The Insider: Commotion Sickness

Oct 5, 2008  •  Post A Comment

It seemed so simple and sensible, if overdue and perhaps futile, given The Insider’s congenital inability to comprehend higher math or lower politicians.
She would allow herself only dollops of her regular TV fare (carbs) and would load up on televised business news about the financial crisis (protein) until she could at least follow the conversation, if not participate.
Three long days into the self-induced cram course/ restricted diet, The Insider’s brain just sputtered into Stupor City. It was out of gas. Not even enough energy for a puny backfire as the business-challenged-to-start-with brain shut down.
Among the causes:
—The velocity of events and the concomitant real-time coverage and opinionizing. There were moments of longing for the old VCR that could record and play back on slow. If ever there was a time for something to be absorbed slower than real time, this somehow seemed to be it.
—What often felt like the reluctance of TV guests to convey a sense that they were speaking to the particular facts of this particularly freaky situation, rather than from a long and rigidly held ideology (at any point on the political spectrum). On ordinary days, the more opinions the merrier, but on days such as these, The Insider finds that more opinion yields more confusion. And isn’t it time to change “breaking news” to “breaking opinion” when it is opinion and not news?
—The moments in which anchors and beat reporters and contributors lapsed into ha-ha-ha and I’ll-see-your-quip-and-raise-you-one-insider-joke poker. Put down the fist bump and the toy bear and step away from the zombie clips. We are not amused. We are confused, worried, frustrated and in no mood for standup financial funny folks. We may be witnessing a raging fire sale, but this is not a roast.
—The jargon that, like the legalese and medicalese that lend credibility to prime-time dramas about lawyers and doctors, makes it difficult to understand root issues or help the public make an informed decision about which bandwagon to hop on.
“Mark to market,” one of the frequently heard bits of shorthand, once defined, seems like a variation on saying “phooey” in polite company. “Short selling,” once defined, seems vaguely scammy at best. And “naked short selling” conjures up an image only a cartoonist could love.
—The alphabet stew. AMT, CDS … It’s like text messages in a foreign language.
—The catch phrases. “Main Street” was catchy the first umpteen kajillion times it was used to characterize the people who didn’t create the toxic situation but now are choking on it. But it long ago jumped the shark and landed in the cliché graveyard. Can we please dig the hole deep, mound the dirt high and find a less sing-songy label that’s more apt?
“Elm Street” wouldn’t work, for obvious reasons. One presidential candidate’s preference for “The Little Guy” is irksome and patronizing. But “Main Street” has got to go. It’s become a tune-out word.
In the meantime, every time anyone of any stripe says “Main Street,” The Insider is aiming her index (no stock market pun intended) finger, cocking her thumb and drawing an Elvis-like bead on the TV screen. Ptschew!
And if that doesn’t work, The Insider will turn that index finger on herself.


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