Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jimmy Fallon Accused of a "Softball" Interview With Donald Trump

The first time that I heard about this particular issue, it was a few days ago, or maybe even as far back as last week. Essentially, it was a Facebook post (more like a rant) from a former classmate of mine who was always extremely political. Way back when, he used to be a staunch Democrat. Now, however, he converted into a Republican. Being a loyal Democrat would be bad enough, but in this day and age, being a proud Republican is, to me, inexcusable. In the last decade alone, some of the biggest names associated with the Republican party included, but was not limited to, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump, just to name a few of the most prominent ones. They have not forwarded many ideas at all to resolve the nation's pressing problems, but only make every effort to block action in Congress, making the government feel like they are doing nothing. There have been several Republicans who seem to have suggested that women being raped might not be such a bad thing, and quite a few of them argue for more wars. Ted Cruz suggested during a nationally televised Republican debate that he would find out if sand glows in the dark after intense bombing. As he is allegedly a proud Christian who wears his faith on his sleeve, I wonder if he ever asked himself what Jesus would think about that?

In any case, this guy was blasting the "libs" (his word, not mine) for basically demanding that Jimmy Fallon had an obligation to, as he put it, "be an asshole" to Trump during the interview. He basically blasted this thinking, criticizing Hillary as being in the same league (which I actually agree with, more or less). 

Of course, Fallon's interview was a "softball" one and, of course, he received quite a bit of criticism for that. In fact, Hillary came on his show and gave him a gift - a basket full of softballs. He basically laughed it off,  He said that those softballs were actually his gift to Trump, and that he would be giving her those same softballs during the interview he would do with her. Overall, as I understand it, his response is that he is an entertainer, a comedian.

Yet, if you are going to invite a guy like Trump onto your show during the height of the election season, is there not some responsibility to be a bit serious and challenge the individual? After all, other entertainers who hosted talk shows have done the same, particularly with Trump. Hillary Clinton even used one such instance as an add, the one showing David Letterman embarrassing Trump by reading off where they were all made (hint: not in America). So, why was Fallon so reluctant to be even a little bit more challenging?

Now, I agree with this point, although I understand the idea of civility, as well. That said, these two, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both aiming to be the chief public servant in the land, and so they have to be scrutinized. And every time that they make a public appearance, they should be prepared to possibly get grilled, and answer the tough questions. Trump should be called out for his countless lies and inconsistencies, and people should indeed try to knock down such a megalomaniac. As for Clinton, she needs to be grilled for the questions regarding the highly questionable Democratic primary and her request for help to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the rest of the Democratic establishment. She should also be held to account when she is demonstrably caught either lying or having acted in an irresponsible manner, which includes her Bosnia sniper fire story and the email account while she was Secretary of State. Also, she should be forced to release the transcripts of all of those speeches where she collected so much money from. That is what we the public need to be hearing about, and not softball questions.

Still, admittedly, the softball nature of Fallon's interview with Trump did not come as a surprise to me. You see, I have had to watch Fallon's show numerous times while at work (I have never watched the show of my own accord), and the feeling that I got was, indeed, one of this aversion to politics or anything even remotely divisive, that might cost ratings. Other talk show hosts like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and David Letterman let loose on their personal opinions, braving potential ratings drops as a result. Hell, Bill Maher even lost his television show "Politically Incorrect" shortly after September 11th for opinions that he mentioned there, so these can really come at a cost. Other comedians have similarly spoken out on these kinds of issues, including some of my personal favorites, Robin Williams and especially George Carlin.

Fallon, however, just is not that kind of comedian. Almost everything that he does is too safe, which is really not so much a throwback of the eighties, but a continuation of that overly sanitized and superficially unified and lighthearted approach to entertainment that, unfortunately, has contributed to the ridiculous atmosphere of American politics today. After all, what is it about politicians going on these comedy talk shows? When Fallon jokes around with Trump and, essentially, lets him off the hook with no real challenges, then he is basically legitimizing Trump as a person and, thus, as a candidate for the highest office in the land. For reasons that I admittedly could never quite fathom, Trump has traditionally been a ratings winner. When he is on such talk shows, the ratings go up. He had a popular reality television show. People just always seemed fascinated by him, although to me, he is the real-life incarnation of the fictional, slimy Gordon Gekko. 

Yet, legitimizing Trump was what Fallon did, and again, it really should be to no one's great surprise. As far as I am concerned, this is what makes Fallon's show boring, and why I do not watch it. It is what makes other shows, including Stephen Colbert's and even Seth Myers, much more interesting and funny to me, because despite also being constrained by their position (which of course relies on ratings), they do not feel as bound to stick with what is safe. Every now and then, those guys are willing to voice their opinions, or to make jokes that might actually offend people. But that never applies to Fallon, who prefers softball questions and playing silly games with his guests, rather than anything that might actually reveal more about them. Certainly, that is why I had little hopes that Fallon's interviews of either Trump or Clinton would be worth watching. He is an overly safe comedian who puts his ratings above everything else, to a fault, which means that the interviews will systematically lack substance and be boring. 

You know, I have voiced my admiration for President John F. Kennedy here on this blog in the past, although I will be slightly critical of him on one level. A large part of his charm was that he did not stick doggedly, rigidly to formality. He could be quite informal, and that was part of his whole image. That was why people seemed to love him and the whole Camelot thing. They were entertaining, they appealed to the masses of American people, who could identify with him. Of course that quick wit of his added more entertainment value. 

Ever since, politicians have increasingly looked for opportunities to show a different, less serious side, as well. The trend towards increased informality has grown, if anything. It worked for Kennedy, and perhaps we needed a little less formality back in those days. However, it seems to have gone way too far towards the other end now, where politicians and news anchors now feel that they have to be entertaining, as well. They want everyone to see a more human side to them. Certain politicians (Al Gore and Hillary Clinton particularly come to mind) seem to struggle to show that lighter side, and sometimes, this feels forced. I remember George W. Bush was seen as more likable, and someone (can't remember who) once described it as Gore being the smart kid who did everything that he was supposed to, but was standoffish and would not let you copy his homework. In the meantime, Bush would allow you to copy his homework if he could, but he had not done his homework, either.  

That, to me, is a big part of the problem. These politicians now feel required to show that entertaining side, and if anything, that seems to be more important to many Americans than more substantive things, such as intelligence, honesty, and integrity. Returning to Kennedy for a moment, was it not true that how he appeared in the debates against Nixon greatly helped him get elected in the first place? People listening on the radio, without actually seeing the candidates, actually thought that Nixon had won, but the people who watched the debates on television felt otherwise, as they saw Kennedy looking great, and Nixon sweating and looking uncomfortable. That ushered in a new age, and new trends have abounded ever since. 

But I feel this has gone too far, and that this has, in fact, allowed candidates (and sometimes elected officials) who really do not meet what should be very high standards for being elected. Witness the rise of Dan Quayle, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and now, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It is the same with news anchors, as well. They now feel the need to entertain, to throw in their jokes or wisecracks or, even worse, their opinions. I feel that this has contributed greatly towards the dumbing down of America. We need people either making the news or reporting on it who are actually going to do their homework. We need less appearances by prominent politicians on Jimmy Fallon, and we need more seriousness. Trump might be an entertainer and, apparently, according to the ratings continually spiking for his television appearances, he may even be a great one. But that does not translate to him being qualified to hold the highest office in the land, and that is why his appearance on Jimmy Fallon seems just utterly ridiculous to me. It continues the unfortunate, perhaps even tragic, trend towards a decided lack of substance on issues that really matter. This is the reason why the end of Brangelina seems to get far more press coverage than the shooting of unarmed victims by police, or the Natives peacefully protesting a pipeline, and then being attacked by dogs. It is not only a sign of the times, but a measure of the health of our country. And the health of our country just is not good.

Until we get serious about things that matter, that is not likely to change. That, more than anything else, is what stinks about Donald Trump and/or Hillary Clinton being on comedy talk shows like Jimmy Fallon to begin with. Because before long, the lines become blurred. When everyone wants to entertain, then only entertainers can discuss issues, and these issues too easily are either marginalized or, ultimately, ignored. 

Not long ago, we had two late night comedians who were considered more serious truth tellers when it came to the news then the news anchors who's job it was to inform the American public of the news. That is the product of the privatization of the news by major corporations with a vested interest in slanting the news in their favor, and they do this by emphasizing the entertainment value of the news. When everything needs to be entertaining, who has time to listen to boring details about complicated scandals? 

It works, too. After all, if Ryan Lochte can be so quickly and easily forgiven for disgracing the country simply by joining "Dancing With the Stars,", than why can't Trump be normalized on the Jimmy Fallon show? And that, to me, is why mixing politics with entertainment just does not work. Why should we then expect it to?

Here is the link to an article about hundreds of scientists warning Americans that voting for Donald Trump would be disastrous for the Earth, quite literally. Of course, far, far too many Americans ignore science to begin with, and generally seem to feel uncomfortable with facts as well. Too many Americans truly seem to believe the standard oil company line that these scientists are all in on some gigantic conspiracy, and are reaping huge financial benefits by advocating a limit to otherwise limitless plundering of the world's resources. Still, this is an important thing that we should take notice of, because we simply cannot afford yet another climate change denier (and really, a denier of science in general) back in the White House. Please take a look at this article, particularly if you are voting in November's American elections:

375 Top Scientists Warn Us Not To Vote For Trump by Chris D’Angelo,  Associate Editor for HuffPost Hawaii, 09/21/2016:

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