Perhaps no media outlet has demonstrated a greater hostility to Fox News than NPR -- firing Juan Williams for making too many prime-time appearances there. But on the NPR show Fresh Air on Thursday, TV critic John Powers (whose day job is writing for Vogue magazine) trashed Aaron Sorkin's new HBO show The Newsroom for being smugly against conservatives.
Powers said, "In fact, the show's so riddled with disapproval toward those who watch Fox News, read the tabloids or enjoy reality TV that it feeds the cliche of liberals as smug elitists who reflexively look down on anyone who doesn't agree."
Sorkin's take on TV news is equally callow. Although supposedly devoted to honest, truthful, old-fashioned news, Will quickly morphs into a version of Keith Olbermann, a prosecutorial anchor on the warpath against the Tea Party, whose members are all portrayed as dopes, dupes or ignoramuses. The Newsroom makes it clear that Will's not merely telling the truth, but that any intelligent, right-thinking person knows he's telling the truth.
....Like many of us, Sorkin is driven crazy by what's going in our stridently divided culture, yet he's not quite sure what to do about it. And so, rather like a fly caught in a bottle, he buzzes around and around, touching on lots of things, sometimes quite intelligently, but never escaping outside to get a bigger picture.
Trapped inside the bottle, he's created a show that replicates much of what it thinks it's opposing. It's partisan. It's sermonizing. And it's terrified that if it's too brainy or complex, the audience won't find it entertaining. The Newsroom may think it's grappling with the crisis in American culture, but in the end it's just another symptom.
On Friday's Morning Edition, NPR became another media outlet that uncritically allowed Sorkin to claim he had no bias to "civilize" the news on behalf of enlightened liberalism:
RENEE MONTAGNE: Will McAvoy, as he puts it himself early on, is on a mission, with - it seems like almost everyone he runs into - to civilize.
AARON SORKIN: That's what he calls it. Yeah.
MONTAGNE: Yeah. I mean, but is that what you're hoping to do, in some sense, with The Newsroom?
SORKIN: No. My sights are set no higher than entertaining you for the hour that I've asked for your attention. This isn't discrete or an op-ed piece of any kind. I'm not trying to change your mind. My goals are exactly the same as the goals of the producers of NCIS. I just want to entertain you for an hour.
And this is an ensemble show. It's a great ensemble cast who all have one foot in an older, more civilized time and one foot in today. And they are on, again, a quixotic mission to civilize, not just the news, but the world around them. And they're reaching unrealistically high, and they're going to fall down a lot.