Sunday morning talk shows are nothing more than televised salons constructed to seduce the viewer into watching and receiving the conventional wisdom that is at its core a pernicious form of corporate propaganda. Once entangled in the web of deceit, the viewer’s mind is paralyzed and sucked dry like a dangerous spider that devours its prey. The viewer, now intellectually anesthetized is no longer a threat to the white power structure that rules this country.
Salons, from their inception, were meant to be social devices where the elite could gather in the drawing rooms of their aristocratic peers to discuss the various issues important to their class in a less formal atmosphere more conducive to free flowing dialog. It is customary for the host to lead off the discussion and insure that everyone has a crack at the question at hand. Good hosts always assemble a diverse guest list with people of various opinions and stations well represented, along with a few decorous women thrown in to keep it lively for good measure.
Nobody was better at assembling the power salon than former Ambassador to France, and Democratic Party doyenne, Pamela Harriman. A British born daughter of aristocratic privilege, Mrs. Harriman made her mark in Washington and Europe as a courtesan of power.
Courtesan, a French term which essentially means socialite whore, is an appellation used frequently by biographers of Mrs. Harriman. She learned her skills at the feet of her idol, the Duchess of Windsor, the former Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee’ who met and married the King of England, Edward VIII, in a salacious scandal which led to his abdication of the throne in 1936 to wed the woman he loved.
The Duchess imparted to her pupil the art of the salon and her unmatched ability to cocoon and control powerful men. Mrs. Harriman used her skills to land a wealthy third husband, former Ambassador to Russia and New York Governor Averell Harriman, with whom she had an elicit affair during World War II. After the death of their respective spouses, they hooked up in 1971.
The marriage led Mrs. Harriman on a grueling quest for power and recognition in Washington power circles. She resurrected and honed the gimmick of the salon to ensnare official Washington into her drawing room to raise money for Democratic Senators. She was rewarded for her dutiful service to the white neo-liberal power structure with an ambassadorship to France in the Clinton Administration.
Like the late Pamela Harriman, Tim Russert is a courtesan of Washington power. His televised salon, Meet the Press, is a seductive forum of corporate propaganda. Like a good socialite whore, he knows how to run a salon, cocoon powerful men, and wield their power as his own. He reigns supreme among his fellow television brethren for his singular ability to use his program to confer the imprimatur of power on those fortunate enough to be tapped by his fraudulent benevolence for a coveted cameo appearance.
Frequent appearances on Meet the Press are status symbols of cachet, relevance, and prestige among the Washington power elite. They are the hottest tickets in town and analogous to seats at a Washington National Cathedral Presidential Funeral. The appearances signal to anybody observant enough to keep score that the recipient has arrived.
In keeping with the ethos of privilege and exclusivity, Tim would have you to believe that his choice of important topics and important newsmakers represents the cream of the crop. Like cream, Tim’s idea of cream is almost all-white. This past Sunday was the last straw. We were treated to an all white parade that is so commonplace among the Washington Sunday Talk Shows. We heard absolutely nothing from those people that was insightful or even remotely newsworthy.
We heard from the same Bush Administration hacks that gave us No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit. Neither Secretary Spellings or Secretary Leavitt have the capacity to think their way out of a paper bag much less come up with policy recommendations likely to avert another tragedy like Virginia Tech. They had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY.
We shoulda heard from the Surgeon General, or a Mental Health expert or somebody, anybody with some muthafreakin’ expertise. All we got was the same beltway B.S. we always hear. In the past 18 months, Meet the Press has had 19 non-white guests which represent an eclectic mix of diplomats, heads of state, the same two reporters, and a few stray uncle toms like John McWhorter an Michael Steele. When we do hear from a big cheese, it is a Republican with a disappointing perm like Condi.
Apparently, Meet the Press has only three black people on speed dial: Gwen Ifill, Eugene Robinson, and Barack Obama. It was no surprise then that Gwen Ifill handed Tim his ass last week for coddling Don Imus or that this week’s talking head roundtable guests were all Imus alums gathered together in silent protest and all spouting conventional wisdom.
My favorite moment this Sunday was the irony of a roundtable of whitefolks celebrating diversity. Jon Meachum of Newsweek made the following observation of the Virginia Tech victims “One, one of the things I found so striking was the diversity of the victims. As you mentioned, the Holocaust survivor, professor who tried to—tried help and save people, the, the number of international students there in the middle of Virginia. It’s, it’s a snapshot of what the country is. And it’s, it’s a diverse country and it’s a good country.”
To bring this post full circle, the true test of a salon is its diversity and its ability to both inform and enlighten. On this score, Meet the Press fails as do the rest of Tim Russert’s white brethren. Hey, Tim, how bout a new closing? How bout, “ If it’s Sunday, It’s Meet the White Press.”