Tuesday, April 8, 2008

When Discourse Was Possible?



Alvy said...


This is truly amazing.

It's worth pointing out that it's Woody's end of the conversation that would be verboten on network television these days - as well all know, no position outside of Christian America's is allowed to be presented as reasonable. Everything Billy Graham says could be on the Today show or Oprah tomorrow morning. It probably will be.

Why? Obviously, because the goal of any television show is to attract the most viewers, and subsequently the most advertising dollars. It has been decided (I would argue erroneously) that the best way to do so is to offend the fewest people, rather than engage the most.

Isn't this also the M.O. of every current politician? Certainly McCain and Clinton, but also Saint Obama? Why else would he oppose gay marriage? The thing about the Rev. Wright situation that has caused me to shift my allegiance to Barack is that he refused to capitulate and actually took a stand that someone might disagree with. Hallelujah!

But the other important point is that Woody's tolerance - not tolerance, interest, in Graham's viewpoint is an equally endangered species in today's climate. Even Jon Stewart, who manages to treat Lynne Cheney and Tony Snow respectfully, gives them a six-minute segment during which he challenges their beliefs while his audience hoots and applauds. I always get the feeling that he's paying lip service to having a conversation rather than actually having one. Granted, it's the closest we have to the ideal of the Dick Cavett era, but I don't know if it's sufficient to call it an intellectual experience for the audience. Who else is there? Charlie Rose? Is there political and intellectual debate ANYWHERE that is not aimed at people who have already made up their minds?

This clip may look quaint, but the truth is that THESE are simpler times.

Shanghai Shecky said...

i agree. THESE are more simplistic times. this kind of discussion is impossible now because the participants would be so loaded with their own concerns with 'offending their base,' it rules out true discourse.

Biche said...

first...i partially agree. i think that public discourse in the late 60's had opened up to include topics and viewpoints that were previously verboten, and that there was both a civility and a seemingly more genuine dialog in televised discourse than we often see now.

however...today you not only see shows that, while they are often ostensibly not about "issues", will yield actual discourse of a depth and humanity that is basically unprecedented. Ever watch some of those reality shows like Tila Tequila and that Rehab show with Dr Drew and that guy from Taxi? I'm really not kidding. Amongst the titillating filler on the contemporary level of the "impure thoughts about Art Linkletter" line by Woody are frank discussions on basic and poitical issues of personal choice, responsibilty, frailty and growth in a manner that was not only not allowed in the time of Cavett because of censorship, but which were not considered worthy of precious, advertised airtime, in the same fearful and calculating manner that we rightly disparage about the current media and political menu.

In addition; let's not compare a highlight reel of the Cavett era to the lowlight reel of Sean Hannity, Chris Matthews, Oprah era. To say that public conversation and politicking now is baseless, calculated, and disingenuous, and that those were the media "good old days" when there was a camera, a couple lights and a lot of honest communication forgets that era's shining lights of rationality and probing questions, like Dinah Shore and Mike Douglas, who both spent so so SO much time keepin' 'em honest; and public figures like Richard Fucking Nixon (that interview was conducted in his first term) and his band of merry men (I'm talkin bout you, Kissinger), and Richard Fucking Daley V1.0, not to mention media guidance counselors like Ann Landers and, mmm, Billy Graham. 'Twas paradise.

I think there is exactly as much, and as little, honesty in politics now, as then. I think the fashion now is to yell, rather than talk, but politeness in dialog is not only not always appropriate, and also can mask a lot of shitty assumptions. We are now having genuine discussions about gay marriage in public view (as well as false ones); I don't want to go back to quainter, falsely more intellectual times for the sake of turning down the antagonism, because that won't increase the meaty content, in and of itself... I think polarity has a real place (I know you both do, too) and it's better to have too much of it than too little (big surprise from me, huh?). I also think that the Woody/BillyG discussion was quite polar, in a very contemporary way, while also fairly polite, and was not really an interview, per se, but actually as staged as anything on CNN between adroitly chosen talking heads...David Gergen vs James Carville, anyone? Not the same marquee value, but maybe more entertaining (though not to the Woodyheads on LakeEffect, I know)

welcome to the cult of Saint O, davit!

Biche said...


oh yeah; Gergen vs Carville not only more entertaining, but also probably more substantive and incisive. That Woody v BillyG joint weren't very deep, even for its time. I mean, pre-marital sex vs the Bible, around '68? Not so probing or radical, and that ain't revisionism. Billy asking Woody (in part II) to help him quit drinking coffee, and Woody offering to lead him? Both are offering affable attempts to display wit, avoid causing a real ruckus, and expand their own audiences while staying within their own boundaries, the same kind of false, staged, calculated, contentless masquerading entertainment we now call bullshit.

Sorry. Can't buy it.

Simo said...

I agree 100%, Biche, Well put!

Alvy said...

I disagree 8000% so there.

The question is not about the level of discourse in the mainstream - which I concede was equally vacuous then - but the sophistication of discourse on the edges. Sure, Dick Cavett probably spent 200 hours stroking Danny Thomas' cock, but he also devoted multiple hours to extended and thoughtful discussions with John Lennon and Malcolm X. Can you picture Jay Leno? "So, Malcolm....you got a girlfriend?" Certainly issues of gender and sexuality are discussed with more frankness than at any previous time. But race and religion are only discussed in the broadest possible terms, with political correctness as everyone's compass. Ask Sarah Silverman.

So, in closing, FUCK YOU.

Biche said...

You're imagining a conversation involving Jay Leno as evidence of the low quality of discourse at the margins? Then what's mainstream? Dick Cavett was not the Jay Leno of his day; more somebody outwardly mild, sorta hip sometimes, and intellectualish, who could go from Danny Thomas to Malcolm X. Let's call him the proto-Ellen DeGeneres.

Also, Sarah Silverman is the George Carlin of today, who pointed out peoples assumptions and biases and taboos of language and topic at least as pointedly for his time, and though she is possibly still near the edge of what is allowable by the media and polite, Christian and secular society, she is also not marginalized. She has her own series and appears on every awards event larger than the Parker Talent Show (though I hear she is in talks for that, too).

Speaking of self-exploitation...

the developher said...

Biche you're sounding so cynical! I think what's cool about this clip is that the Pedophile appears to have a genuine sense of curiosity about BG. Today's media, like the populous, is so jaded it can only point fingers and lampoon everything that moves -celebrities, politicians, fat people in trailer parks. If there was more curiosity, like the Pedophile exhibits in this interview, maybe we'd end up with a more interesting level of discourse now and then.