Saturday, May 23, 2020

Emily Litella Lives – And She Has A Byline!

     If you’re old, cranky, and possess a near-perfect memory, among the things you’re likely to bitch about on occasion is the descent of comedy into the depths of banality and vulgarity. One who remembers Monty Python in its heyday, or the great comedians of the Fifties and Sixties, is unlikely to be impressed by most of today’s “comedians.” A generation that remembers Milton Berle, Joey Bishop, Sid Caesar, Jimmy Durante, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Jan Murray, Red Skelton, Danny Thomas, and Dick Van Dyke will not cotton to contemporary “humor.”

     And then we have the original cast of Saturday Night Live. Great God in heaven, what a treasure trove it was! Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and the immortal (though sadly departed from this plane) Gilda Radner. Those folks could teach comedy: the centrality of incongruity, composing a skit, timing it properly, accuracy in caricature, and all the rest.

     Radner did several skits at the end of SNL’s “news” put-ons in which she played Emily Litella, an old woman who habitually got the news wrong and complained about it in a side-splittingly funny fashion:

  • “What’s all this fuss about the presidential erection?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about busting schoolchildren?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about eagle rights?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about violins on television?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about endangered feces?”
  • “What’s all this fuss about saving Soviet jewelry?”

     And so on. “Newscasters” Chevy Chase or Jane Curtin would correct Litella’s misapprehension, and Litella would then say “Never mind.” As predictable as the skit came to be, it was one of the funniest bits the SNL crew had in its repertoire, largely due to Radner’s gift for caricature.

     Know what else has become entirely predictable, Gentle Reader? The response of our “serious” news media to having their blatant, politically charged errors revealed to the public. They don’t “fess up.” They seldom present justifications for their misreporting. Like Radner’s Emily Litella, they say (though unlike Litella, under their breath) “never mind” and pass on to some new, equally erroneous and politically biased “story.”

     John Wohlstetter makes note of this in a compendious article on “Our COVID Future:”

     A major issue that will drive turnout of Trump’s base is countering efforts by mainstream media — nearly all leftist — to monopolize the coverage and interpretation of administration actions. On Feb. 22, 2017, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski committed a major Freudian slip (full video clip, 2:14), complaining about Trump’s influence on his supporters:
     Well, I think that the dangerous edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that … is our job.

     Daniel Henninger’s Wall Street Journal Trump/Lysol video (4:05) shows blatant media bias aimed at helping defeat Donald Trump; Trump mused aloud during a coronavirus briefing that perhaps injecting disinfectant was “not a bad idea” but added that “it is up to the doctors.” That caveat was tossed aside by media enemies, and the falsehood that Trump advocates people doing this was spread. Not even Dr. Deborah Birx’s telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the media should stop using Trump’s musings has dimmed their ardor. Henninger is right that Trump should not extemporaneously speak on medical matters, as adversary media can be counted upon to distort and exploit such talk. And it may, Henninger notes, cost Trump the election.

     Further evidence of media bias came when a reporter tried to quote-shame (1:27) the new White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, by confronting her with virus-related statements she made while serving as adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. She answered by reading quotes from various reporters and publications downplaying coronavirus. When she gets answers from them, she said, she would address the question.

     Even worse, mainstream media denigrates red-state governors who reopen their state economies as “anti-science,” whilst lavishing praise on blue-state governors whose states have the highest infection and death rates, as Robert Stacy McCain describes for The American Spectator. The one governor given regular open access to America on national TV is New York’s Andrew Cuomo, whose state is the worst basket case in America — and one of the worst on the planet.

     Sailors have a saying: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times? Sound general quarters.” The Old Media are far beyond that third occurrence.

     For us in the bleacher seats, there isn’t much to be done. Ignore the “mainstream” media to the greatest possible extent, for they have demonstrated an institutional agenda that has little to do with “reporting the news.” When a story with important implications floats your way, don’t merely accept its representations as stated; cross-check it as deeply as you can. Distrust opinion-mongers, for they exist to sway opinions, and many of them are allied with one of the major political parties or interest groups. Yes, distrust me too, for I have an agenda as well, even if I am open about it.

     Above all, remember what Buddha said:

     Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it – no matter if I have said it! – except it agree with your own reason and your own common sense.

     Your reason and common sense are more trustworthy than any “authority.”

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