All Scandal, No News
By Tim Robbins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 4/20/2008 8:00:00 PM
Last week, the NAB invited actor and frequent political firebrand Tim Robbins to address the association about new media. Instead of a planned conversation with B&C critic David Bianculli, Robbins delivered a pointed, often hilarious poke at the state of the media and its propensity for offering consolidated viewpoints.
After much irony and sarcasm about everything from his bad reputation (“A few years ago [conservative commentators] told America that because I had different opinions on the wisdom of going to war, that I was a traitor”) Robbins closed with a serious plea for media to embrace dialogue over cheap thrills. An excerpt from his speech is below. To read more, and for a link to the audio of the speech, go to www.broadcastingcable.com/CA6551356.html .
Some critics have noted that there is a dangerous lack of diversity and opinion. That may be true, but imagine the nightmare of having to rectify that situation.
I propose a much simpler solution. First, erase all diversity. Thankfully the majority of what is broadcast is of two opinions and that feels good. That's simple. But unfortunately there is a tiny minority out here on the airwaves expressing a different view outside of the Democrats and Republicans nexus trying to confuse us all. Can we please shut them up? How expensive could it be to buy Pacifica Radio? These people are driving us apart.
Secondly, let's stay focused on sex scandals. Stop with the in-depth reporting. More sex scandals! Surely with a little more prying, we can find more sexual deviants. And trust me, sexual deviancy is something we can all agree on. It's intoxicating to watch unfold. It's titillating.
The absolute zenith of news, the perfect storm of reporting, the shining city on the hill in news coverage was Lewinsky v. Clinton. Now that was fun. There were salacious details, semen stains, oral sex. And the president lied. He threatened every notion of marriage and the sanctity of family. He put our country at risk.
We reported on every angle, every permutation of the story. We held hearings, appointed an independent council, led off every newscast for months about the lie, played it until there was no hiding from it, and then held him accountable by impeaching him. It is our moral responsibility to report on the sex lives of the powerful. It is the only thing that kept our country alive at that point. It righted our ship of state. It saved our collective soul. And it was great, juicy fun.
Imagine what would have happened to our country's soul if the president lied and nothing was done about it, if impeachment was off the table. Where would we be today if we did not hold our president accountable?
Third, find more racially divisive news and play that constantly. As long as we hate each other we will never be bothered with this gnawing lefty obsession with information. Let's make the purpose of the media salacious entertainment, not information. When the nattering nabobs of negativity tell you that the economy is falling apart, that gas costs $4 a gallon, that they are foreclosing on your home, that there is chaos in Iraq, when these propagandists spread this “information” it is our moral responsibility to distract. Show me a starlet without panties getting out of a car and suddenly the world seems like a better place. Show me Knight Rider drunk on the floor eating a hamburger, and I won't ask why my kid has no health insurance.
I bet some of you are saying: “Sure, Tim, sex scandals, race riots and drunken TV stars are a lot of fun, but shouldn't broadcasters see themselves as part of the larger picture? Haven't criminal acts occurred in government? Shouldn't there be accountability for inept policy decisions? Shouldn't someone be fired?” And you know something? I didn't hear any of that because I'm still thinking about that starlet getting out of the car without her panties.
Folks, let's face it. We are at an abyss as a country and as an industry. . . and I know that saying we are at an abyss isn't the stuff of keynote addresses. But we are at a critical juncture in this nation's history. This is a nation divided and reeling from betrayal and economic hardships.
And you, the broadcasters of this great nation, have a tremendous power and potential to effect change. You have the power to turn this country away from cynicism. You have the power to turn this nation away from the hatred and the divisive dialogue that have rendered such a corrosive effect on our body politic. You can lift us up into a more enlightened age. Or you can hide behind that old adage: “I'm just a businessman, I provide what the audience wants.” Well, I'm here to tell you that we don't need to look at the car crash. We don't need to live off of the pain and humiliation of the unfortunate. We don't need to celebrate our pornographic obsession with celebrity culture. We are better than that.
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