Time TV Writer Slams CNN's Erin Burnett for Assuming OWS 'Passionate Populists Are Lunatics'

In this week's edition of Time (dated October 24), TV writer James Poniewozik championed class warfare in several new TV shows, like the CBS sitcom Two Broke Girls. "[A]fter the 2008 meltdown and the TARP bailouts, after Wall Street bonuses rebounded while mortgages stayed underwater, do Americans still hear class warfare as if it's a bad thing?" He suggested viewers are up for "at least some spirited class fisticuffs."

From there, Poniewozik, like other liberals, launched into an attack on CNN's Erin Burnett for touring the Occupy Wall Street protests with a sneer instead of the usual worshipful media template. (See ABC's Dan Harris championing the yoga area and the grandmother's cookies from Idaho.) TV was of course too slow to start promoting these leftists:

Slow as prime time was to recognize the class divide, it may have been ahead of TV news, which took its time discovering Occupy Wall Street when the protests began in September. Once the cameras arrived in force, spurred partly by a YouTube video of police pepper spraying fenced in female protesters, they often came to sneer.

On CNN, Erin Burnett's whirlwind tour of OWS in lower Manhattan wen theavy on the bongo players and wacky costumes while insinuating that the less eccentric protesters were hypocrites because some of them wore Lululemon yoga pants and used computers. (The only legitimate ways to protest corporate welfare, of course, are to wear trash can liners and communicate via coconut shells connected with hempen string.)

There was also pooh poohing, cherry picking coverage of the Tea Party as it grew in 2009, though it at least had the media advantage of starting with an on-air rant by CNBC's Rick Santelli and being cultivated by Fox News hosts.  But both movements face a challenge in the mainstream press, which is more at ease with Establishment sources and tend to assume passionate populists are lunatics.

Whether the leftist protesters are against the Iraq war or for prosecuting and imprisoning Wall Street, can anyone watch protest coverage on liberal TV networks and assume they think these protesters are "lunatics"? Are Brian Williams or Dan Harris or others selling "lunatic" when they sell them as just some fascinating and humanitarian folks who are "increasingly resonating"?

Notice that the liberal media was very quick to whack the Tea Party (especially Brian Williams) by suggesting "they want government out of their Medicare," but they can't find any fraction of cluelessness or hypocrisy in Children of the Anti-Corporate Revolution in designer clothes typing out their demands on a fancy Apple laptop.

Last year, Poniewozik had his own Erin Burnett sneer for the Tea Party. "Fox News publicizing Tea Parties is like your local Fox affiliate promoting American Idol or ABC News covering The Bachelor: whatever it is as journalism, it’s just good business sense." Perhaps he would argue now that Brian Williams promoting the Occupy Wall Street folks isn't exactly business sense when they see NBC Universal as part of a crypto-fascist regime of greed. But to say Brian is practicing "journalism" while Fox is just "doing business" shows how the dinosaur-media people at Time magazine think "To be a journalist is to be a liberal."

From there, Poniewozik argued Hollywood isn't that concerned about logical consistency. "The flip side is that passion, and maybe a little lunacy, gets attention. Take Roseanne Barr, who made headlines at OWS by calling (jokingly?) for a 'maximum wage' of $100 million, enforceable on pain of the guillotine. Days later, NBC signed her to shoot a new sitcom in a trailer park."

He claimed much has changed since the 1970s, "but prime time TV is still the most populist medium we have -- the one, therefore, where a corporate network and a Rust Belt Robespierre just might find themselves class-warring on the same side."  Read that again. "Hollywood" in the same sentence as "populist." That's either laughable or cynical. Barr is not a "Rust Belt" activist. She's a Hollywood multi-multi-millionaire who in her prime could have surpassed someone's guillotine standard.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis