Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Cillizza's New Fashion Sense

Drawing by Red Cheeks Factory.

Re Chris Cillizza's essay, "Donald Trump is producing the greatest reality show ever", and the outraged response from Soledad O'Brien, formerly of CNN:

I'm kind of baffled by the audience members talking about how O'Brien has "destroyed" or "totally owned" Cillizza in this argument—unless she's speaking in defense of the reality show industry, seriously maligned by a comparison to an operation as ill-scripted, aesthetically disastrous, and unprofitable as the Trump White House seems to be.

Personally I think this is the best writing I've ever seen from Cillizza, with that signature breathlessness, but really well observed and tight:

What's most amazing about Cohn's departure is not the theatrical way it played out but that just a few weeks ago people were talking about Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, as a leading candidate to replace John Kelly as White House chief of staff.
Is there anything more reality TV than rapidly rising and then collapsing fortunes? The man or woman who you think is for sure going to win "Survivor" or get the final rose (do they still do that?) on "The Bachelor" suddenly falls into disfavor and is out before you blink.
You never see it coming! The reversal of expectations suggests anyone is vulnerable. Anyone can go at any time. It makes the show -- or, in this case, the White House -- that much more difficult to tear yourself away from, since you really can't predict what will happen next.
No doubt it's missing something—any moral sense, any awareness that taking ratings as the criterion of success is the wrong way to run the United States government—but it's not missing truthfulness. (It even catches an important insight that all the commentators on Cohn's leaving the administration have missed; they keep sneering at him for "quitting over a tariff" when he failed to quit over Trump's endorsement of Nazis and Klansmen a while back, but they don't understand that he was pushed, for the sin of publicly second-guessing an imperial decision after it was made.) The Trump administration is the best thing that's ever happened to Cillizza, in the sense of providing material for his desire to write television criticism about real political life.

O'Brien, in contrast, is all moral sense and reality-blindness. She understands what Cillizza is describing in a bad thing, she just can't understand why he's saying it. Important things are happening! But alas, Cillizza is right about why they're happening. Thus, the two of them, each with half a very good idea about what's going on, are completely unable to communicate with each other.

Steve M has a different take, based on the undeniable facts that presidents started manipulating the media a couple of centuries before reality TV was invented and Cillizza is a known fool, which I can't really argue with.

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