Prank Discloses Fraud of Mainstream News

Jon HendrenLast 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:

For the people watching HLN, I doubt it made any difference.

16 thoughts on “Prank Discloses Fraud of Mainstream News

  1. I’ve read a lot of Internet leftists getting nostalgic about the ol’-time liberal news media, but I have not forgotten what I learned by reading Noam Chomsky. He did his most famous media analysis before the Cable news explosion or the Internet. Then and now, I’m deeply unimpressed by the Krugmans and Chaits of this world. In some ways they are more to blame than the righties for the problems we face now.

    On the other hand, you’ve identified a definite negative trend that vitiates any effort to provide alternative viewpoints in mainstream media. I never watch American news anymore, not even the supposedly ‘liberal’ outlets. Noise, boring, irrelevant noise. Even the CBC. It’s like second-rate Deconstruction ‘scholarship’ (and I’m not too impressed with the ‘better’ stuff either!). It’s all: ‘me’, ‘meeee’, ‘ME!’, ‘listen to meeeeee!’.

    • RJ — “The Nation” just had a good piece on supposed “liberal” network MSNBC backing way off from liberal programming. And how dull it was that different shows had the same snore-making guests for the most part.

      The non-profit “Democracy Now” does a great job getting diverse voices on. It even has sane conservatives occasionally (granted, those are hard to find, but the show welcomes them when they’re discovered occasionally roaming lonely in the forest.)

      You can never go wrong with Dr. Noam’s research. His opinions are one thing (I find them refreshing and invaluable, myself, while others might disagree) but his research is virtually unassailable. The dude is no joke as a historian!

      • I’ve got an article on a Chomsky lecture coming out in a day or two. You are right about DN.

        I saw the Nation article on MSNBC. The truth is that MSNBC only turned left because of Keith Olbermann. I understand that he is a dick. But the station has never been the same since he left. Maddow is wonderful, but she’s really too silly (that’s more or less her brand) to be the anchor of a prime time news network. I prefer her to Olbermann, but the combination was great. Liberals need pompous jerks too. (One I actually like: Cenk Uygur.) And according to Mediaite, NBC’s Andy Lack to Meet with Keith Olbermann on Possible MSNBC Return. It couldn’t be any worse than almost every other decision they’ve made since he left.

        • Wow, really looking forward to the Dr. Noam article. Keep in mind he’s about 2000 years old and does more with his free time than most of us could do in 80 lifespans. Aside from that, fire away.

          • Don’t expect much. I don’t even recall what it is about, although his talk was on just war theory.

        • Also: I don’t fault Maddow for being silly. Some of Stewart’s best bits were silly. I fault the network. In ten years nobody’s going to be watching cable anyhoo. I haven’t watched them since they fired that one guy over his “heroes” comment and I’m stunned they fired Sculttz, he was a red-meat gun-toting liberal they could have kept.

          Olbermann I’m iffy on. He’s a good writer/performer. I’m not sure his act plays to anybody but the choir. And his Astrodome piece was mean.

          • I don’t fault her at all. That is her brand and she’s really good at it. I just think that a wry outlook on politics isn’t enough to base a whole network around. And that’s what MSNBC has done. Maddow is better than Olbermann, but they need some kind of Olbermann. Ed Schultz would fit the bill, but I don’t think he has quite the charisma. By the way: I think Chris Hayes is very much in the same mold as Maddow, and so that’s a very bad combination. Far better would be Melissa Harris-Perry — she can do outrage! So it doesn’t have to be Olbermann, but they need to do something.

    • That’s a good point. It wasn’t like Cronkite was providing much more than a propaganda feed.

      I have my problem with Jonathan Chait, but I mostly don’t have a problem with Krugman. Regardless, in what ways are they more to blame than the righties? I don’t see that at all.

      • Contrary to how it might appear, I’m not anybody’s fanboi. even professor Chomsky. But basically, the questions are answered in Manufacturing Consent. They are the de facto policemen for the boundaries of acceptable discourse in mainstream media.

        Damn autocorrect keeps changing ‘i’ to ‘I’. The question: can I get HTML codes right, just this once?

        • Ah! You are probably using IE. I like some of the things that its textarea widgets do, but that right there is one of the main reasons I don’t use IE. However, you should use the “em” tag and not the “i” tag. And I will spare you a discussion of why.

          I totally agree with you about Manufacturing Consent.

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