Countdown To Zero

So Keith Olberman and MSNBC have parted ways. No word yet on what he’ll do next, but he’s obviously an eloquent, talented and passionate guy, and he’ll undoubtedly wind up with a good gig somewhere. Heck, maybe even back at ESPN, though I doubt it.

The thing is, the three minutes and 12 seconds in that YouTube video is probably more than the total time I watched his show while it was on the air. And I’m someone who is more likely than not to be in agreement with the things he says.

I just can’t bring myself to watch — or listen to — one-sided political-opinion programming. Life, really, is too short to spend much of it soaking up someone else’s unchallenged opinions. What can you learn from that? Where is the suspense? What entertainment value is there in a show when you know what side the host is going to come down on?

For the same reason, it baffles me why anyone would give up their precious time to listen to Rush Limbaugh or any of his wannabes over at Fox News. Setting aside the fact that their tirades are built on hate (in the forefront) and motivated by profit (behind the curtain), those shows are just boring. If that’s the best thing you can find on the television or radio, wouldn’t you really be better served if you just turned it off?

And although I’ve always felt that the one-sidedness of these shows was the reason I didn’t watch, Conor Friersdorf makes the case in The Daily Dish today that the medium itself is a lousy one for politics:

Yes, I know, television is a very popular medium (mostly because it demands so little from its audience). But it is the worst way to engage politics in America. Compared to reading it is a wildly inefficient time suck. The format itself often strips the issue at hand of all nuance. It rewards demagoguery, and the host’s words disappear into the ether so fast that inaccuracies slip easily past and are seldom corrected for the people misled by them. Often as not, its producers and writers just take insights from the written medium and dumb them down.

Don’t get me wrong. Television is extremely hard to do well. Unfortunately, excelling in the medium and improving political discourse are often at odds.

I used to think that shows like Crossfire had some value, in pitting people of opposite viewpoints against each other and letting them make their points. Sadly, though, that show diminished over time into the back-and-forth shouting matches that seem to characterize political television today: bickering, not debating.

For me, if I want politics these days, I’m reading newspapers or magazines or blogs. If I’m watching television, there’s probably some sports event on.


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