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They didn't debate. Nobody won. Journalism  lost--big time. It's so disheartening and infuriating to witness the media aftermath of the nationally broadcast Republican infomercial that disgraced the airwaves on Monday night [June 13]. Promoting it in advance as  a "debate"  was a deliberate mis-labeling that any self-respecting news network [CNN] should be ashamed of.

What CNN did was to trot out a line-up of GOP right-wingers to give them a platform from which to spew--unchallenged--their hatred all things Obama, their disregard for the needs of middle-class Americans, a large serving of xenophobia, and their disdain for any policy that might contribute to the common good of this country. This is what passes for "debate" in contemporary American politics, I suppose, but I don't have to like it, do I?

Calling it a "debate" was an obvious marketing strategy--one desigend to lend gravitas to an event, so that viewers can congratulate themselves for watching it and being engaged citizens [and so that CNN could congratulate itself on airing it]. But what actually took place was not only not a debate, it was not a serious event. And host John King gets most of the blame for that: Rather than doing his job as a purported journalist, which could have included an attempt to challenge factual mis-statements by the candidates, King cheapened the entire event with a series of silly questions designed, he said, to help us "get to know the candidates personally." On his list were: "Which do you prefer--Leno or Conan?" "American Idol or Dancing with the Stars?" "Coke or Pepsi?" "iPod or Blackberry?" "Deep dish or thin crust?"  And my personal favorite: "Elvis Presley or Johnny Cash?"  After the first in that series, I doubted that I had heard him correctly. But when he persisited with this line of product- and celebrity-based inquiries, I red-lined on the revulsion meter and couldn't restrain myself from yelling at the tv.

After that performance as the host of the "debate," King should turn in his press credentials and slink off into a  special  circle of Hell designated for journalists who have abandoned their self-respect, integrity and ethics.

The candidates themselves could have saved King, if they had wanted to. If just one had responded to King's stupid question du jour by saying, "That's a silly question, John. Let's talk about jobs," that would have been the end of it. But, of course, they all played along, our political "discourse" sank to a new low, and promises to stay there, now that these kinds of inane questions have been legitimized by CNN, which touts itself as having the best political coverage in America.

So, though I switched off the tv feeling soiled by the CNN Republican comedy show/infomercial, I had hopes that Day After reportage would reflect a modicum of exasperation with King's questions and the absence of challenges to some of the statements made by the candidates. That was not to be. One after another, morning-after pundits commented on the CNN show by repeatedly calling it a "debate," and by quoting the participants' statements as if they had been delivered during an event of significance. Maybe I missed something, or maybe I haven't dug deeply enough, but I didn't see any references, in the mainstream media, to the idiotic questions asked by John King. [Jon Stewart's Daily Show, however, did an excellent job of skewering the "debate," calling it a game show.] And, of course, CNN didn't mention them, either--no surprise.

As the first in what promises to be a long series of similar political info-tainment shows, I'm afraid that this one may have set a particularly bad precedent that is not being acknowledged and will continue to cheapen our already deeply-discounted political discourse.

[Crossposted from Forward STL]

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