Last week, Edward Snowden got his own twitter account. It came as a bit of a surprise to me, because I just thought that he would have had one. But what surprised me even more was that a lot of conservatives were outraged by this. For example, George Pataki Calls for Twitter to Censor Edward Snowden’s Tweet, Because America. Given the controversy, HLN (used to be Headline News) decided to bring some people on to discuss the issue. That was their first mistake, because it isn’t a controversy — just an example of conservatives demagoguing an issue, and that is not news.
To speak for the side that believes in the First Amendment, HLN wanted to get John Hendren — the correspondent for Al Jazeera English. But instead, they got Jon Hendren — a computer nerd who is apparently also a comedian and troll. In one way, it’s an understandable mistake. Jon is far more famous on twitter than John. And this was all about twitter, after all. In another way, it’s not understandable: Jon Hendren’s twitter handle is @fart. It is even displayed on the screen while he’s talking.
This video clip is three and a half minutes long. It’s quite normal for the first two minutes of that. But I recommend watching the whole thing:
I don’t think I’ve seen anything that funny in months. It reminds me of Bob and Ray’s Komodo Dragon sketch. The joke in that sketch is that the interviewer is not listening at all to what the interviewee is saying. And the joke is repeated again and again. But that’s planned. Here, Yasmin Vossoughian isn’t in on it. She just is in real life what Bob and Ray’s interviewer was: someone not in the least bit interested in the story or the people involved in it. And the comedic genius of Hendren is that he pushes it to the point that anyone even vaguely paying attention would have noticed.
We shouldn’t vilify Vossoughian, because she is but a typical example of the mainstream news. I’ve seen this same thing over and over again with politicians. The conservative movement has used this fact to their advantage. It allows them to normalize extreme positions. It is not at all hard to imagine a politician saying, “All undocumented residents should be put into work camps,” and have that followed up with, “And you think this is a position that will play well in the coming election?”
That’s what really bothers me. It is very much like we no longer have news. We have entertainers playing the part of people bringing us the news. That’s why they so love things like last week’s mass shooting: they know just how real journalists would act in those situations. There’s little concern of error. But when it comes to covering issues where there are two disputed sides, they are lost. So if Ted Cruz announces that all the Jews must be killed, they will just go for it, thinking that it is just one of those things that Republicans now think.
To his credit, after Jon Hendren appeared on HLN, he tweeted:
in all sincerity i really did believe we were talking about Edward Scissorhands
— jon hendren (@fart) September 30, 2015
For the people watching HLN, I doubt it made any difference.