“Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”
- Abraham Lincoln
“I love it loud – right between the eyes.” – KISS
The most watched program on cable, the most trusted name in news is not who you think they are. Although there are maniacal blowhards, sarcastic snides and outright idiots, you can’t judge the most popular show on cable television too harshly. To do so would argue against the will of the people, which have provided this show with unmatchable ratings over the last ten years. It is fair, balanced and shows the true face of the heart of America. The show attracts millions of followers regardless of political affiliation. Thinking “The O’Reilly Factor or “Hannity” by chance? They are eclipsed everyday by the true voice of the people: Spongebob Squarepants.
This shouldn’t be a shocking revelation to anyone who does not eat, sleep and excrete political news shows. Spongebob and the WWE’s Monday Night Raw draw more viewers than any political show on cable television and has for literally the past decade. Ironically, the WWE’s wrestling viewers and those who watch Sean Hannity’s five hours of misinformation each week should have intricate knowledge of the other. Both have characters so larger than life they resemble cartoons (see Undertaker and Sarah Palin) and tend to spout out a “fountain of misinformation.” The late wrestler and commentator Gorilla Monsoon used the aforementioned adage to rip on the commentary of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who looks kind of like a blond Hannity. “Monday Night Raw” is on just once a week, while the airings of Spongebob are as numerous as all the major political shows combined.
Submitted for your examination, the cable show ratings for the week ending January 17, 2010. The week featuring the debut of Sarah Palin as a regular commentator on Fox News which is the cartoon equivalent of when Patrick Star nailed a board to his forehead Indeed, Fox News had boffo ratings for the initial Palin appearances, topped by The O’Reilly Factor’s 4.2 million viewers that Thursday. The appearance of the political Patrick was still no match for the real pink deal as reruns of Spongebob managed to net a larger audience. The argument can be made that this is just a kids show for the mentally disadvantaged but I will give Fox News the benefit of the doubt. There are legitimately intelligent people who watch and contribute on Fox. A few may even have legitimate blonde hair. Fox News does have their Charles Krautheimer and Bill Kristol. Spongebob has Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway. It’s apparent which has the bigger star power.
According to Fox News, they are “the most trusted name in news.” Their claim is not without merit, as their average prime time audience is more than CNN and MSNBC combined. However, their average audience of 3.6 million is dwarfed by the broadcast news of CBS, ABC and NBC, which average over 25 million viewers combined on a nightly basis. I take into account the argument that broadcast news is free and cable is not. But like it or not, kiddos, numbers do speak for themselves. Over 56 percent of American households pay for cable. If we were to “fairly balance” this equation, broadcast news would have an audience of approximately 13 million compared to the 3.6 million watching Fox News. That is still a statistical advantage for the “big three” of 4 to 1. Not exactly the stuff revolutions are made of. Compare this further to the total population of the United States, currently estimated at 275 million. Only 13 percent of American citizens bother to watch the news on TV at all. Apparently, 87 percent of us have something better to do like watch Spongebob or American Idol.
Many people would like to point various polls and statistics showing an imminent conservative revolution. I’m sorry, the pudding is all over my face and there is yet to be any substantive proof that could not be explained by a combination of socioeconomic factors. Think of many of Rasmussen’s polls as political equivalents of Bigfoot sightings (including the deliberate capitalization of the name “Bigfoot” as to give it more authentic credentials. They tend to be skewered, glossy and ultimately as misleading as Sasquatch. Another poll, with statistics far outside the margin of error was released by CBS News January 18th regarding Ms. Palin. In the poll, 71 percent of Americans stated they did not want Palin to run for president, including 56 percent of Republicans polled. Further, despite her massive book sales and media blitz during the last few months of 2009, Palin managed to increase her favorability rating by a whopping three percent, to 26 percent. Now that’s a star, I tell ya! It is entirely feasible Palin’s staff had similar tracking poll numbers as she signed on with Fox News as a commentator to more directly confront her timeslot enemy, Patrick Star himself.
Still not convinced this is all sham, true believers? Still planning on making incoherent signs and getting angry with a government you could have cared less about until it directly affected your personal bottom line? Well, tea-partiers and conservatives definitely got “something” in a box when the citizens of Massachusetts elected Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate, replacing the late Ted Kennedy. Brown’s election proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: people are pissed at the status quo pro “no” that is Congress and are tired of candidates thinking that a political position belongs to them without any merits. Ted Kennedy’s niece, Caroline, tried to attain a U.S. Senate seat a year ago with her basic credentials being close to nothing besides her lineage. Because she is not completely moronic, she withdrew her candidacy to spare herself the forthcoming humiliation of not being chosen. Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Senate candidate who would be defeated by Scott Brown, had none of Caroline Kennedy’s foresight. All statistical analysis, points to an individual who really believed she deserved the senate seat and did not have to earn it. Most telling is the ratio of campaign rallies. Scott Brown held sixty-six rallies compared to Coakley’s nineteen, a ratio of over four to one. Add to that several insipid comments directed at Boston Red Sox great (and Republican) Curt Schilling, Coakley’s campaign was literally begging for a political thrashing. It should come as no surprise to anyone that she lost. Had she ran a campaign remotely as enthusiastic as Scott Brown – well, who knows? People are mad and when they are mad, they are quite unpredictable.
It is with these overt feelings in mind, along with continual antipathy toward the government that I believe the state of our historic union can only be summarized with one word: dysfunctional. As more Americans have been given the ability to unlimited information about how our government works - or more specifically how it does not work at all – many citizens have become polarized in their convictions in a fashion similar to that of our popular culture. Either you like “Spongebob Squarepants” or you hate it. Football fans wanted Brett Farve to succeed or fail. There seems to be no middle ground except for the fact that we all look like fools with our pants down there. This is especially true of our government and those “too big to fail banks.” If anger towards Democrats leads to another Republican government, there is no evidence that any specific ideals or practices will change. It seems like everyone wants to save their job at any cost, no matter if that job is to serve the will of the people. This political hubris is not only against what America stands for, it’s downright stupid.
The only feasible means of ridding our country of the aforementioned dysfunction is to ignore the only political idiom Democrats and Republicans agree on: A third party vote is a wasted vote. Trust me, this phrase will be heard constantly throughout this year and always without merit. Watch as both major party candidates for whatever position – be it senator, congressman or governor – use their influence to block third party candidates from debates. Anyone who is truly angry should utilize this anger against to vote against the individuals who undermine our democracy. So what if we elect people to office who are outsiders, lack political experience or the savvy to blend in with the beltway. These decisions, more than any others, are up to us. If your elected officials can’t make a decent crabby patty, then fire them. But don’t replace Spongebob with Squidward or Patrick Star. The results will remain the same. As far as I know, Scrappy-Doo isn’t doing anything these days. Beast Boy is currently unemployed as are all three Powerpuff Girls. As the political ads start flying faster than speeding bullet this fall, remember that true change can only happen if we replace the cartoon characters that currently occupy our political airwaves.