Thursday, January 22, 2009

The News at 3

Today on Dr. Phil, the subject of discussion was "Hope vs. Reality," in regard to what we can truly expect of our new President in his coming term. Yes, I happened to catch some Dr. Phil today, so sue me. My mom always has it on during the afternoon and as loud as she cranks the TV, I'd have to leave the county not to hear it. But today's subject caught my interest as I played Risk on my brother's computer downstairs. It is one that does need to be discussed, because many people have touted President Obama as something of a messiah for our country, who would come in and fix all of our problems with a magical wave of his well-manicured hands. So I was excited to hear what my mom (and your mom) would be believing for the next week, because Dr. Phil, no matter how much of a doctor he really isn't, has quite an impressive sway over Middle America.

That was until I heard an all-too-familiar voice emanating from the TV upstairs. You see, to argue their opposing sides to the issue, Dr. Phil had invited a token Liberal and Conservative. The Liberal, of course, in obvious reflection of Dr. Phil's rather right-leaning opinions, was moderate milquetoast Alan Colmes. The Conservative however, her voice peeling through my mind like screaming cats caught under the wheels of Satan's Hummer H3 (you know he drives one, and in that truly offensive shade of yellow they make too), was completely the level-headed, mild-mannered hellspawn the world knows as Ann Coulter.

I was shocked. I knew Dr. Phil was a pretty conservative-minded guy, but to bring Coulter onto his show as a "Voice of the Right" is a pretty fucking wacky thing to do. Even Bill O'Reilly is scared of her. The least the good doctor could have done was given us some real television gold and invited Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann. Of course, Maddow would have been too cerebral and Olbermann probably would have stood up and punched Coulter in the face. But at least it would have been more "fair and balanced" than Colmes cowing to every psychotic rant Coulter went off on. Even having John Stewart on to parry her admitted wit would have been an improvement. Coulter is, indeed, quite clever, which makes her even more dangerous on a show like Dr. Phil's. When she's on her throne at FOX NEWS, there is only a specific demographic watching her (namely, one that already agrees with her), and on the rare occasion that she shows her face on CNN or MSNBC, she regularly gets housed in front of a far more moderate audience. Both of these environments, therefore, keep her in check. However, when she's uncaged on one of the favorite shows of politically under-educated and impressionable housewives across the nation, she has the ability to use her razor wit as a chisel and carve away at their opinions. The crowd was eating it up, laughing and cheering like they were at the Apollo. Or maybe a Larry the Cable Guy set at Bobby-Joe's Komedy Shack; the Apollo is probably a little more "culturally progressive" than they are comfortable with.

What Dr. Phil (or at least his producers) need to realize is that, whether he likes it or not, he has a responsibility in his broadcasting. He is beaming out information to receptors in the brains of millions of people who often have not gone to college or know the first thing about politics in general. That is not meant to rag on housewives or stay-at-home moms in the slightest--I have the utmost respect for my mom for always being there when I grew up. However, my mom is not a political neophyte. Despite being registered Republican (in my district you have to be to vote in local elections--no one runs for the blue), she voted for Obama this year, Ron Paul in the primaries, and Ralph Nader and Ross Perot in the past. She had no idea who Ann Coulter was, but she had an instant distaste for her after the harpie railed on President Obama for his "preferential treatment" to Muslims in his inaugural address (of course Coulter left out his mentions of Jews, Hindus and atheists, but who's counting?).

But I fear that my mother is an exception to the rule. Far too many Americans receive their news of everything from politics to nutrition to adolescent fads (you're damn right my mom was worried that I was into autoerotic asphyxiation when Dr. Phil told her to be worried about it) from daytime television. And to have Ann Coulter come on and espouse her gospel of intolerance and hatred toward all whose values lean anywhere but back-breakingly starboard is a frightening move for Dr. Phil to make. He even admitted on the show that he isn't always sure how seriously to take her, trying his best to distance her more extreme comments from himself. But then stand up for yourself, Phillip. If you want to have a show about what we can realistically expect from our new President, then bring on someone realistic to discuss it. I'm not doing anything around 3pm most weekdays. And even if I am, my FIFA season can wait.

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