The transformation was so insidious that most people did not even see it taking place. For me, it all started to come together when Glenn Beck, in one of his most extraordinarily delusional states, began to actually fancy himself as the 21st century second coming of Thomas Paine. The fact that Thomas Paine was the only Founding Father who called for worldwide disarmament, nationalized health care, welfare and the redistribution of wealth–all proposals which Beck has routinely gone on record as being against–seems to have escaped the notice not only of Beck, but all his lemmings. It started with Glenn Beck, but like I said, it was so insidious that even I did not recognize at the time that all of television journalism in the 21st century has taken as its model one Lester Nessman of Cincinnati, OH.
Les Nessman was the news director for “WKRP in Cincinnati” and he was notorious for being paranoid about–among other things–the communist invasion and the wholesale destruction of his American way of life. Depending on the news you watch today, the fact that Les Nessman has become the model for 21st century journalism does not even have to travel very far from the source. Any time you hear a reporter comment upon the socialist agenda of Pres. Barack Obama without pointing out that nothing he has done in his entire administration is supported by the Socialist Party of America what you are really listening to is exactly the same kind of paranoia that drove much of Les Nessman’s news reports. You do not have to search for long on the landscape of 21st century television journalism to find an unreasonable and irrational fear socialist domination of the American way of life that is absolutely no different at all from the mindset of many American journalists of the 1950s whom Les Nessman clung to as mentors.
Les Nessman’s paranoia about all things anti-American made for much of the greatest comedy on “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Equally amusing was Nessman’s insistence upon others recognizing that the tape he had carefully placed around his office represented walls and a door as real to him as if they had actually been constructed. In other words, Nessman’s insisted that those around him view the virtual as the actual. When a character exited the area that Nessman shared with other employees at WKRP, they were expected to feign opening and closing a door which did not exist anywhere except in Nessman’s mind.
When the disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370 became CNN’s topic of choice for round the clock 24-hour coverage by every single reporter on their payroll, the fact that Les Nessman has become the role model for not just Glenn Beck’s brand of journalism, but all TV journalism in the 21st century became impossible to ignore. CNN had been desperately attempting to introduce virtual reality as a regular aspect of their news coverage. It all began on election night 2008 when the 24 hour news network tried to spice up the coverage of Barack Obama’s big night with holographic projections of their correspondents around the country into their Atlanta studios. Why it wasn’t good enough to merely show the video of the actual correspondents in their faraway places as had been the standard for more than a half a century of TV election coverage was never adequately explained. Perhaps this lack of necessity is what kept us from seeing the insidious manner in which Les Nessman managed to become the model for TV journalism.
By the time that Malaysian plane had been missing for a week, however, everything changed. CNN’s 24-hour coverage of every single bit of breaking news that was not news quickly seemed to become just another excuse to show off their fancy little advancements in virtual reality. Much of CNN’s coverage of the missing Malaysian plane utilized sophisticated holographic projections of the interior of the plane, the exterior of the plane, the Indian Ocean and every other conceivable space related to the story. What made the coverage on CNN stand out from past is that these projections seemed not to be video, but three-dimensional models that the reporters could actually walk around as if they contained the depth missing from standard two-dimensional representations.
When, in fact, they were no more real than Les Nessman’s doors. CNN insisted viewers perceive these images as they actually existed right there in the studio when in fact they did not. The virtual reality of Les Nessman’s doors that aren’t really there has managed to become the technological thrust of modern day news reporting.
Les Nessman: “Monster lizzard ravages east coast! Mayors in five New England cities have issued emergency requests for federal disaster relief as a result of a giant lizzard that descended on the east coast last night! Officials say that this lizzard, the worst since ’78, has devastated transportation, disrupted communication, and left many hundreds homeless!”
Turns out that the printer from which Les received wire service bulletins had a defective letter “b” and that it was actually a monster blizzard ravaging the east coast. The scene is funny enough as it is, but what really makes it a work of comic gold is being familiar enough with the character to know that Les could ever possibly accept as fact that a monster lizard was creating such havoc. What is far less amusing is that today’s television journalists are capable of reporting with not an ounce less bit of gullibility than Les Nessman stories ranging from the irrefutable existence of WMD in Iraq in 2003 to the possibility that a black hole was to blame for the disappearance of that Malaysian plane.