Against my better judgment, I clicked on an online clip of an encounter between Ted Koppel and Bill O'Reilly. I had recently eaten lunch.
O'Reilly was challenging Koppel's characterization of what's broadcast by MSNBC (on the left) and Fox (on the right) as "bad for the Republic."
O'Reilly said Fox broadcasts eight hours of "hard news" a day.
O'Reilly said that he considers that what he, himself, does on Fox is "something noble."
I threw up. Fortunately the carpet wasn't badly stained.
How can anyone take this guy seriously? Before I finally lost my lunch there was some kind of banter about O'Reilly's viewership and the "free market place," with O'Reilly alleging that Fox's viewership numbers couldn't happen if the network were biased.
Something like that.
I believe it was O'Reilly's employer that pioneered a broadcasting concept called "reality shows," which in fact are obscene distortions of reality, but which also attract huge audiences, and which also should not be taken seriously.
The number of viewers attracted by television productions such as O'Reilly's, and the so-called "reality shows," suggests the answer to the question famously posed by a page one headline in a British tabloid the day after the 2004 U.S. presidential election: How can 50 million people be so stupid?
At least 50 million -- far more, probably -- go through life without ever dealing with anything real. Those who are fortunate enough to still have jobs drive to work listening to O'Reilly's soul-mates like Rush Limbaugh; on breaks and lunch hours they talk about the previous night's "reality shows" or the fictions they heard from Limbaugh or O'Reilly; after work they go home to watch/listen to more of the same. They are encapsulated in a nonsense world where America is great and good, its wars are fought by heroes to keep the world safe for democracy, dark-skinned people with rags on their heads hate us because we're free and a bunch of white guys in wigs wrote the Constitution so that we would always be a Christian nation.
In about 40 days millions of these people will cast ballots in another presidential election whose outcome will revalidate the British tab's question about mass stupidity.
I will not be among them. I'm going to cast an early ballot, voting for either Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson (probably Stein) for president. There are two other candidates on my ballot who are actually worthy of the offices they are seeking (a U.S. Senate seat and a local judgeship). I'll vote for them, too.
Perhaps none of my candidates will be elected.
But I'll damn well keep my lunch down the day I vote for them.