Columns » John Brummett

Drinking tea, watching Fox.



Two recent polls require acknowledgment and explanation. They reveal American disaffection, a mighty thing.

One says Fox News is the most trusted of five national television networks, besting by a formidable margin NBC, CBS, ABC and CNN.

The other says the upstart insurgent Tea Party has higher favorable ratings than Democrats or Republicans.

Taking television first: The survey represents a subset, TV news viewers, not all Americans. Most of the liberal people I know assert that they eschew the superficial nonsense of commercial television and rely on newspapers, the Internet, periodicals, public radio and public television, which wasn't included in this survey.

People spending a lot of time watching television news will tend to be those finding something on it that pumps their adrenaline. Fox is plainly the most proficient adrenaline-pumper out there.

But there's this: The survey suggests that people aren't buying this mainstream media assertion of objectivity and that they tend to favor Fox, which calls itself “fair and balanced” but only with an implicit wink, because there's no pretense about its predilection and prejudice.

People think the mainstream media are left-leaning or Democrat-leaning and bogus in their protestations otherwise.

Actually, I see that.

The other night I happened to catch CBS's evening news program, or at least the start of it. This was the day Barack Obama sparred with the Republican House caucus.

The lead story by Katie Couric and her White House reporter stunned me for its celebratory judgment that Obama had outshone his adversaries and won the day, so much so, Katie “reported,” that the Republicans were thinking maybe they had made a mistake by inviting the cameras.

I think the assessment was correct. But I don't think the news was properly presented.

People have a pretty good idea why Brian Williams at NBC gets special White House access. It's because he's friendly with the president and because his network, with its cable child MSNBC, is friendly to Democrats.

On the Tea Party's higher favorable rating than Democrats or Republicans: This reflects the utter contempt ever-increasing numbers of Americans hold for the partisan silliness and dysfunction of our political institutions. So, naturally, given a superficial choice, they react more favorably to something new and different that bears no complicity in what they disdain.

It does not mean that a majority of Americans is ready to embrace the specific outsider impracticalities of the Tea Party movement.

The Tea Party would have let our financial sector collapse in the fall of 2008, then declined to provide any stimulus in early 2009. The combined effect of that would have sunk us into a depression and expedited our evolution into a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese.

That our political institutions managed to head that off serves to relieve the Tea Party of any serious responsibility. So our focus turns to what wasn't done properly.

The stimulus was essential, but was not as tightly targeted to jobs as needed. The bailout was essential, but it did not carry sufficient concurrent regulatory restrictions on how the banks, once recovered, could behave.

So all the political passion in America right now is for “other,” and Fox and the Tea Party catch the “others.”

P. S. — I've been invited to attend a Tea Party meeting next week in Conway to observe that adherents aren't wild-eyed crazy people. I look forward to it. I need to go where the story is and the Tea Party, sure enough, is today's story. For the record: I don't think they're crazy — or stupid or dumb. I think some of their ideas are so simplistic and naive and impractical as to be irrational. But that's not the news. That's one man's opinion column.

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