Monday, June 16, 2008

No Moment Of Silence

Been away from computers for days, so I haven't had a chance to share my thoughts about the passing of Tim Russert. Friends Barry Crimmins, Jon Schwarz, and Marc Cooper (yes, Marc and I have reconciled, as part of my ongoing peace offensive) already teed-off on Russert and the insane blanket coverage his death inspired, so at the risk of overkill myself, here are a few humble observations.

First, the spectacle of the cable nets, led by NBC, gorging on Russert's corpse was disgusting to witness, each mourner sobbing as they tore into the meat. Hyenas have more respect for the dead. Still, it was a prime example of how insulated the corporate media remains, their mutual self-regard forever polluting the ether. And this was only Russert. Imagine the collective stench we'll have to endure when Cronkite, Brokaw, and Koppel hit the slab. At least Barbara Walters had the good taste to reanimate herself after she died, postponing the cannibal feast for at least another decade, or until her private stash of Tana leaves runs out.

Of course, many liberals were saddened by Russert's sudden exit, focusing on his personality instead of his systemic function. Like most Americans, liberals prefer being lied to by amiable figures like Russert, for when the state goes on a murderous spree, you want its mouthpieces to smile and assure you that the mass graves are in everybody's better interests. That some people seriously believe that Russert spoke truth to power merely heightens the grim absurdity, especially when it's the powerful who insist their feet were singed by Russert's "tough" queries. If these tributes emanated from prison cells or work release programs, then perhaps Russert would deserve a measure of respect. Instead, those elites fond of Russert remain unafflicted and comfortable, remembering the man as they would a favorite pet.

However personally nice or charming Tim Russert was in life is really beside the point. That's for his family and true friends to embrace. For the rest of us, or at least the minority who bothered watching "Meet The Press" with any regularity, Russert was yet another corporate gatekeeper, helping to frame permissible boundaries of debate, keeping true critics of the system far away from his glittering stage. He will be missed, not only by those swayed by his smile and Everyman persona, but especially by those seeking fresh ways to fool news consumers into thinking that a "free" exchange of ideas is taking place. There may not be another Russert waiting in the wings, but he'll be replaced easily enough, and the dominant narrative will continue unbroken, incessant chatter amid the burning bodies.

NICE DODGE: Here's another friend of mine who once regularly pestered politicians and media personalities via open phones, exposing Russert's love of hefty paychecks in exchange for friendly jostling of powerful figures. Note that Russert doesn't deny the pay off, he simply ignores the point. The mark of a true pro.