It's occasionally difficult coming up with something to write about, a subject worth turning into a full column here. I generally publish four pieces a week at The Daily Banter along with several other smaller posts over at my own site, Deus Ex Malcontent, and I can't lie and say that I'm always inspired to go on a tear or provide some insight into a subject I care deeply about. Sometimes I just have to wing it.
Thankfully, there are two topics that never let me down when I need something to write about, two subjects that are always there for me that I can count on to be amusing or infuriating enough to be able to turn into decent copy. One is, of course, CNN, because you can practically set your watch by the network doing something really inexcusably stupid; the other is the entirely predictable outrage from the professional left over one silly thing or another. To wit, today -- when both of these favorite topics are coming through for me like gangbusters.
Live From Right Over Here
Years ago, when I was still doing local news, there were plenty of times when our crews would be forced to pull a little sleight-of-hand during live shots. Because of a lack of resources, and sometimes satellite time and such, our team coverage would occasionally be nothing more than a couple of people plugged into the same truck, just positioned on different sides of it so that the shots would look different and maybe, if you were lucky, you could make a two-box work during the setup or the toss from one reporter to another. Yeah, maybe it was fudging, but it was necessary and it looked good on television. Believe me, local TV is more "theater of the mind" than you'd expect; you have no idea the kind of nonsense that goes into putting together your average 5 o'clock newscast. Whether or not it's ethical behavior, I'll let you decide. My check cleared every two weeks so after a while I just shrugged and went with it, sometimes even patting myself on the back for my ability to pass the nightly news Kobayashi Maru.
Here's the thing, though: That was local. Like I said, there were resource and budget constraints to consider and that forced you to have to cheat a little here and there. CNN Center in Atlanta, however, is the world's largest ATM; under no circumstances should the network ever have to resort to the most ridiculous forms of local news trickery and when it does, it deserves to be roundly mocked for it. Case in point: the instantly infamous conversation that happened yesterday morning live on CNN's air between Nancy Grace and Ashleigh Banfield.
Now right off the bat I could excoriate CNN, and I have in the past, for its indefensible irresponsibility in continuing to give Nancy Grace a forum on its air. The woman is a despicably unscrupulous monster, a shameless, arrogant, damn-near sociopathic peddler of cheap prurience who's already killed one woman who hadn't been officially accused of anything and who went on to put the lives of those involved in the acquittal of Casey Anthony in jeopardy, all in the name of lining her own pockets and increasing her own visibility. She has no place being on CNN or any network associated with it. She's an embarrassment to respectable journalism and to decent society in general and she should probably be facing criminal charges rather than holding court nightly on a national news network.
That aside, that moment of "d'oh" yesterday came when alert viewers noticed that Grace and Ashleigh Banfield, during coverage of the Cleveland kidnapping rescue that saw them having a live back-and-forth with each other in the kind of two-box I mentioned earlier, were actually reporting from the exact same parking lot. The Atlantic published what may have been the first piece on it, pointing out the comical stupidity of CNN trying to put one over on its audience when it was obvious by the traffic passing behind both shots at nearly the same time that Grace and Banfield weren't more than a 50 or so feet apart from each other. It doesn't sound like that big a deal until you actually watch these two try to pretend that they're on opposites sides of the city of Phoenix (where they were actually covering the Jodi Arias trial, by the way). All Banfield had to do was walk a few steps over to Grace's position and they could've been on the same camera together, but somebody thought it was a good idea to try to fake it -- and the result was the kind of thing The Daily Show often does as a joke.
But this isn't The Daily Show we're talking about. As the promos so often remind us, this is CNN. Although it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference.
Bottom line: Another day, another vaudevillian-level CNN fuck-up.
The Onion Makes Everyone Cry
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but The Onion has managed to piss of a very vocal portion of the feminist media community. I'm sure your psychic wounds, along with those of the rest of our shattered nation, are only now beginning to heal in the wake of the satire site's tweet-heard-round-the-world during the Oscars, the one that made an admittedly blistering statement about how our culture cuts apart and tears down female celebrities by jokingly calling nine-year-old actress Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt. Hopefully, a lot of intensive therapy has helped you to put the damage caused by reading that tweet behind you and I surely hope I'm not, through the unfortunate use of trigger words, bringing it all flooding back. If you need to take a few minutes to walk away, lest your PTSD start to kick up, then please feel free to do that. Remember, only together can we get through this. "2/24: Never Forget." That day, we were all Quvenzhané Wallis.
This time, The Onion's target was Chris Brown, who you, as a decent human being, know as an unapologetic, woman-beating dickhead, but who legions of his simple-minded jack-off fans think is a seductively romantic and profoundly tortured genius. It's with this latter delusion in mind that The Onion proceeded to eviscerate Brown in a way he so richly deserves and as only The Onion can. If you haven't read the story it posted on him yesterday, here it is in its entirely -- because it really can't be appreciated any other way:
LOS ANGELES—After revealing yesterday that he had recently split up with longtime girlfriend Rihanna, a heartbroken Chris Brown tearfully told reporters that he always thought the 25-year-old singer was going to be the woman he’d beat to death one day. 'Despite all the ups and downs, I was so sure Rihanna was the one I’d take by the throat one day and fatally assault, and even toward the end I continued to hold out hope that we’d be together until the day she died at my hands from blunt-force trauma,' Brown, 24, said in a radio interview this week, telling DJs he still has abusive feelings for his ex-flame and is hopeful that he might punch her again one day. 'It’s hard knowing that there’s some other guy out there who gets to beat her senseless. In fact, for all I know, there might be someone out there assaulting her right now. And let me tell you, that guy is the luckiest guy in the world.' A saddened Brown added that, should the couple not reconcile, he remains confident that the special someone he was meant to beat to death is still out there for him, and when he finds her, he’ll waste no time in slapping her.
Now, considering that everything you just read was aimed squarely at Chris Brown and Chris Brown only -- and again reminding you, because it should never be forgotten, that Brown is a raging asshole who should at this very moment be getting the shit kicked out of him by the Sisters in the laundry room at Shawshank in preparation for the forcible anal penetration to come -- you'd think pro-women advocates would be cheering the staff of The Onion. You would unfortunately be wrong, though. That's because if there's one thing we've learned from our insufferable social media Age of Outrage, it's that there are some subjects that simply cannot be the subject of biting satire, no matter whom that very nasty bite is being taken out of.
From Jessica Valenti, to the Feminist Magazine, to the Global Fund for Women, to someone who simply suggested that "The Onion can go to hell," a certain segment of the feminist media intelligentsia -- though not a large one, to be fair -- came out of the woodwork yesterday to sanctimoniously chastise a website whose smart humor and acid tongue almost never misfire. There was the usual indignation over the mere possibility that someone already victimized by literal abuse might be victimized all over again by what they interpreted as figurative abuse; the lectures on how unfunny the subject The Onion was viciously parodying really was (as if the site's editors didn't know this and that wasn't the whole point); the allegations that there are some subjects which are simply too sensitive to even try to use to make a humorous point.
First of all, as a commenter to my site yesterday said, as a rule while everyone's entitled to his or her opinion, unfunny people don't get to tell truly funny people how to be funny. The Onion is generally masterful in its satire and it takes a willingness to never hold back -- to always be ready to "go there" -- to create the kind of vital social commentary it so often does. There's nothing more ridiculous than having to explain the joke, but the incidents of it being necessary these days in order to avoid the call-out culture and outrage machine winding up seem to be getting closer and closer together. In this case, it's precisely because Chris Brown continues to see himself as both a sexy, gentlemanly lover of women and the pitiable victim of a public witch-hunt -- the true victim in the Rihanna beating episode -- that The Onion's attack on him is so incisive and so satisfying. Also keep in mind: There are women out there who still love this asshole, who do buy into his self-pity party and consider him a misunderstood artist, and that's where The Onion piece acts as a kind of brilliantly worded warning masquerading as humor.
What the writers at The Onion did, as usual, was take down a cultural target that deeply deserved it. And while the overall subject is one that really isn't at all funny, they managed to do it with almost no collateral damage. For that, as usual, they deserve applause, not condemnation.