October 30, 2011

The mess that is "Meet the Press" had me laughing until tears ran down my face.

We watch the NBC show on DVR and pause frequently to analyze, dissect, and mock. Here's today's transcript. They had Walter Isaacson, the author of that terrific new biography of Steve Jobs, and then they also had Tom Brokaw, NBC's retired news anchor, who also has a new book. It might make a mildly appreciated Christmas present for any members of the "greatest generation" who still survive in your family. Pushing Brokaw's book, they subjected us to text like this:
"Slashing rhetoric and outrageous characterizations have long been part of the American national political dialogue ... but modern means of communications are now so pervasive and penetrating they might as well be part of the air we breathe, and therefore they require tempered remarks from all sides. Otherwise, the air just becomes more and more toxic until it is suffocating."
Imagine what blather must have been in that before they did the ellipsis. And try translating it into plain English. You see what he's saying? In the old days of network broadcasting, people only heard from designated authorities like me, but now that everyone's voice can be heard, it's time to tone it all down. Now that there's so much potential for opinion, it should all be made very bland, because it's hurting my tummy. And my old, old lungs. I can't breathe because other people are talking too much. All this newfangled media. Why back in my day, everybody listened to me and the air was fresh and clean.

It was so frustrating, because we so much wanted to hear what Isaacson had to say about Steve Jobs, but Gregory had to keep weaving in the platitudinous themes of Brokow's book, and the effort was ludicrous:
MR. GREGORY: It's interesting about Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson, because part of what I think Tom is talking about is not only a sense of national purpose and civic identity, but it's also a can-do practicality that he really manifested. And this is how you write about it, the distortion reality--reality distortion field that you write about throughout the book, and this is how it was described in the book...

"Steve has a reality distortion field. ... In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he's not around, but it makes it hard to have realistic schedules." Bud Tribble, part of that original Mac team, the Macintosh team.

Also, "The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the" purposes--the "purpose at hand." Andy Hertzfeld, also part of that original Macintosh team.

Why doesn't Washington have that kind of can-do practicality where they could--he cannot blink when he stares at you and say, "Get your mind around this. Get this done."
Those quotes are about the way Steve Jobs generated a "reality distortion field" that had some effects that were very positive and some that were very negative (like the way it killed him). That doesn't translate to "can-do practicality." Gregory was only saying "can-do practicality" to connect it to the book Brokaw got on the show to promote. What would happen if the country was run by a Steve Jobs  type who set up a "reality distortion field" and barraged us with charismatic rhetorical style and indomitable will?!

Isaacson tried to fit in. He quoted someone who once told Jobs he "would make an excellent king of France" and noted that "when you're the president in a democracy, in a divided government, you can't just order and lead by fiat." Yes, and? Come on, Walter. You don't have to temper your remarks lest the air just become more and more toxic until it is suffocating. Lay it on the line. It would be insane to have a President like Steve Jobs! Oh, but... oh, no... Brokaw needs to talk...

Brokaw goes on about how he got a Macintosh when they first came out and he had the CEO of IBM over at his house and the IBM guy didn't think Macs were serious. Yes, yes, we were talking about the "reality distortion field" and the presidency. There was some potential for insight, and Brokaw drags us back to that time in the 80s when he had the CEO of IBM over to the house.

40 comments:

Hagar said...

Tom Brokaw was the most insufferable network news anchor of all time.

MayBee said...

I suspect Obama thinks he generates a "reality distortion field".

Sixty Grit said...
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MayBee said...

That's probably why Jobs and Obama clashed over things like meeting invitations and dessert. Dueling force fields.

RBB said...

I found it amusing watching these dinosaurs of the old ways today as well. I kept thinking, these people are out of it and scared of the new way. Scared because they are beginning to realize they might be obsolete. It made me wonder if this is what listening to a group of telegraph operators discussing how the new inventions of the telephone and radio didn't matter would have been like.

rhhardin said...

I don't think they're worried about the new way but about keeping their own audience tuned in.

The audience that's drawn in by their narrative, in particular.

It's a business.

traditionalguy said...

But Professor, doesn't Wisconsin Law School use mock trials so the Litigation Professor can explain the best ways to create a reality distortion field (also called The Case,)until the Jury verdict comes in and everyone reverts to real reality?

John ( Silk Pony)Edwards would have been Jobs' kind of President, until the day that New Age woman used the same reality distortion field craft on Silk Pony.

If you live by the Reality Distortion Field, you will die by the Reality Distortion Field...as Steve Jobs experienced recently.

LarryK said...

Tom Brokaw is so stiff, haughty and arrogant he almost seems like a figure from another century. I can picture him wearing a top hat and cape, walking down Fifth Avenue and pushing the little people out of his path, while saying things like "Step lively lads! Forsooth, a captain of industry requires my counsel and sage advice. A device named after a British water-resistant garment occupies his thoughts...it is a matter of great moment, so get thee gone, scoundrels!"

Say what you will about Bill O'Reilly, but he'd never say that.

Ralph L said...

Just what Washington needs, more reality distortion. Feed Brokaw to the wolves.

jamboree said...

The key difference between the old "can-do practicality" and "the reality distortion" field is not new ageism or magical thinking, IMO, but acid (which was a direct predecessor to new ageism and magical thinking, but that's another story).

ndspinelli said...

Gregorys talking point today was the unfairness of income distribution. And he had 3 liberals and the token conservative[a nice gentle one] on the panel.What a fucking circle jerk.

Sixty Grit said...
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AJ Lynch said...

That is an innovative approach - to watch MTP for the laughs. I sm gonna try that - it will help keep my blood pressure down.

Big Mike said...

I live in Northern Virginia. I mean to assure everyone that Washington, DC, is one large reality distortion field.

It's a place where people making six digit salaries think that passing a law with the word "reform" somewhere in the title actually reforms something or another. True! Really!

It's a place where people really do believe that throwing money at a problem will eventually solve the problem, if only they throw enough money at it. Yes, I'm not kidding!

It's an unreal place.

ndspinelli said...

Brokaw also took a shot @ the smoking guy ad. About 15 years ago a veteran NBC reporter died from cancer. Brokaw did a brief piece and then ended w/ "He liked to smoke, drink martinis, and eat steak which obviously were bad choices." THIS WAS HIS FUCKING EULOGY! I remember saying to my bride, "Would he say about someone who died from AIDS, "He liked to take dick up the ass and vice versa, obviously bad choices."

AJ Lynch said...

Big Mike said:

"I live in Northern Virginia. I mean to assure everyone that Washington, DC, is one large reality distortion field."

LMAO! In a logical world, that term would become its nickname. I can't wait to use it on my Beltway dwelling librul sister.

Alex said...

Funny that Rush Limbaugh is a huge Apple evangelist. Given they're a left-wing oriented company they must find it quite embarassing.

edutcher said...

People like Brokaw characterized The Greatest Generation with lines like, "Don't trust anybody over 30", before it became profitable to venerate them.

Not to mention the lyrics from "Pleasant Valley Sunday".

The people who endured the Depression and won WWII were also those terrible, materialistic hypocrites the young Lefties loved to hate in the 60s.

Talk about projection.

William said...

Steve Jobs could never be the King of France, but he could easily have been Napoleon. Great wealth is a megaphone for megalomania, and self- earned great wealth is an 11 dial for the amplifier for the megaphone. People with inherited wealth and power are somewhat more deferential and modest in their arrogance.

caseym54 said...

But we have a president like Ste3ve Jobs, lacking only the creativity and class.

rcocean said...

Goodness Tom is still alive? Hard to blame him for hankering back to his Glory days.

What did we have back in the 80s? You could watch Tom, Dan, or Peter and maybe CNN or PBS.

People like Leslie Stahl or Sam Donaldson were considered media giants because that's all we had.

No wonder he's nostalgic. Does anyone care about Dan Gregory?

Freeman Hunt said...

We went to a function at the local university's physics lab this weekend. As one enters the building, there is a glass case displaying old computers. One of them was the same 80's IBM PC from my childhood that I have in my garage. Ha.

Relics. Everywhere.

Lem said...

Steve has a reality distortion field..

So.. Thaaats why we allways have to get the new iPhone.. because otherwise we wont have the new shield modulation frecuency to be able to launch them killer apps.

Its all up the clouds now.

Lem said...

Otherwise, the air just becomes more and more toxic until it is suffocating.

NBC's shields are down.. while Apples are up.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

It sounds like Steve Jobs violated the "personal space bubbles" of his employees to force them into his "reality distortion field".

bagoh20 said...

Over the last 5 years or so, I've converted almost entirely to getting my news and nearly all my information and opinion via the internet through writers and pundits living there, including Althouse. When I occasionally go back to the boob tube, I'm surprised at how bad it is. The bias, the laziness, the thinness of the gruel. It's so passive, and almost seems like a high school play version of the real world.

I'll never be able to watch that stuff again. Compared to the net, it's like a Chevy Vega driven by your grandma compared to a modern 4-wheel drive pick up truck under your own control. I can go anywhere, carry a lot with me, and get some real work done. I'm not forced to stay on the road, or fall asleep while granny keeps under 30 MPH the whole time.

That crap is for old lazy sheep. They should be advertizing buggy whips.

JeffM said...

Tim Russert must be turning over in his grave. And you forgot to mention Jennifer Granholm's incoherence:

Well, [Jobs] had a big, he had a big scope, but, you know, I mean, he was also able to pay people to be able to do what he asked them to do, and Obama can't pay the Republicans to be able to get them to compromise. And that's his, his, his challenge.

Pathetic. Granholm was a disaster of a Governor -- what exactly is the insight or expertise she is offering? When will these people be laughed into obscurity where they belong?

rcocean said...

I stopped watching '60 minutes' after I realized every corespondent was over 65 years old and every other commercial was about Geritol or Depends.

I stopped watching the Sunday chat shows when I could skim the transcript on the net. Later, I just stopped skimming.

George said...

I wish Rush would get a Sunday morning show.

Lem said...

He can convince anyone of practically anything.

Given the recent Madoff news item.. the ability to convince anyone of practically anything is not quite the praising flattering comment you want to eulogise the American icon with.

I'm just saying.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

A goal, worthy, is to make an argument less about who-might-be-ridiculed and more about how do you think that way?

Let it be known the goal, the tactics, and sundry strategy (heavy on the Buckley) and enjoy the process.

Life.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"What would happen if the country was run by a Steve Jobs type who set up a "reality distortion field" and barraged us with charismatic rhetorical style and indomitable will?!"

How would that happen? If one assumes via our current democratic process an SJ "type" was elected, we can assume a lot.

First and foremost, the person making the hypothesis has to reconcile the proverbial unstoppable force (America) with the immovable object (Steve Job's type).

Steve Job's type wouldn't run for office, duh, and wouldn't get elected to a major office in America.

Since I've lost everyone there, I will stop there, waiting for y'all to catch up.

Your historical comparisons are wrong: Iconoclast means something.

Mick said...

Why do so many news anchors have severely crooked faces and speech impediments?

James said...

Brokaw has a new book.

That means he's on Letterman this week or next.

Boredom squared.

knox said...

"The mess that is Meet the Press"

LOL. David Gregory badly needs a punch in the face.

Joe said...

I first heard about Jobs' "Reality Distortion Field" in the early 90s. It wasn't a compliment. Jobs was destroying people's lives with his ego and the engineers and employees at Apple were tired of it. Jobs really was running Apple into the ground. The historical revisionism going on is nothing short of amazing.

(While NeXT was a failure, I believe that Jobs learned greatly from that experience and his earlier and genuine failure at Apple. He also saw where Sculley, Spindler and Amelio went wrong.)

Ben Calvin said...

still think of Tom Brokaw as the local KNBC anchor in LA, tossing it to the weather guy or the doing the intro for the sports segment. So I have never been able to take anything he does too seriously.

cassandra lite said...

You buried the lede. The anchor of one of the Big Three networks had the CEO of IBM over to his home for a social engagement at a time when IBM was one of the top ten advertisers on the evening news. No wonder he wants to go back to that halycon time.

George said...

The only positive thing I can say about Brokaw is that Cronkite was stupider.

Skookum John said...

I once stood at the next urinal over from Brokaw. He's mighty haughty for such a little man.