A nice takedown of enthusiastic stupidity

Today I saw part of an old Jon Stewart video that had a couple of sharp bits, and it reminded me there was something I wanted to share with you a week or so ago…

It’s the video above, commenting on the idiotic spectacle of the breathless coverage of the first Trump criminal trial — before it started.

This is another one of those things that is a major flaw in today’s news media — particularly TV, which is what brought the term “media” into being. (Before, it was just “the press” — if you conveniently ignored radio.”)

This kind of nonsense is TV’s stock in trade. Not that the press isn’t frequently guilty of much the same. It just looks stupider, and more obvious, on TV.

Things have been like this since… the late ’90s, by my memory. In this instance, Stewart compares the breathless — and I mean gasping — coverage of nothing (occasionally elevated by “pretty much nothing”) to an “event” of that decade. I mean the O.J. Simpson Bronco episode. Stewart says the video image of Trump’s motorcade driving to the courthouse was no O.J. chase. (I forget exactly how he said it and don’t want to watch the whole thing again — this is why I should post these things right when I see them.) Well, the O.J. chase was no “chase,” and was in fact nothing even remotely interesting, beyond the fact that a celebrity was involved. If you care about that sort of thing. Which a shockingly large number of people do, alas.

I remember, in real time, the people who stood watching the stunningly meaningless O.J. scene with their mouths hanging open. My mouth was hanging open too, observing them, the watchers.

At this point I could go off on a long tirade about how this was caused by 24/7 cable “news.” TV news, like traditional press, used to cover news. But there’s not enough news to fill 24 hours. So ya gotta love a slow car chase, right?

But the breathlessness of it all owes something to another TV form — the “reality” genre. I wouldn’t mind people having talent shows, although I probably wouldn’t watch. What I mind is all the garbage between the performances — the dramatic, and yes, breathless, with the participants and those who love them, droning on about how this competition is the most important thing that has ever happened to this person, or ever will happen. In fact, NOTHING has ever been so critical, in the history of the world!

Or do I have it backwards? Does this style of “news coverage” get its breathlessness from reality TV, or was reality TV simply aping the approach of the “news coverage?” I dunno. I suppose they feed off each other.

In any case, it was a good, funny piece about a serious problem in the way we communicate today.

4 thoughts on “A nice takedown of enthusiastic stupidity

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Hey, I just noticed my “In Our Time” category, which I hadn’t used in years. I should take it back up. But maybe I should update it, to “In Our Stupid Time”…

  2. bud

    I think we need more tv not less. Cameras absolutely should be in Trump’s hush money trial. The public has a right to see for themselves. Imagine if we didn’t televise presidential debates.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I disagree. I say that as a former reporter who got yelled at by a judge for getting my camera out in his courtroom (about 45 years ago). Hey, it was during a recess so I didn’t think I was breaking his rule, but I can appreciate his effort to keep order during a murder trial. Since the OJ trial, such order has been rare. Courts with cameras are more like “Reality TV” shows.

      And frankly, I’ve found those “debates” — they are anything but — so painfully embarrassing to watch in recent years that I’d be happy to see them go away…

  3. Ken

    This variety of news is simply filler. Nothing more. It fills in the long hours of broadcast time when broadcasters know that they have the fewest number of eyeballs. Those periods when most folks are either at work or otherwise occupied (with shopping, meeting up with friends, doing hobbies, etc.). The reason they can get away with this empty “content” is precisely BECAUSE they know so few are watching. After all, why put on your best show when nobody’s out there to see it? So they put on these non-event, “breaking news” events.


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