Katie ("I Think Navy SEALs Rock") Couric, CBS, and the Contempt of the Ruling Class
By Paul Street at May 31, 2006
At the risk of sounding overly melodramatic about something that probably strikes most ZNet readers as a rather trivial matter, I think that the movement of Katie Couriic from co-host of NBC's morning "Today Show" to the sole anchor position on the nightly CBS News (the once distinguished old Edward R. Morrow and Walter Cronkite job) is an at least symbolically significant moment in the expression of the ruling class's contempt for the American people.
During the last year, most of which I spent as a visting professor in history at an authoritarian doctrine- management structure called Northern Illinois University, I became more familiar with "Today" and Couric than I would ever have anticipated. The place I stayed in (well, my former house) in DeKalb had no cable. I only got one station clearly on my rabbit-eared television: NBC (Rockford's WTVO-13). Every morning while looking over my recently scribbled lecture notes, I would quickly click on "Today" to find out if anything really big had happened overnight --- something I'd need to know about before speaking to students. It was awful...the "Today Show" that is.
The news, given every hour (or was it every half-hour) wasn't delivered by Couric but rather by a striking Asian-American women who looked pained and apologetic as she related some of the more horrifying events from the previous 24 hours: suicide bombs and mass casualties in Iraq; air-strikes in Afghanistan; earthquakes and floods in distant and mysterious poor nations; a multiple-car crash in fog in a southern state; a gas explosion in the Northeast; a report that the planet is melting at a faster rate than originally thought --- something that "some scientists" relate to human-generated global warming...and so on. Then with a great sigh of relief, this newswoman would hand the show back to pouty-happy Katie and her earnest balding co-host, happy-bouncy Matt Lauer.
When it wasn't showing super-happy fat-reduced weatherman Al Roker hamming it up with the sign-waving crowds outside the NBC headquarters, most of the show involved Matt and Katie doing celebrity interviews and heavily music-backgrounded segments on various issues of pressing significance to the private lives of middle-class white Americans: Is your dog too fat? Can sending your children to summer camp spice up your love life? Is Pilates right for me? Is plastic surgery right for you? Why are you gaining weight on health food? What can you do about mean girls who torment your child in high school? What can you do about mean parents who bully you at local PTA meetings and at Little League games? What about hormone therapy? Is it too late for you to get married? What about second and third marriages? Can people break their addictions to shopping? What's a good way to buy quality gifts on a tight budget? Is your baby sitter abusing your baby? What's the best way to research security cameras for monitoring your home against criminal housekeepers, gardeners, and maintenance men?
Occasionally Matt or Katie would interview a serious author about some relevant public issue, but it was usually over pretty fast so that viewers could be returned to the standard fare of all about private life. Me, me, me; you, you, you. Home, family, food, immediate relationships --- the only realy relevant and controllable spheres of human existence. I'll never forget the time last year (can't remember the exact date) when they had Seymour Hersh on for all of about two (2) minutes so that he could give a brief synopsis of the leading finding in his latest New Yorker article: that the president of the United States is a messianic nutcase who thinks that God told him to invade Iraq and who believes that his deadly, illegal, and immoral foreign policy is divinely ordained (I knew this information already but Hersh had some fascinating inside sources on this important public matter). They got Hersh out of the way and it was off to a 7-minute segment on some personal suburban lifestyle question I've long ago forgotten. Whenever Katie handled interviews with serious authors while I watched, she was just awful --- clueless and asking ridiculous and childish questions that indicated no substantive knowledge of the subject matter, of history, or of the society she so vapidly inhabits.
Sometime near the end of last semester, not long after her miraculous CBS promotion had been announced, I saw Couric attempting to grill two television journalists promoting an English-speaking segment on the Arab television network Aljazeera. They were very respectable and well spoken guests but they were being questioned by a dull-witted moron who perceived her assignment to be to say, over and over again, with a skeptical look on her face: "but gee fellas, do you really think you can give a fair and balanced take on current events in the Middle East when your network comes from the Arab World?....I mean really how do you expect to overcome bias in your reporting and commentary?" Couric found five different ways to say this, all with a pained and disbelieving look on her weepy, sleep-deprived face. How the Aljazeera guys maintained enough self-control to not point out that NBC gives a thoroughly biased, Empire-serving take on current events, including Middle Eastern ones (something that might relate to the fact that NBC is owned by General Electric, a leading "defense" contractor) is beyond me. Maybe they did say something along those lines and it got edited out.
Ms. Couric gave a wonderful example of balanced and dignified media coverage of Middle Eastern events on April 3, 2003, when she said the following to a leading U.S. agent of illegal, murderous invasion:"Well, Commander Thompson, thanks for talking with us at this very early hour out there. And I just want you to know, I think Navy SEALs rock" --- a comment that garnered her a "Military Groupie" "PU-Litzer Prize" for one of 2003's "stinkiest media performances" from the progressive media watchdog group FAIR.
In any event, this is the new news anchor at one of the traditional outposts of elite corporate-liberal media, reflecting a personnel move that strikes me as perfectly in tune with the basic theme and message that the wealthy and powerful owners and managers of America's corporate-commercial communications empire regularly broadcasts to the nation's rabble, I mean citizenry: you are a bunch of the hopeless morons who are completely UNFIT TO RULE in your own name. You must leave important public matters to the superior elite.....you know...to people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George "I'm the Decider" Bush II.