HBO should really try a new slogan for its original programming. Indeed they already had one courtesy of Aaron Sorkin's acid pen in the debut of his ridiculous new series "The Newsroom." That slogan is "Speaking Truth to Stupid."
It's an appropriate slogan for a pay-cable channel that insists only the really smart people pay the extra fee to join the television elite. But do Sorkin and HBO really deserve their lofty, arrogant position as the smart people? Let's count the ways this new show demolishes that proposition:
1. It's preposterous that this "Newsroom" is realistic. The first glaring indicator was disgraced CBS anchor Dan Rather insisting on his accuracy. He said the large number of TV critics who panned the show were wrong. "They've somehow missed the breadth, depth and 'got it right' qualities -- and importance - of Newsroom."
Real news junkies had to laugh at the idea that this fictional news crew from "ACN" handling real-life stories managed to figure out within a couple of hours that the Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico was going to lead to a massive oil spill. In real life, the networks took about four days to figure out the emerging story was a voluminous spill.
If that wasn't ridiculous enough, viewers are treated to the idea that the ACN crew of producers and fact-checkers was somehow out to lunch most of the day waiting for the Jeff Daniels anchorman character to get his contract revised. Then, with an executive producer in her first hours on a new job, the anchorman does an hour-long cable newscast with no script -- and it's presented as a seamless, Emmy-deserving hour of genius.
This is about as realistic as Rather's ersatz Texas Air National Guard documents.
2. It's preposterous that this "Newsroom" is idealistic. This show's debut revolved around a rhetorical explosion from an anchorman when a young woman asks why America is the greatest country in the world. She gets an angry earful on how America is not at all the greatest country in the world -- with rat-a-tat statistics on how America only leads in incarceration as it lags in infant mortality, and it's certainly not great because it's free, because every country in Western Europe is free -- blah, blah, blah.
Daniels finally exploded because he sat between an arrogant liberal and an arrogant conservative yelling at each other -- and somehow he was the sensible center when he denounced the uber-patriotic straw woman. But the campus panel discussion he was on sounded a lot like "Real Time with Bill Maher," with Daniels getting to play Maher at the end. HBO, heal thyself?
Sorkin, talking through his characters, thinks that what America desperately needs are journalistic truth tellers to make democracy work. The people cannot rule by their own dimwits. They need the guidance of all-knowing anchorman prophets. As NPR's Linda Holmes perfectly summed it up, "It is to love America, but to be unable to stand Americans."
Near the debut episode's end, the news boss played by Sam Waterston lectures Daniels, "Anchormen having an opinion isn't a new phenomenon. Murrow had one and that was the end of McCarthy. Cronkite had one and that was the end of Vietnam." The betrayal of the commitment to impartiality is permissible if its end is the advancement of a leftist worldview.
It's downright bizarre for Sorkin to preach that the heyday of America was exactly the prime of arrogant and sloppy CBS bias under Murrow and Cronkite. The '60s weren't the heyday of TV journalism. They were the peak of Sorkinesque leftism, which presented America as a psychotic colossus polluting the planet and killing minorities in lands trespassed by Yankee imperialism. It was a heyday not for America but also for liberal journalism that enjoyed a monopoly in the "news" business.
What's funniest here is that Sorkin would present himself as a cable-news idealist when he prepared for the show by embedding himself with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. If there's anyone who better represents the victory of cynical egotism over idealism, it's Olbermann.
3. It's preposterous to suggest this isn't liberal activism, yet that's precisely what Sorkin is doing. He participated in a round of interviews insisting that he's not being political. He told New York magazine, "I want to make it clear, I'm not a political activist. ... I don't have a political agenda. I'm not trying to change your mind or teach you anything."
The idea that Sorkin would try and claim he's not political underlines how clueless he thinks the American people are. That's not "speaking truth to stupid." It's just shamelessly stupid deception.
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