I turned on the cable news at 3:00 p.m. last Friday. With a massive permafrost melt threatening the release of catastrophic levels of carbon and methane, with sections of the Antarctic ice sheet calving at an alarming rate, with a pandemic of sand mining threatening sea life and waterways throughout the planet, with shocking concentrations of pollutants threatening the delicate web of sea life even in the remotest depths of the world’s oceans, the lead story on both MSNBC and CNN was this: “Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be returning to The Apprentice.”
It’s no different on the nightly network newscasts, where the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) arbiters of public groupthink—along with their print confreres at The New York Times and Washington Post—have been frantically stoking a Hearst-like yellow journalism plague of lurid tales about the Russian Menace, Jeff Sessions’s two meetings with the Russian ambassador, Trump’s fresh round of Twitter storms about phone tapping, real or imagined, and so on, unto terminal stupor, as the world burns.
There’s nothing to see, though, behind the gaudy newsroom sets, designed to evoke godlike authority by emulating the sci-fi kitsch of the Starship Enterprise: no neoliberal assaults on the public sector, unions, the climate and the environment; no primary-election cheating; no swimming with the Wall Street sharks—just a Russian under every bed, everyone hacking and wiretapping everyone else, and streets aswarm with fugitive alien drug pushers and rapists, coming straight for your daughter. (And now this word from Cialis or Humira or reverse mortgages or powered stair lifts). Just another day in the sausage factory of the American “news” business.
Someone once wrote that he cannot stand to tune in the TV news because he always gets the feeling that someone is lying to him. But there are lies of commission and lies of omission—and the latter have even graver implications for the future of our country and planet. Faux progressives love to work up a good rhetorical lather about Trump’s mental condition, but the sedulous burial of any mention of the environmental/climate crises besieging the planet, much less their imminence and gravity—surely the most important story in the history of humanity—in favor of the standard diversionary drivel bespeaks a sociopathy among the liberal political/media elites every bit as frightening as any impairment imputed to Trump. These elite fauxgressive opinion leaders (and their millions of followers) relish their occasional robust lap or two of sweaty sanctimony about Republican climate deniers but seem curiously oblivious to the “soft” but no less deadly denialism in force among corporate liberal Democrats: sporadic campaign speechifying and the occasional meaningless, non-binding international declaration salve the conscience of those with no more real seriousness or sense of urgency about this world-historical crisis than Steve Bannon or Rush Limbaugh, whose dismissal of the issue is at least blatant and honest; the denialism of the liberal class is submerged beneath a surface of unctuous pieties and empty token gestures that pass for “concern,” even “action,” among the sharpies of the Democratic Party elites and their brain-fogged captives in the citizenry.