Monday, July 6, 2015

On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder! Off, Blitzer!

[Note: I wrote this in 2014, before Jeremy Paxman's abdication.]

The United Kingdom’s deputy prime minister has castigated BBC interviewer Jeremy Paxman for treating politicians, at whom he sneers with unashamed disgust and addresses in a tone that suggests he’s just barely able to bring himself to speak to them, as “rogues and charlatans.” (And your point is…?) He couldn’t be more brusque or confrontational, but is as hard on the far-left-of-Labour George Galloway, for instance, as on the Tory David Cameron. Interviewing the former after the voters of a particular locale in the north of England elected him to represent them in London, Paxman repeatedly demanded whether Galloway was proud of having got rid of "one of the very few black women in Parliament."

You might wish to think of Paxman as the anti-Wolf Blitzer, the inoffensivest man in American news, and a man whose inoffensiveness I find deeply offensive.  

I don’t disdain Blitzer most for having begun his career as a de facto PR man for the conservative Israel lobbying group AIPAC, or for his apparent empty-headedness, or even for his keening voice, nearly as fingernails-across-a-blackboardish as Chris Matthews’. (Ever bleating at the top of his register, he might be heard as the anti-Henry Kissinger no less than as the anti-Paxman.)

I don’t disdain him most for telling Barack Obama, when he interviewed him for the unrequited runup to the bombing of Syria, to look into CNN’s camera and tell Bashar al-Assad just what he needed to do to keep American bombs from raining down on him. It’s been years since I admired Barack Obama, but I admired him at that moment, for not getting up, ripping his lapel mic off, and saying, “Are you fucking kidding me? What is this, couple counseling?”

Nor do I disdain Wolf Blitzer most for having (mildly!) demanded assurance, in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures, “that the Government [take] the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry, from finding out any more secrets,” as one of my heroes, Glenn Greenwald, put it with such wonderful astringency. Some journalist, the Wolfster, decrying revelations of government malfeasance!

I don’t disdain him most for his inability to smack down that shameless blowhard Michael Moore as he deserves, or for failing to make mincemeat of Michele Bachmann. No, that for which I disdain Wolf Blitzer most is his coverage of the 2012 Republican convention. I think of him gasping excitedly in his uniquely annoying high-pitched way as the cameras showed us the family of the unspeakable Paul Ryan, possibly the vilest man in American public life, and how he gushed about the proud look on Mama’s face.

I know CNN is supposed to feign neutrality, but how I would have loved at that moment if Wolf had mused, “Imagine how it must feel to have given birth to the evilest man in American politics! Imagine the poor lady’s shame!”

Not the Wolfster, though. Fair and balanced to the end, even if not on Fox, is the Wolfster — and, if you ask me, one of the great wastes of space in American electronic journalism.