Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Still Beating the Same Dead Horse

One of our least favorite talking heads is the all-too-obvious Cal Thomas. Never one to broach an original idea, Thomas recently offered his thoughts in the Tulsa World on the now-cancelled O.J. Simpson television special, the one where O.J. was going to talk about how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend, if he had done it.

Not surprisingly, Thomas, who is a paid pundit on Fox, couldn't bring himself to blame this good friends at "fair and balanced" Fox. Instead, Thomas pointed out how all the other television networks were just as bad. They all cross the line, Thomas wrote.

Nice try, Cal, but no cigar.

Why? Because Thomas contradicts himself even as he lays out his case, conceding that the recent NBC special on Tony Bennett didn't fit his preconceived pattern of still more sex and violence on television. (We can name several other exceptions (The Office comes to mind), but Thomas was probably just too distracted to mention any others.)

More significantly, Thomas blurs difference between fact and fiction, between CSI, which presents fictional bad guys and fake murders, and O.J., who is a living, breathing bad guy who committed real murders.

Contrary to Thomas, we say there's a real difference here, one that he ought to acknowledge. Fictional TV, even when it is in bad taste or over the top, is still fiction. On the CSI shows, programs Thomas criticizes for their graphic nature, the bad guys always get caught and good guys always win. That's manifestly different from O.J. Simpson, who got away with murder literally, and is now free to play a lot of golf.

We don't mind people who criticize the media. But Thomas lumps all media together—news, entertainment, reality and fiction—as if there's not a nickel's worth of difference. But there is, and a high-priced Right Thinking pundit ought to say so.

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