Thursday, August 6, 2009

Howard Kurtz' Reliable Sources "outraged" by Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs

The most recent episode of CNN's 'Reliable Sources' had an illuminating panel discussion that reiterated many of the same points that I have made in my analogy that American Political Punditry is not unlike Pro-Wrestling. The panel comprised of Michelle Cottle, Michel Martin and Amanda Carpenter discussing Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and the theatrical nature of punditry.

VIDEO: Beck's "racism" charge hits Howard Kurtz's outrage meter

Michelle Cottle in particular made a salient point about how theater and a captivating persona are the keys to Cable news success, being responsible and informative are peripheral.
MICHELLE COTTLE: Two words: crazy sells. I mean, if you're talking about political punditry, it does not serve you well to go out there and talk nuance and whatever, or at least it doesn't get you the big audience. And more than that, the committed audience.

I mean, normal people have lots to do with their time. What you have with Glenn Beck is, the crazier he gets, the more obsessive he draws. And these people sit and watch every word and buy every book and go to every speech, and it's great for him and it's great for Fox, so they're not going to do a thing about it.
Michel Martin introduces another analogy that also captures the dynamic of mutual benefit and "all-in-a-day's-work" nature of the Pundit feuds - a "Hip Hop beef". I myself have used the wrestling analogy and have also likened it to the wolf/sheepdog cartoons.
HOWARD KURTZ: The average person must be watching this and saying "this is like a high school spitball fight"
MICHELLE COTTLE: You know O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann would go at each other like this. This isn't the first time this has happened. Cable news hosts decide that they need a nemesis. And it actually jacks up their ratings. If you can have someone on the other side that can get your followers fired up about being ticked off.
MICHEL MARTIN: This is like a hip hop beef, where they sell records by beefing on each other
A Hip Hop beef is described thusly:
Hip Hop Beefs
A beef is a term used in the hip hop culture to describe a grudge between two individuals...

Beefs in hip hop were created with two purposes in mind. One being that two artist with legitimate gripes between each other would be able to settle their differences while at the same time promoting their respective albums...
The Hip Hop beef is a more apt analogy than wrestling because whilst the dynamics are similar, the hip hop beef has real consequences to the careers of the individual feuding rappers. In wrestling, whilst the theatrics acted on screen may reflect real hatred or circumstances backstage, ultimately the feuding parties are on the same payroll and have the ability to pre-arrange their fights. Whilst "Hip Hop beefs" are more organic, both analogies reflect the art of theatrics for the sake of generating interest and creating dedicated rival camps (fanbases).

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