I may have to rethink my decision to have CNN on in my office all day long. As much as I love keeping up with the news, what I’ve gained from the experience is a distaste for the news business itself.
For one thing, if I had to count on CNN to know what’s going on in the world, I would think our planet of 7.7 billion revolves around one orange-haired man and a few square blocks of Washington, D.C.
At least we can give CNN chief Jeff Zucker credit for honesty. In an interview last year with Vanity Fair, he admitted that his network spends much of the day reporting on President Donald Trump’s day-to-day activities, and explained why.
“We’ve seen that anytime you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away,” he said. “So we know that, right now, Donald Trump dominates.”
In other words, it’s our fault.
If CNN won’t break away from Trump’s latest tweets to enlighten us about a crisis in the Middle East, a cholera outbreak in Africa, the changing face of Europe or the enormous challenges of the new global economy, that’s because Zucker is simply giving us what we want—and we want to munch on Trump. I guess Doritos taste better than broccoli.
The Trump-munching is now at peak levels with the impeachment hearings. We rationalize this addiction by breathlessly reminding ourselves that the future of the country is at stake. After all, the hearings could influence who enters the White House in 2020. Some think a House impeachment could hurt Trump’s chances, while others think it could backfire on the Democrats, especially if the Senate lets him off the hook.
Either way, whichever side you’re on, it makes for riveting drama. Who’d want to miss it?
It is now so accepted that politics has become a form of dramatic entertainment that the venerable NBC News tweeted this “analysis” after the first day of the hearings:
“The first two witnesses called Wednesday testified to President Trump’s scheme, but lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention.”
Talk about betraying one’s motives. A president may be impeached for only the third time in U.S. history, and a major news outlet complains about the lack of “pizzazz” necessary to “capture” our attention.
This is our new reality: We’re here to be captured. As we allow the profit-hungry media to kidnap our attention, we can be sure it will continue to bait us with “pizzazz” to keep us addicted. Every talking head expressing outrage, every bit of faux news acting as “breaking news,” is part of that pizzazz.
And while the media quietly rakes in the profits, we donate our eyeballs to shiny objects that leave us feeling dirty and empty, convincing ourselves that we must tune in because the stakes are so high.
Whether we realize it or not, we are connecting our happiness and well-being to the world of politics. If only our team wins, we tell ourselves, everything will be better. It’s as if we made this huge bet on a four-year-long basketball game and now we’re so hooked on the outcome that we can’t look away.
We know, of course, that none of this political junk-munching satisfies us. If anything, the more we consume the ugliness of these Trumpian times, the more it brings out our anger and bitterness.
Deep down, we know what satisfies us. It’s not the Doritos of consumption but the broccoli of action. We know that if our goal is to “save our country” by making sure our team wins, watching and complaining won’t help. We have to take action—we have to go out there and mobilize. At the very least, we have to vote.
This applies to our lives, as well. We must take action to make things better. Politicians, even those we love, can’t cure our loneliness, make us take that hike by a river, initiate a project that will fight for the needy and disadvantaged, or reconnect us with old friends who make us laugh and nourish our souls.
You’ll never hear this on CNN or any network: Politics is a gladiator sport that feeds the lifestyle of an elitist media ecosystem. Giving this ecosystem our eyeballs on the cheap feeds the beast while improving neither our country nor our lives.
No matter how horrible or crazy or ideological the times get, our deepest satisfaction will always come from us, from our ability to act for ourselves, for our families, for our communities and for the many who aren’t so fortunate.
Even if we have to learn to love broccoli.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.