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CNN’s right turn. #Sad

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You remember that classic scene from Chinatown, where Jake Gittes is interrogating Evelyn Mulwray?

Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!

Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister…[slap]

Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my daughter…[slap]

Evelyn Mulwray: My sister, my daughter. [More slaps]

Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!

Evelyn Mulwray: She’s my sister AND my daughter!

Let’s update that for some late-breaking developments from a certain cable news station:

Jake Gittes: Who are you? Tell me the truth!

Cable news station: CNN [slap]

Cable news station: Fox [slap]

Cable news station: CNN [slap]

Cable news station: Fox [slap]

Jake Gittes: I said I want the truth!

Cable news station: I’m CNN and Fox!

CNN has famously, or infamously, tried to position itself in between Fox’s rightwing craziness and MSNBC’s liberalism. This mushiness has not helped CNN’s ratings; it consistently ranks well behind Fox in viewership.

This is because CNN stands for nothing; in adapting its “both sides are entitled to an opinion,” it jettisoned its moral authority by normalizing Donald Trump and equating blatant falsehoods with truth. People don’t watch “nothing,” indeed, why should they? So now, CNN’s powers-that-be have decided that standing for nothing is not a winning strategy. What to do? Mimic the #1 cable news channel, Fox, and make a hard right turn.

On Wednesday I read, in the San Francisco Chronicle, that CNN has hired two new senior people, both drafted from Fox: Dave Briggs, who co-anchored “Weekend Fox and Friends,” and Stephen Moore, “former economics advisor for the Trump campaign, former consultant for Fox News [and] a Wall Street Journal contributor” (the WSJ is, of course, owned by Fox owner Rupert Murdoch).

Whatever prompted CNN President Jeff Zucker to cave? Well, CNN’s parent company, Time Warner, wants to buy AT&T, and Zucker wouldn’t be the first company head to make nice to a President in order to advance a deal that will make him richer than he already is. Zucker himself was quoted in the Chronicle that the reason he’s tacking Fox-ward is to appeal to “more conservative viewers because, you know, Trump and all.”

Point taken.

Well, at least he’s honest, if not particularly articulate. He’s also a coward, allowing himself to get pushed around by a bully who has shown no reluctance to use his power to intimidate people into doing his bidding. Trump has attacked CNN ferociously: for instance, on Jan. 12, shortly before being sworn in, he tweeted: #CNN is in a total meltdown with their FAKE NEWS because their ratings are tanking since election and their credibility will soon be gone! Zucker evidently felt that, rather than go against a sitting President, he might as well yield, and take it like a man.

But Zucker also is naïve, if he thinks CNN’s ratings can be improved by this appalling act of surrender. Republicans are not going to suddenly start watching CNN. They already have Fox “News,” not to mention right wing talk radio. All that this capitulation will do is alienate what few moderate viewers CNN retains.

It’s distressing to watch the demise of a once-glorious T.V. network. CNN invented cable news, with its historic 1980 founding by Ted Turner. It led us through the Reagan years, the Gulf War, Clinton’s impeachment, the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War. It reigned supreme in live coverage; it was in fact—as Fox lies about being—“fair and balanced.” Now, CNN circles the drain in a desperate, doomed attempt to make the Tea Party like them. Poor Wolf Blitzer, to end his career like this. As a certain POTUS often tweets, #SAD!

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