Friday, January 13, 2012

Current TV

I mentioned that during on our Christmas trip while we were at my in-laws I was under the weather and spent a good deal of time resting in a recliner watching TV in the living room.  When I am well, I don’t watch much TV normally, and our family hasn’t had cable for years.  While I was resting and channel surfing, I came across Current TV and gave it a listen for the first time.
For those who are unfamiliar, Current TV is a relatively new cable channel.  Its focus is current events and news.  The channel is transparent about having a progressive bent. 
Current TV initially gained some attention because it was co-founded by former vice-president Al Gore.  Then in 2009 two of its journalists were imprisoned in North Korea, which attracted the attention (and intervention) of former president Bill Clinton.  Last year, Keith Olbermann got a multi-million dollar contract to bring his Countdown with Keith Olbermann program to the channel.  Prior to watching it recently, that was about all I knew of Current TV.
MSNBC seems to be the reigning news channel with a progressive spin, so I wasn’t quite clear why Current TV would be going after the same demographic.  When I was watching it recently, there were ads describing Current TV as the only “independent” progressive news channel.  So, I guess the leadership of Current TV objects to the corporate ownership (and perhaps) manipulation of MSNBC.  At least that was what I inferred.
While convalescing, I watched several programs on Current TV.  I cannot say I really enjoyed any of them.  I was just trying to learn more about the channel and its programming.  There was a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street movement.  That was fairly interesting, but not terribly compelling in my opinion.  Then there was a show called Young Turks and I caught a bit of Mr. Olbermann’s Current TV show. 
I have to say I was disappointed in the programming on Current TV.  I did not get the sense the channel was really breaking any new ground.  The programming I watched and the programming that was being advertised seemed to be very similar to MSNBC, which in turn seems identical to what is on Fox News Channel except that the content tilts left instead of right.  I don’t find any of that faux news programming productive.  It is just a bunch of angry people riling up the anger of their respective audiences.  It fuels cynicism and vilification of those with opposing views.  I just don’t like it.
Beyond that, I was also very disappointed with Current TV because for a supposedly progressive channel it seemed to be so lacking in diversity.  Like on FNC and MSNBC, the vast majority of the people talking on Current TV were male.  In the hours I watched, I counted only two women who ever got the opportunity to speak on air.  Astounding!  Neither of the women spoke for long.  The programming on Current TV seemed very lacking in female perspectives. 
Moreover, there did not appear to be much racial or ethnic diversity.  Both of the women who spoke while I was watching were white.  The men who were hosting and being interviewed were also disproportionately white.  There was one African American man who was consulted a few times on Young Turks, but the host seemed to take a rather patronizing tone in his questioning with that gentleman at times.  The host of Young Turks is apparently Turkish American and one of the guests he had at one point indicated he was of Middle Eastern heritage.  But that was as much racial and ethnic diversity as the programming could muster while I was watching.  I don’t find such lack of diversity to be very progressive.
Indeed, at one point when I was watching Young Turks, there was a reference to a then-recent comment Pat Robertson made about homosexuals being able to shed their homosexual orientation.  The talking heads on Young Turks lampooned that comment as completely unenlightened.  It was not a serious, intelligent discussion of the vast scientific evidence that sexual orientation is immutable.  Instead, the lampooning of Mr. Robertson’s comment had the tenor of lunch room snipes at a local middle school.  Instead of an intelligent explanation of why Mr. Robertson’s comment was ill-informed, the talking heads just made snarky comments to express their complete lack of respect for Mr. Robertson.  Their comments had an implicit “crazy old man” tone. 
Even worse, there was an odd exchange between the talking heads on Young Turks where the men discussing this “news” item seemed uncomfortable with any possible suggestion that they might be homosexual.  They seemed to be expressing the same type of homophobia, for which they were lambasting Mr. Robertson.   How hypocritical.  And not unlike Rush Limbaugh’s references to fruits in the context of a discussion of Representative Barney Frank, this exchange on Young Turks seemed to be capturing the mentality of junior high kids.  Very disappointing.  This is hardly what I would call “progressive,” but perhaps I have a different definition of the term from Current TV.
Finally, when watching Young Turks, I was appalled at the language that was used.  There were words that I would not want my kids to have overhead, so I was glad they weren’t in the room when they were spoken by the talking heads.  The worst was at one point when the term “God D*@&” was used by the host of the program, Cenk Uygur.  I was really horrified. 
I don’t think I have ever heard that phrase used on television when it was not bleeped and I find it very offensive.  I am no prude.  As those who know me will attest, I am not hip, but I have consumed plenty of secular pop culture.  And I teach some pretty difficult subjects to my students.  But my level of respect plummets for anyone who would use that kind of language apparently in such a thoughtless manner.  I got the impression that phrase was used all the time in Mr. Uygur’s typical discourse and he just forgot to censor himself on-air.  I am also pretty appalled that Current TV would air that phrase without some editing.
All in all, I found my hours with Current TV to be quite a disappointment.  I won’t be rushing to watch it again anytime soon.

Joshua 6:10
Joshua ordered the people, “Don’t shout. Don’t let your voice be heard.”

Job 37:5
God roars with his wondrous voice; he does great things we can’t know.

No comments:

Post a Comment