November 5, 2004

This Is Your Mind on C-SPAN

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I have been a TV news junkie for the last 10 years. This means two things: 1) I have never had any friends; and 2) I know absolutely nothing about any significant events that have occurred within the last 10 years. In a feeble attempt to counter my deep ignorance of world affairs, I cast off the shackles of Fox News military drums and CNN laser graphics. In the midst of the most important political week of the year, I merely wanted to find actual news that might have some bearing on someone’s life and that did not involve heated debates between Vatican representatives, porn stars and hordes of little Fred Barneses. Like all boring stories, this one ends in C-SPAN.

One seldom sees rants about C-SPAN in political journals. This is not because our nation’s intrepid critics are unwilling to discuss this incredibly controversial channel. No, it’s due to C-SPAN’s somnolescent effect. After watching C-SPAN, one cannot possibly feel concerned with the transitory, lifeless sphere of politics. With only a quick glance at a session of the House, viewers have no choice but to feel like they have undergone days of deep meditation. Or they feel like they just slept for 8 hours. Or they feel really stoned.

C-SPAN is the only channel with a demographic that encloses a huge swath of freaks, geeks and octogenarians. With its mesmerizing Warholian close shots of empty chairs and dawdling janitors, C-SPAN appeals to beatniks, opium addicts and philosophical scholars. With its marathon coverage of Senate debates on agricultural tariffs, it appeals to pols, lobbyists and the basic-cable bourgeoisie. Half the audience has a monocle in its eye; the other half has a syringe. And let’s not forget C-SPAN Washington Journal, a show that challenges the most basic axioms of modern communication. On a typical “episode,” a frenzied, incoherent voice mumbles to itself about the impact of Hoover-era gerrymandering, always ending with “God bless C-SPAN.” The nonplussed host inevitably responds, “Sir, we were talking about the Patriot Act.” It’s like watching the concept of human relationships flail on the floor like a dry fish.

As for the taped sessions of the legislative branch, C-SPAN provides an inspiring vision for all us future senators: a bunch of narcissistic morons who obscure their sheer evil with meaningless clich