[Marxism] CNN =

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Dec 3 19:44:28 MST 2008

Having shown this post a few moments ago to a friend who dropped by, let me
add an explanation on the subject line. What follows the equals sign is
nothing. As in "CNN equals" nothing, zero, zip, nada.

*  *  *

Continuing its campaign to get closer to its audience by having no one on
staff that knows more about any given subject than, say, Joe the Plumber,
CNN announced today that correspondent Miles O'Brien was being canned as
part of the dismantling of its science, technology and space unit.

A long time ago, and --or so it seems-- in a galaxy far, far away, CNN
distinguished itself among TV news organizations by actually having "beats"
units that covered everything from business news to entertainment to
science, technology and space to, yes, fashion (remember Elsa Klench?). Even

In those days CNN had a stable of nearly 200 on-air correspondents, most of
whom spent more time learning about their specialties or regions of the
country or the world than they did in a beauty salon. Not no more.

Even back then the joke among the staff was that when people said CNN was a
mile wide and an inch deep they exaggerated. The depth. 

Now CNN prides itself in covering the barest first micrometer of a story, at
most two, a day, striving ever more mightily to peel off the topmost layer
of molecules, as a guarantee of going no further. 

Consider, for example, CNN's ongoing coverage of the Mumbai massacre a few
days ago. 

"WHAT ongoing coverage," you ask.

That's precisely the point.

I should make clear here that by "CNN" I am now referring to the
"mothership" domestic U.S. CNN, and its close satellites, Headline News and
the webcast CNN Live, not the very different CNN International networks,
including the US and LatAm Spanish network, nor the joint venture networks
like CNN-Plus in Spain, CNN-IBN in India, and so on.

Instead the domestic networks pride themselves on eye-candy anchors,
including a lot of vaguely non- or almost-white mixed-race female news
readers and the likes of Anderson Cooper, whose genuine journalistic
instincts and skills have so far been spared due, I suspect, to his
unquestioned cross-gender metrosexual appeal. That and gasbags on the Fox
model of doing talk radio live on TV, and shamelessly self-promotional
"specials" like Cooper's "heroes" broadcast on Thanksgiving. 

The IRONY in all this is that CNN's ratings are up this year thanks mostly
to its political unit, promoted as "the best in television," and I believe
it actually was -- not that this says much, except about all the rest by
comparison. CNN even beat the broadcast networks on election night,
something of a milestone in the evolution of the US TV business.

And I believe CNN deserved its victory, for poor as its performance was, the
rest were absolutely execrable, suitable for watching only if you'd
swallowed something unwholesome and needed to throw it up.

One small detail among many, but worth noting: Go back to CNN's own
pre-election polling as well as their selective/subjective "poll of polls"
for the various states. They absolutely nailed it, +/-1%, and put to shame
everyone else out there, including --or especially-- Gallup. They even got
the closest toss-up states right, showing Obama with a hint of a lead in NC
and behind by a hair in MO. But it's also their reporters: anyone who thinks
Jabba the Hutt impersonator Candy Crowley is on the screen because of her
sex appeal is seriously into pink flamingos territory.

One measure of a news organization's seriousness is how its beat reporters
are regarded by those in the fields they cover. Miles O'Brien was very much
seen as "part of the family," both in the U.S. manned spaceflight community
and, ironically, in Russia, thanks to CNN's international reach. NASA was on
the verge of naming him as its first journalist-astronaut a few years ago
when the Columbia disaster intervened. And indeed, NASA's first hint of what
had happened to the shuttle Columbia came from Miles O'Brien's coverage, as
he explained the anomalous nature of the several distinct objects and trails
seen by television cameras as the remnants of the shuttle passed over Texas.
Cameras O'Brien and his producers had gotten local affiliates to train on
the sky on a Saturday morning as a way of giving O'Brien a picture so he
could say the shuttle was on its way to a safe landing for fifteen or twenty
seconds, as a way of building an audience for the actual landing, always
impressive, among the space geeks out there in the audience. 

And who can forget O'Brien's demonstration of the golf publicity stunt on
the space station a couple of years ago, where he hit the ball with a little
too much vigor, and the audience was rewarded with the sound of breaking
glass from the next studio?

(If you missed it, it is immortalized here:

I heard --from an unusually unreliable source, so don't quote me-- a couple
of the space station veterans chipped in, so to speak, and gave O'Brien a
broken pane of glass duffer award in commemoration of this achievement.

And I *KNOW* it was all bourgeois journalism designed to deceive the masses.

Still, I miss the old CNN.


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