The Curse Of The Uninformed Opinion Writer

My pet hates today are politicians and Howard Jacobson.

Okay, we all hate politicians; I’ll just find the end of the queue. But what, you may ask, has Howard Jacobson done to incur my wrath?

The answer is, he spent a week watching American television, then had the nerve to write an article in the ‘Independent’ suggesting British media companies could learn something from it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending British television, it is pretty awful, but if you remove the tons of American crap that’s broadcast in Britain, some of what’s left isn’t too bad.

Jacobson’s initial impression was similar to mine, when I first came here seven years ago:

It seemed dire at first. I would channel hop and get only ads, interminable ads, whichever button I pressed, except on the Public Service Channel where I’d have welcomed an ad to break the tedium of the worthiness.”[1]

His saving grace turned out to be a cartoon:

Mine, [favorite program] while I was there, was King of the Hill, a cartoon less overtly anarchic than The Simpsons but subtler in its satire and more subversive sexually.”

Whatever turns you on, Howard. Frankly, if I’m going to watch subversive sex I prefer real people rather than computer-generated caricatures, but just call me a pervert.

The true turning point for Jacobson must have been the Fox News Channel. Admittedly, Britain has no substitute for Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly. Personally, that fact helps keep me sane when I accidentally switch on just as either of those two insane corporate puppets is sounding off on yet another subject they know sod-all about.

“Only in America,” muttered as a prayer of thankfulness, is a phrase oft whispered Chez Adams.

For Jacobson, the ability to channel hop between the loony right of Fox and the equally obnoxious left of MSNBC is hugely exciting:

……the constant rubbing at the itch of opinion becomes infectious for the reason that it’s passionate, witty and leisurely.”

He obviously misses the point. While politically opposed media channels are shouting their messages from the rooftops, no-one’s putting them together and forcing a debate that can assist voters to make rational decisions.

It’s the British TV debate he seems to find unacceptable:

…….no one is interrupting – that curse of English broadcasting: the hectoring interrupt – except in the sense of wanting to do battle, and a battle is not the same as an interruption. Some horrendous things are being said in America about Obama, about the state, about the fear that socialists are coming to steal people’s furniture, but the argument is being had out vociferously and voluminously – for that’s the other side of the bigotry on some channels, the amount of counter-bigotry on the others. Our neatly edited current-affairs programmes are more elegant, but they don’t allow for the roar and rage of opinion in which America revels.”

What Howard Jacobson has failed to realize during his pathetically short sojourn in this land is that there is no argument. No debate. Fox rants its far-right viewpoint; MSNBC raves to the left, but they never sit down facing each other and thrash out the issues on American television. Admittedly, each side is, indeed, ‘vociferous and voluminous’, but there’s never anyone on hand to stand up and say, “STOP! You’re full of shit. Here’s what I think we should do.”

Here’s the truth about the American media and political debate, Mister Jacobson: the corporate elite of America have, by the clever manipulation of the media outlets, split the US populace into two camps. Never the twain shall meet, other than to stand on opposite sides of the street at election time and hurl insults at each other.

In between the media’s political ranting and raving they serve up generous helpings of bloodshed and violence, so-called ‘adult’ cartoons, and inane quiz shows that involve much audience participation in the form of unbridled hysteria, all liberally dosed with a plethora of advertisements for obesity-causing fast food, prescription drugs for invented illnesses, and a whole host of enticingly useless items created for the sole purpose of clawing your hard-earned dollars from your sick, obese, little fist.

When you’ve lived in America for seven years, rather than visited for just seven days, you come to realize that.

Incidentally, ‘King of the Hill’ is networked throughout the UK. It’s a part of the ‘tons of American crap’ I mentioned earlier, that is broadcast on British TV.

NB: If you still want to know why I hate politicians (even more than usual) this morning, you’ll have to wait for the next post.

[1] “Howard Jacobson: We could learn a thing or two about television from the Americans – really” Independent, March 13th 2010

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