Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in Germany will have occasionally encountered what the locals describe as a “Besserwisser,” someone who credits himself with invariably “knowing better” than anyone else about any subject one might name. Occasionally they will be so good as to educate you about your own country, which they have likely never visited, but regarding which they still deem themselves experts, having read many articles in Der Spiegel on the subject. The Germans have another wonderfully expressive word for this; “beglücken,” used to refer scornfully to the act of ostensibly intending to make you “happy” or “fortunate,” in this case with their informative lectures, while accomplishing exactly the opposite. When it comes to expressing scorn, the German language has no equal. Today Spiegel’s Marc Pitzke “hat uns beglückt” by delivering himself of a particularly ludicrous example of the sort of “reliable information” the Besserwisser use in concocting their yarns about Amerika.
In his latest, Pitzke’s theme is the demise of CNN, as exemplified by the retirement of star broadcaster Larry King. He breaks the depressing news to his countrymen in his byline: “The departure of talk king Larry King is symptomatic – in the USA the non-partisan broadcaster is losing out to its opinionated competition in prime time.”
CNN “non-partisan!?” After wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes, I checked their website just to make sure nothing drastic had happened since the last time I looked. Had someone given Wolf Blitzer a lobotomy, perhaps? No. The familiar slant was still there; a puff piece about the ACLU’s latest pious anathema’s against Arizona. Lots of coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf without the slightest allusion to the dial tone coming from the President’s office on the subject, in stark contrast to their constant breathless reporting about the lapses of George W. Bush following hurricane Katrina. An odd disinterest in the Gore rape scandal. A helpful suggestion that I may have misspelled my words when I searched the site for “Weigel” and “Journolist.” In a word, business as usual.
All this appears to have escaped the attention of Mr. Pitzke, who writes from his alternate universe;
There’s more behind the problems than just bad management. The competition has set itself apart with unabashed opinion mongering in recent years, whether towards the right (Fox News) or towards the left (MSNBC). CNN persists in keeping to the golden middle way. “We’re not partisan,” said (CNN spokesman) Klein. “We don’t promote a point of view.”
He must have said it with an amazingly straight face, as Pitzke didn’t notice the least bit of irony. Charging blithely ahead, he wonders gravely,
But can non-partisan, purely news-oriented reporting stay in the running in the days of Google, Twitter, and Facebook? When everyone can click up news according to his own taste? Many see the downfall of CNN as the handwriting on the wall: the end of journalism is near.
I know! I wondered the same thing. Does this guy really believe his own cant? The thought is depressing, but is it that far-fetched? After all, more than a billion people in this asylum of a world believe in a tyrannical super-being who plans to fry the lion’s share of the rest of us in hellfire for millions and billions of years (and even longer in my case). Well, there is an encouraging note to all this. If the end of the type of “journalism” Pitzke refers to really is near, the world is bound to be a bit less irritating, and any number of condescending, holier-than-thou, “non-partisan journalists,” will be constrained to find, if not a more honest, then at least a less ostentatious line of work.