I’m going to break a couple of my own rules for writing in this space today. First, I’m going to be really critical of a specific organization: CNN. Second, I’m going to mention partisan politics, although neither for nor against anyone in particular.
What generates this rant is last night GOP presidential candidates debate on CNN. I’m a political junkie, so I normally consume such things, but last night there were conflicts, so I missed parts. (OK…I had to go to my ballroom dancing lesson in preparation for my daughter’s upcoming wedding.)
I listed for a few minutes on the radio and found it difficult to follow the discussion. So, I turned on the television and wasn’t any happier when I realized the problem: CNN was using a journalistic technique that most reporters abandon somewhere around age 10. It is the “do you know what he said about you” approach, better fitted to the school playground.
The news media thrive on conflict. And if there isn’t enough natural conflict to suit them, they try to stir it up. Thus, last night you had the moderator go about his job something like this (I’m paraphrasing, but not much):
Question: Candidate A, Candidate B said you are ugly. What do you say to that? Are you ugly? Do you think Candidate A is ugly?
Question: Candidate C, Candidate D said he would ban Easter Eggs from the White House? What is your policy on Christmas Trees? Do you think Candidate D believes in the tooth fairy?
It didn’t take long for the debate to devolve into a rancorous battle over who said what about whom. The only people who looked smaller than the candidates were the commentators.
This is what political discourse has fallen to: a playground argument over who has the toughest daddy or meanest mommy.
And it won’t stop here; I’m getting ready to be embarrassed by the questions the Holy Father gets from organizations like CNN when he is in the United States (very soon).
“Holy Father, do you agree with Cardinal X that priests should be required to bless cats and dogs that belong to gay parishioners?”
“Holy Father, you said that priests should smell like sheep, but Father Y smells like Chanel No. 5.”
“Holy Father, can you tell me what parts of The Da Vinci Code are not true and why?”
“How Father, can you explain to me the origin of the term ‘Holy Cow’ and why you don’t invoke it?
I know these questions are silly, but I seriously doubt they rise to the level of silliness of the actual questions the Holy Father will receive, if last night’s CNN-moderated “debate” is any indication of the level of American journalism.
My advice to the Pope: no matter what question you get, just smile and say you like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie.