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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 4/14/21

Good morning!


There is a curious thing happening in the world of cable news. Ratings are down in the midst of a prolonged news cycle of addressing the pandemic, economics, and bold legislative proposals. In the midst of falling ratings, something must be done. In the words of Ben VandeBunt:

“The cure is conflict. Watch what we will see more of next — dramatic acceleration of the conflict narrative cycle. Moderates on both sides will be ignored. Conservatives will scream about a border crisis, cancel-culture and guns being taken away if automatic weapons are regulated. Liberals will find racism in many places while decrying those opposing their generosity with future generations money to accommodate today’s constituents as insensitive, evil...”

I agree. The short term remedy to higher ratings is greater conflict. We will see the culture wars heat up, the fight over election laws intensify, and the fight for tax reform characterized as class and race warfare.


But Ben and I differ on the longer-term prognosis. He is far less cynical, believing that, in the end, excessive partisanship is a loser. And he may be right, as it seems illogical that giving up on appealing to the other half of the country is a winning proposition. I believe, however, that the Republican party has decided that it will, in fact, give up on appealing to half of the country, instead concentrating on reducing the numbers of that other half, through voter suppression laws already being pursued.

And when this happens, partisanship will continue to increase.


We all know the basics of A Chorus Line, the genre-shattering musical that viewed Broadway through the workaday struggle of actors in a chorus line. This is not the story of stars, but the story of people who worked and struggled through acting school, voice and dance classes, and the constant rejection that accompanies pursuing one’s dream—even if it’s from the second row of the chorus line and without a meaningful role—just for that moment in the sun. Tor Kenward suggests some documentaries that draw from similar themes:

“I know you love music and movies, so you’ve probably given a nod to these documentaries, highly entertaining, and yes, filled with good guys you want to saddle up with for the long ride. All are about people not well known, often in the shadows, but the real heroes of so much of the music we love - Muscle Shoals (brilliant on so many levels), The Wreaking Crew, 20 feet from Stardom, and Sound City. Great stories, well told. You can watch these more than once.”


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about “deep fake” software, which allows the user to reanimate historic figures or long-gone relatives. The eventual result of this, of course, is that anyone can post any other person saying or doing whatever they choose. It will become far more difficult to determine what is real and what is not. But Mark Farrell reminds us that we have been experiencing this disingenuous use of images of others for a while:

“In regard to your last piece about reanimation... I'll go with "deeply disturbing." In fact, I can't stand the fact that they continue to use Jimmy Dean's voice-over in the Jimmy Dean food product commercials nearly eleven years after his death! I change the station or mute it. I find it to be misleading and deceptive, at the very least. Which makes me think of how much I disliked actors portraying Colonel Sanders in KFC commercials. And then, that reminds me of the ever-patriotic, pulls-at-your-heartstrings Budweiser beer commercials pretending to be an American company despite being bought by a Belgian company in 2008.”

Let’s face it. Pretty soon we will be unable to tell truth from fiction in seemingly accurate videos of political leaders and commentators. When that happens, what we have experienced to date with misinformation may well seem like child’s play.

Best, Glenn

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