When I watch old movies on TCM, I'm struck by the prominence given to journalists and newspaper editorial rooms in films from the thirties and forties. Journalism seems to have been the latest attraction on our national cultural scene, soon overlapped by, and eventually eclipsed by psychoanalysis.
That's an interesting, harmless observation. But when I switch to a news channel, which is either CNN or The News Hour, I'm immediately assailed by a much less pleasant observation, which is that the American media isn't half as pugnacious now as it was in its heyday on film.
Some readers will point out that pugnacity has moved to the internet, but how many voters balance what they get on TV with on-line commentary?
This morning, Chris Matthews, who thinks he's still playing hard ball, couldn't keep his brilliant panel from dismissing Obama.
Never mind that when he walks into a room, as one observer put it, you can feel the electricity.
Never mind that he's the only candidate with real life experience of the wider world.
Or that his approach to religion is one which born-agains and atheists could both live with - given the pressing issues of global warming and terrorism.
Apparently, it's more fun to play guessing games as to whether Hillary could win, or Giuliani could get the nomination, carefully balancing comments on the chances of the lesser runner. It will be more difficult - and hence less audience attracting - to do this when Obama emerges as the unstoppable front runner.
I remember how George McGovern was savaged by the media in 1972. We're still paying for that. To dismiss Obama before the first primary vote is even cast, is an equally shameful act by a profession that was once so proud of its pugnacity that it's enshrined for all to see on cellulose.
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