Very few things drive me as crazy as elitist reporters interviewing elitist reporters. Sorry you are not the news and you don’t even remotely qualify as genuine news makers.

So how do I feel about the undeniable trend toward open warfare between not only media organizations, but even some of their more recognizable personalities? Is it real? Is it just a game to sell (the few remaining) newspapers, win the November sweeps, or gain readership or viewership?

And more to the point: Is this just another sign of the loss of civility in our society?

Probably all of the above.

A vivid example was the open declaration of war by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart on CNBC about a year ago that is still a hit on YouTube. Stewart with the subtlety of a rattlesnake charged that the financial news network was in bed with the Wall Street deal makers, short sellers, at the expense of hard-working Americans taking a long-term investing approach with their 401Ks and IRAs. The confrontation came down to an explicative-filled face-to-face encounter between Stewart and “Mad Money” Jim Cramer in which Cramer was blown up by Stewart’s road-side bombs. http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-12-2009/jim-cramer-extended-interview-pt–3

Please don’t tell me that Stewart is just a comedian. Sure.  I am still mystified as to why Cramer accepted Comedy Central’s invitation to an Iraq or Vietnam-style ambush. General Custer had a better chance against Sitting Bull at Little Big Horn.

A more contemporary example is the open sparring between MSNBC on the left and Fox News on the right. The titular heads of these networks are Keith Olbermann of MSNBC (suspended for two days for violating NBC’s policy for making campaign contributions to Democrats…all of two days) and Bill O’Reilly at Fox.

Scoring at home was Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News who stated categorically: “To some extent, each outlet is a partisan noise machine with a narrow view of the landscape. The other cable news outlets are either not nakedly partisan or too small to be considered. It is total war between MSNBC and Fox.” http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20101104_Stu_Bykofsky__Olbermann_fair__O_Reilly_balanced__What_we_found.html?viewAll=y&c=y

Bykofsky offered the following conclusion about the guest lists for the two hosts and their respective shows during the week before the election:  “The O’Reilly Factor” welcomed 20 guests from the right, 11 from the left and seven who were neutral. Left and neutral voices combined almost equaled those from the right.

“Countdown with Keith Olbermann” had 20 guests from the left, two neutral and not a single voice (Bykofsky’s emphasis) from the right. Zero voices of dissent.”

Having said that, there is plenty of dissent coming O’Reilly’s way in the form of…you guessed it a columnist from a major publication, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/09/AR2010110905611.html?wpisrc=nl_pmheadline

O’Reilly took issue by a post-election night column by Milbank that complained that “Fair and Balanced” Fox featured only one liberal to comment when the returns were pouring in last Tuesday, pollster Douglas Schoen. To be fair and balanced, there were other liberal commentators on Fox that night.

“Does Sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?” O’ Reilly asked in reaction to Milbank’s column, “That was a joke.”

Milbank, who wasted little time reminding his readers that he was both an “American and a Jew” (Why not invoke the specter of the Holocaust?) responded by writing: “Hilarious! Decapitation jokes just slay me, and this one had all the more hilarity because the topic of journalist beheadings brings to mind my late friend and colleague Danny Pearl, who replaced me in the Wall Street Journal’s London bureau and later was murdered in Pakistan by people who thought Sharia justified it.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharia

Taking full advantage of his ability to offer the last word on this matter (at least for now), Milbank wrote: “Let’s drop the thuggish tactics – before more people get hurt.”

Here’s another thought: Why don’t we just chill a little and contemplate the words “decency,” “integrity” “civility” and “respect.”

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