Following what I admit is more or less a nightly ritual, I watched first the BBC news tonight and then changed the TV channel to something called "The Nightly Business Report" on America's National Public Radio.
It's not that I am conversant with economics of any kind, but I feel it's important to know something of the day's financial concerns when so many are feeling the economic pinch. But tonight as I watched the business report, I realized what was missing from the 30 minute program: A laugh track.
Everyone involved on the program was at pains to put a positive spin on stock, bond jobless and other financial movements. There was not one word of negativity ... except, for example, to pooh-pooh such things as a "double-dip recession," i.e., moving from the recession we are currently in to an even deeper recession.
Those producing the show and, I guess, watching the show, wanted to hear that they could still make money and the rest of us should trust that things were, in fact, getting better. The program, like the government in a hundred different ways, has asked that the public trust the very banks and other institutions that put them in the soup in the first place.
I confess I was wrong about laugh tracks. There is a place for them.
When the banks got in trouble and the real estate bubble burst, public money was poured into their coffers to assure that they would not fail. Meanwhile, the public coffers -- the people whose money makes banking and Wall Street operate -- were left to fend pretty much for themselves. Take apart the smooth talk from the president on down and ... well, the only thing missing is a laugh track.
I hate laugh tracks almost as much as I hate malls, but in this case I really think a laugh track is warranted ... contrived laughter to balance out the contrived optimism and applause.
Is it any wonder that under-educated people like Glenn Beck can magnetize the disenfranchised, even with patent idiocies. Washington can't lead, Wall Street can't lead ... so we're stuck with Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or some other half-baked demagogue. However bitter and saddening it may be for what once was a great country, we deserve a little time to laugh.
However un-funny things may be.
End of rant.