Since it was first broadcast, CNN's Crossfire was the place to go for verbal pugilism in the days before the ascendancy of Fox News and the pervasiveness of talk radio. With its return to the airwaves after an absence of eight years, the program's latest incarnation elicited visceral reactions before it was even broadcast.
In the August 28, 2013 edition of USA Today, Rem Rieder doesn't hold back in his disappointment at the news of this classic program's return and his overall contempt for the argumentative debate format.
Rieder laments, “Crossfire, which features a conservative and a liberal predictably and tiresomely bickering with each other, mirrors perfectly what is so wrong with today's hopelessly polarized and paralyzed politics.”
Rieder goes on to conclude that these days that there is no real attempt to solve problems or get outside of the Beltway.
Reider attempts to cast himself in the role of the kind of dispassionate analyst he claims that he longs to see heading into public affairs programing. However, his words betray blatantly leftist sympathies.
For example, in listing the identities of Crossfire's new hosts, Newt Gingrich is the only one held up for ridicule. Van Jones confessing to be a self-avowed Communist is glossed over as if such an admission is something normal and healthy.
Gingrich might daydream about space colonies. But in the ideal world of Van Jones where he identifies so enthusiastically with that particular form of tyranny, authorities would seize nearly everything you have worked for (with the exception of Van Jones' lavish CNN salary) and violently eliminate those that continue to speak out against a dictatorial regime despite extensive efforts at reeducation and social manipulation.
One might respond that an observation pointing out a failure to expose Van Jones as a leftwing subversive is reading too much into it. After all, with Kardashian bastards and Miley Cyrus stage humping, the average American no doubt finds it difficult to retain this constant barrage of information at the forefront of their cognitive awareness.
Rem Rieder, however, drops another comment that reveals that there is more to his agenda than a dispassionate pursuit of just the facts.
Apart from the incident where Robert Novak (likely suffering from the early stages of a brain tumor) stormed off the set no longer capable of handling James Carville's banshee-like shrieking, one of most recalled moments of the original Crossfire occurred with the visit of Comedy Central's John Stewart of the Daily Show. During the interview, Stewart lamented how the debate program and especially Tucker Carlson was hurting the country.
The thing of it is, the likes of John Stewart has done more to hurt this country than the number of interchangeable hosts and even greater number of guests exchanging wonky barbs at one another ever could.
Personally, I can probably count on both hands the number of times I have seen the Daily Show. The only segment that sticks out in my mind was of some bozo walking around in a giant penis costume promoting safe sex or some similar propaganda.
If that represents the kind of public affairs programming Rem Rieder thinks is needed to either elevate or save the Republic, we are worse off than most of us realize. It is likely not John Stewart's wisdom as a statesman that Reider is praising but something else entirely.
In the waning days of the Roman Empire, lavish entertainment spectacles were put on for the purposes of distracting the population from the public scandals and disasters that confronted the world superpower of that day.
Granted, in much the same way that politics is said to be a form of show business for the unattractive, programs such as Crossfire, Hannity, and The O'Reilly Factor tend to be a form of pugilism or professional wrestling for the physically puny but verbally inclined. But despite any shortcomings that these programs might posses, it cannot be denied that they at least get across the point that there is something rotten in Denmark (or more accurately, the United States of America in this instance).
That's why the likes of Rem Rieder are more enthused about a perambulating giant penis costume. And the reason behind that might not be quite so obvious as one might assume by that shocking verbal formulation.
Elites talk up the delights and wonders of deliberative democracy. But the last thing they really want are those in the servile classes to passionately hold to any fixed standard or belief that would impede this human capital from being reshaped, deployed, and even eliminated in accordance with the most convenient timetable possible.
This is the sentiment spoken of euphemistically when talking heads, academics, bureaucrats, and elected officials express a nostalgia for a bygone era when legislators would get together at the end of the day to hash out compromises over cocktails or, in the case of Ted Kennedy, cocaine and lapdances. That approach might have been OK when the kinds of things discussed were the equivalent of whether a tax rate would be 9% or 10%.
But these kinds of backroom compromises have gone on for so long and the line of acceptability moved back so far that, for the go-along to get-along to continue, those of good conscience are being pressured into betraying the fundamental values and morals without which a ordered yet free society will surely collapse.
For example, if one the ethical building blocks upon which a just and free society rests is the assumption thou shalt not murder, meaning that it is beyond the limits of acceptability to deliberately take the life of an individual that has committed no crime, where is the moral wiggle room for an abortion of convenience or preference? On what grounds do you kill a life form, that will be no more genetically complete than it would be at the time of birth, without the consent of that individual for the purposes of harvesting that individual's stem cells or other biomolecular components?
Most believe that marriage is a sacred covenant instituted by God Himself predating the codification of organized religion in a time when man's relationship with our Creator did not require the medium of the written word. So on what grounds can that definition be changed on the whims of a jurist or plebiscite and on what basis do those making such a claim complain when these fickle procedures decide to change the arrangement back?
Just where does one compromise on these kinds of issues? For if one does, isn't doing so the equivalent of saying it is allowable to slap your spouse one time across the face but twice is going too far?
As these kinds of social developments continue to unfold, it is becoming more apparent that recognition of gay marriage is not so much about these individuals confessing unending love for one another which they are pretty much able to do so already in parts of the country where most mind their own business and where laws prohibiting illegitimate carnal knowledge haven't been enforced for years. Rather, it is about bringing the destructive power of the state crushing down upon those that do not stand around applauding the new world we are being thrust into.
Don't believe me? Perhaps you ought to ask the bakers and wedding photographers whose businesses have been ruined for failing to embrace diversity to this radical extent. What about their ability to express their preferences without fear of retaliation?
Only time will tell whether or not there is a place for a revived Crossfire in a media landscape where the clash of opinions is more the norm than an entertaining novelty, However, even if this particular program falls by the wayside as a result of attention being grabbed by flashier versions of this classic debate format, Crossfire deserves a place at least in the pages of journalistic and mass communications history for admitting that legitimate opinion worthy of national consideration exists beyond the narrowly defined parameters of the mainstream establishment.
By Frederick Meekins