Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lance, Tiger and Tim

George Carlin’s last HBO special started with him saying something along the lines of, “F*** Lance Armstrong. And while you’re at it, f*** Tiger Woods, too. I’m tired of television telling me who to admire.”

Well, I’m feeling like, f*** Tim Russert. Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly sorry he died (he was younger than me for God’s sake), and I’m sorry for the friends and family who have lost him. Apparently he was a really good guy. I admired his loyalty to his hometown and I even watched his show regularly.

But please don’t tell me was some kind of hero. This is nothing more than television’s overpowering, self-reverential, PR machine gone into overdrive. Seventeen American soldiers have been killed in Iraq this month, and all of them put together didn’t get as much time as NBC has given Russert’s passing. It’s cheap programming and they can do what they do best -- lay on the bathos with a 2-quart ladle. I predict a summer replacement series on NBC Tuesday nights: “Tim Russert is Still Dead.” They do him no service.

And don’t deify this guy’s professional persona. He was just the most successful color-commentator for the world’s most powerful political league; a league that only allows two teams. His success depended on access to the players for those two teams, so he never asked the really tough questions. His shtick was reading people their quotes from the past and making them reconcile them with their current positions. But everyone knew that before they showed up on Meet The Press and were either ready for it, or became the road-kill they deserved to be in the first place.

There is no one on TV asking tough questions. It isn’t what they do.


Birdman said...

I couldn't agree more. Leave to the news media (NBC this time) to overplay a trajedy to point where you now couldn't care less that the guy's dead.

They did the same thing with the VA Tech killings. Maybe it's good for us that we come out of the other side of these events with a resounding "enough already"!

Anyway, I'm not going to be tuned in to the live coverage of his funeral today.

hankster said...

Cutting to the truth is for wonks. The most successful among us understand the twists to market ideas and products. We want to know how and why but the big money is on marketing to specific audiences. Thus sex sold directly is illegal. But our culture is obsessed with it, processed in lipstick, magazine covers, clothes...

TR's success might have been attributed to how close he came to achieving what his market demanded without crossing a cultural line. Perhaps someone else could have come closer but never had the opportunity to do so. You might have wanted more from him. But examine the constraints which he adhered to and you will understand why he was so successful. As Jack Nicholson once said, "you can't handle the truth."

d'blank said...

I don't disagree with you, but the system you describe exists because of the consent of the audience. If the audience refuses to accept the bullshit any longer, the market will give them what they demand. The truth can be hard to handle, but we live with it every day. We may as well speak it.

hankster said...

I realized after my post that I meant to direct JN's comment to you, the general public, not those on this blog who are clearly wonks.

Personally, I never eat at the Golden Arches. Obviously there is a very large market for their products even though information is widely available stating health concerns, environmental concerns, better products available, etc. Every time I piss into the wind, my leg gets wet...

AY said...

Tim Russert would have not been happy with this extreme exposure of his life. He understood better than any of his colleagues the need to NOT be the story, and I'm sure he would have objected if he could to this over-the-top coverage.

However, putting him in the context of his peers - partisan,
"gotcha," blow-hard, elitist fools - he truly was a hero! He kept it simple - like his roots - and allowed his guests to highlight their stupidity/ignorance or occassionaly their intelligence/insight.

This time shoot the messengers!

kgwhit said...

He may have loved his family but he was far from Ozzie Nelson just hanging around the house looking for something to do.

Someone who worked at NBC in DC told me that he worked constantly...sorry he died but enough already, he was not Saint Timothy of Buffalo.