductive rights, the Ninety-Niners. Many of these ready-made words and phrases are deployed or glossed over without explanation or preamble — insiders talking to insiders.
Then there’s the onslaught of fake news based on opinion polls — state-specific surveys, national polls about hypothetical matchups between the incumbent president and one or another of his GOP opponents, party-sponsored polls. Any of these polls may form the basis of an interminable discussion that consumes half an hour of television airtime. No wonder many voters tune out.