Sunday, April 20, 2014

TV: Shields Overstays His Welcome By Several Decades

Insult entertainment TV all you want, but it's actually superior to 'public affairs' and 'news' programming in so many ways.  For one thing, scripted comedies garner intended laughs.

We were reminded of that Friday when we caught The NewsHour (PBS).  We weren't attempting to catch Mark Shields being sexist (as he had been the week before, click here).  Like most Americans, we honestly weren't thinking of him.

We'd heard that one of the most biased and one-sided reports was going to air on the program.  The segment, on Venezuela, was Margaret Warner at her worst and we're not just referring to those scary close ups. It was government and right-wing propaganda attempting to slime and destroy the country's president Nicholas Maduro.

For careful viewers, the only thing destroyed was Margaret Warner's reputation.

Given nine minutes on air and travel fair to Venezuela, all she can do is find three people who don't like the new president -- one of which didn't care for Hugo Chavez either.

That's all she's got to support her allegations  -- that and the lies she allows American gas bag Michael Shifter and press whore Moses Naim to spew.

It was embarrassing and you had to wonder what Warner was offered to put her name to that propaganda?  Or as Chrissie Hynde once put it, "How Much Did You Get For Your Soul?"

We heard about the report from two NewsHour-ers who told us the 'report' had bothered many with the program and we can certainly see why.

We were discussing the segment when we heard Judy Woodruff say, "Welcome, gentlemen."

We groaned realizing it was a Shields and Yarnell -- er, Shield and Brooks night.

We argued last Sunday that it was time for Mark Shields to go.

He only proved that more so on Friday.

Forget politics, forget opinions for a moment.

This is what 'analyst' Mark Shields offered:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let’s talk about what’s — what was the lead of our program tonight, Mark, and that’s — and that’s Ukraine, this surprise deal reached yesterday in Geneva between the United States, Russia, Ukraine, and the European Union, trying to defuse what’s been going on there.  Today, the reporting is all about these protesters in the eastern part of the country saying, we’re not going anywhere. Where is this headed?

MARK SHIELDS: I honestly don’t know, Judy. I will say that it appears that Mr. Putin’s plan and the Russians’ plan is to partition Ukraine. And this certainly — they call it federalization, but it is a partition of — an eventual partition of sorts. Whether it’s to destabilize or delegitimize the elections of May 25, we don’t know. But Putin made a statement. He said, the Russian Federation Council — Russia’s Federation Council has provided the president with the right to deploy armed forces in Ukraine. Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself.


MARK SHIELDS: He says, I really hope that I am not forced to use this right.

That's from the official transcript.  And "(LAUGHTER)" indicates that they all laughed.

Now it's America's turn.

Again, forget politics for a moment.

Shields states Russian president Vladimir Putin declared, "I really hope that I am not forced to use this right."  And you can find the quote at multiple outlets -- here for Jane C. Timm's MSNBC report.

So presumably the quote is accurate.

If the quote's right, what's the problem?

"Anybody who talks about himself in the third person makes me nervous. He’s referring to himself."

Yeah, "I" generally does refer to the person speaking.

It's also what is known as "first person."

Apparently Shields, Woodruff and David Brooks require a grammar lesson.

These are first person subjective pronouns:  I (singular) we (plural).

These are second person subjective pronouns:  you (singular) you (plural).

These are third person subjective pronouns: he, she, it (singular) they (plural).

When a person speaks of themselves in third person, they often use he or she.

More often though, especially when it comes to the famous, they use their own name.  So, for example, Mark Shields speaking of himself in the third person might say, "Oh, no, Mark Shields has soiled his Depends.  Who will change Mark Shields?"

Vladimir Putin -- despite the chuckles of Shields, Brooks and Woodrfuff -- did not speak of himself in the third person.

Mark Shields is paid to provide 'analysis' and yet he no longer can even get basic facts right.

The discussion, which took place April 18th, also noted the proposed Keystone oil pipeline and Shields offered some generic statements that added nothing.  Equally true, saying that "environmental groups" were against Keystone didn't qualify as representing their position (such as why they are against it) nor did it acknowledge the news on this topic.

RT reported the day before (April 17th), "Jimmy Carter has become [the] first former US president to speak out against the controversial Keystone XL project, which would see tar sands oil flow from Canada to the US.  Carter joined a group of nine other Nobel Prize winners who signed a letter to President Obama, urging him not to endorse the plan."

Seems like Shields, representing the 'left' (or what passes for it on PBS), should have noted that.

But, of course, he didn't.

What value does he provide?

None at all.

It's time for the 76-year-old to be shown the door.

And we really felt that way as the segment wound down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: All kinds of things I want to ask the two of you about in a few minutes left.
I want to ask you about — Mark, about the Pulitzer Prize this week. Among others, it went to The Guardian newspaper, to The Washington Post for the reporting they did on the national security leaks from Edward Snowden.  I guess my question is, what was your reaction? Did you see honoring the newspaper the same as honoring the man who delivered the leaks… 


JUDY WOODRUFF: … who’s been seen as both a traitor and hero?

MARK SHIELDS: No.  I mean, the Pulitzer award goes to the dominant, most important news story and coverage and reporting. And I think it’s hard to argue that this wasn’t the most important news story. And the reporting that was done on it was quite professional. The fact that along with it comes Edward Snowden is — is in no way, in my judgment, recognition of him as a heroic figure.  He was central to it. He was indispensable to it. But we saw the part he played yesterday in Mr. Putin’s press conference in Russia, where…

JUDY WOODRUFF: And that’s why I…

MARK SHIELDS: And he certainly — he certainly didn’t rise to heroic status, I wouldn’t say, in that capacity.

Mark Shields doesn't consider Ed Snowden a hero.

That's his opinion.

We should note that The NewsHour offered no praise for Ed in the segment.

Three voices and no praise.  Because The NewsHour is not about analysis, it's about, as Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky would argue, manufacturing consent.

So PBS provides three people and not one can say a kind word about Ed which sends the message to viewers that 'this Ed Snowden,' he just isn't worth defending because, goodness, right and left (as portrayed on The NewsHour) can't stick up for him and even 'neutral' journalist (Judy Woodruff) can't.

What did Ed do that had Shield's adult diapers in a twist?

He asked Putin, in a call-in program last week, "Does Russia intercept, store or analyse in any way the communications of millions of individuals?"

Why did this anger Shields?

Snowden himself pointed out:

The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden's question and mine here.)
Clapper's lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.
In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we'll get to them soon – but it was not the president's suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.
I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin's evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.
The investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, perhaps the single most prominent critic of Russia's surveillance apparatus (and someone who has repeatedly criticised me in the past year), described my question as "extremely important for Russia". According to the Daily Beast, Soldatov said it could lift a de facto ban on public conversations about state eavesdropping.

And that was published at The Guardian many, many hours before Mark Shields sat down for his segment.

Seems like if he's going to trash someone, he should be aware of what they wrote.

But, more and more, it's clear that Mark Shields isn't aware of anything -- apparently not even his surroundings.

In the early seventies, Shields and Yarnell had a brief run on CBS.  The husband and wife mimes were regulars on The Mac Davis Show in 1976 and then on The Sonny & Cher Show before, in  the summer of 1977, getting their own summer show.  When The Shields and Yarnell Show returned at the start of 1978, it lasted two months before getting the axe.

And outside of a guest shot here or there, that was it.  Mime by itself really isn't a draw on TV.

They really had two good years before TV viewers tired of them.

And networks found other personalities to toss on air.

By contrast, America tired of Mark Shields decades ago.  He started offering 'analysis' in 1988 on The NewsHour -- and he was already tired then.  Twenty-four years later and he still won't take a hint and leave. April's seen him offer sexism, struggle with facts and, the worst TV sin of all, be oh-so boring.  It's time he found something else to do and time The NewsHour found a fresh face (they should dump Brooks as well).

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