[Above, a Vox video from April 2017 points out how damaging CNN panel discusssions are to our national discourse.]
Like Prince Prospero in Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, a devastating plague has been sweeping across CNN president Jeff Zucker's lands for many years. A plague of Republican madness and racism. Of paranoia and malignant ignorance. Depravity. Authoritarianism. And lying. Always. always lying.
And always escalating. Always getting worse.
And just as Prince Prospero coped with his plague by walling himself and his courtiers off from the rest of the world with every amusement and amenity at their fingertips--
When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his crenellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts.
They resolved to leave means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."
-- so too have Jeff Zucker and the employees of his media corporation protected themselves from the consequence of our Republican plague behind a wall of power and privilege and money. Safe and amply provisioned inside the Beltway Bubble, they know that no one is going to throw their children in cages, or take away their health insurance or tell them that they can't vote. And while their occasional jounropological expeditions into the Great American Interior to observe Trump voters in the wild might be a little scary, they are no real threat.
This, however, is where our analogy breaks down, because whatever your opinion of Prospero may be, at least he didn't actively work to propagate the plague. He didn't hire people specifically to make sure the Red Death went pneumonic. And he sure as shit didn't try to turn a profit off of the misery and ruin he himself was spreading across the land.
But that exact scenario has been Jeff Zucker's business model all along.
You see, the problem isn't that Jeff Zucker loves ratings. It's that Jeff Zucker so obviously doesn't give a damn about anything but ratings.
From The Wrap:
How Jeff Zucker Turned Donald Trump From a Reality Star to a Frontrunner (Video)
The CNN boss and The Donald have both benefited from a relationship some of Zucker’s friends find troubling
The rise of Donald Trump has stunned almost everyone in the media and political establishment — except for a TV executive who can take more credit for Trump’s media success than almost anyone:
CNN President Jeff Zucker.
Zucker has given Trump so much play on his network — sometimes airing Trump rallies end to end — that it has shocked some colleagues and media observers. For the once-lagging network, the Trump play has paid off wildly: Its ratings have skyrocketed this election cycle.
As Trump prepares for yet another appearance on CNN — on Thursday’s Republican debate — the symbiotic relationship between the two is a reminder that Trump and Zucker have done this dance before, when Zucker was running NBC and Trump’s “The Apprentice” became a hit for the once-struggling network...
And this is how Jeff Zucker has run his media empire during the Rise of Trump: by garnishing his panels with ridiculous pro-Trump cartoon characters like a tiny pile of shaved ice and bile name Kayleigh McEnany, talking patio furniture like Paris Dennard, dead-eyed, bullet-necklace-sporting killbot Katrina Pierson and Pastor "We Love The Amos & Andy Thing, But Could You Take It Up a Notch?" Mark Burns -- all hired to smirk and screech and gibber nonsense at sane people in a grotesque parody of civic debate.
Lewandowski was one of the most controversial additions to CNN in many years. He was hired just three days after being ousted from the campaign. He became a familiar face during CNN's election coverage, frequently sparring with liberal commentators like Van Jones and Christine Quinn.
Lewandowski brought unique first-hand experience running a historic presidential campaign. But some viewers -- and even some CNN staffers -- felt Lewandowski never should have been hired at all.
Lewandowski was bound by a non-disclosure agreement that impeded his ability to criticize Trump publicly. He also received severance payments from the campaign.CNN President Jeff Zucker stood by the decision to hire Lewandowski, pointing out that it was critical to have ideological diversity on the airwaves.
Jeff Zucker is the procurer who found a gaunt, ranting, wild-eyed Rick Santorum living in filth at the Bull Goose Loony Home for the Mentally Underclocking and put him on prime time teevee because racist-crazy-Fundy draws a crowd.
Jeff Zucker is the guy who would (it is rumored) break into his Happy Dance (music in this video is NOT work safe) --
-- every time Jeffrey "Seig Heil" Lord shit the bed hard enough to be seen from space.
Then, one day and with no warning, the Red Death appeared inside the walls. Right in the middle of the prince's revels:
And thus too, it happened, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, of horror, and of disgust...
And suddenly, our very own Prince Prospero started caring very deeply about the plague he thought would remain forever outside, never touching or troubling him or his courtiers:
Statement from CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker: pic.twitter.com/OXyIT6oSLT
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) October 24, 2018
The ending of this story is not yet written, but time is quickly running out for it to be a happy one.