CNN and Others' Magic Wall
The contradiction between the modern productive
forces and the outmoded relations of production
and their political reflection and form were on
full display election night.
The major U.S. TV networks went all out election
night to squeeze the life out of the people of the U.S. and reduce their
brains to mush. For the most part the network presenters talked to
walls and the "magic walls" answered with stifling regularity.
CNN's John King talked endlessly and passionately
to his "magic wall" saying softly to it many
times, "This is fun."
Bill Hemmer at Fox News had what he called with a
smile his "Bill board." When someone questioned
Bill if he had any idea what all those little red
and blue "Bill board" squares represented and
meant he candidly replied, "No, I'm looking at
them all on this teleprompter here."
Steve Kornacki at MSNBC had an almost identical
wall but with a more pedestrian name, "interactive
touchscreen map." Steve tried to drive up the
enthusiasm tweeting beforehand, "Heading up to the
studio and not leaving until we've got a result.
Our live coverage starts at 6 -- hope you'll come
along for the ride!"
Chuck Todd on NBC News had what was simply called
the NBC News Map. In a memorable moment, Todd
interpreted the "Map" while pointing to a square
saying, "If Biden comes up short, that's where
he's going to find the votes he should have gotten
to get this." Unfortunately, no one was around who
could interpret Todd's interpretation of what the
"Map" was saying.
The wall was a "magic board" for Anthony Salvanto
on CBS News. A commentator with Variety
noted Salvanto's "intense focus during his
segments at the magic board, focusing on the nitty
gritty of county-by-county analyses of demographic
and turnout patterns in state after state.
Salvanto usually holds a clutch of rolled up
papers in one hand as the other glides across the
magic board's many touch screens. Shortly after
9:00 pm ET, he noted the clear pattern evident
that voters who went to the polls on Tuesday
[November 3] favoured President Trump 69-30,
compared to a 53-46 tilt toward Joe Biden among
early voters in the battleground state of North
Carolina. 'That split defines this [race] as much
as any geography,' Salvanto told viewers." This
profound insight was said to arise probably from
the fact that Salvanto received a PhD in political
science from the University of California at
Tom Llamas handled the "wall" for ABC News. News
reports praised Llamas for his measured use of the
"wall." He premised each "wall" segment with the
warning that before announcing results in this
particular part of the country, "We want to make
sure we have enough of a sample."
Canadian commentator John Doyle writing in the Globe
and Mail was not impressed. In his
article, "The night of jabbering fools: U.S.
TV news fails on election night," he complained,
"You might as well be talking to the walls.... For
all their nerdy guy-stuff minutiae about voting
patterns in obscure counties, none of them can
actually explain what's happening. After 10 hours,
you wish a pox on all their houses and walls."
When the Democratic blue wave predicted by the
polls failed to materialize and in the wee hours
of the morning the race was still too close to
call Doyle wrote, "An air of desperate puzzlement
fell over all the TV coverage. Something about the
unexpectedly tight results meant that the anchors
and pundits knew they were out of their depth.
They were. As a result, watching the U.S.
presidential election results unfold on TV was
total Novocaine -- no high, just numbness."
Doyle and others should step back a minute and
think about what they witnessed. The "magic wall" and the artificial
intelligence (AI) and other modern productive forces have advanced the
world to where people and their collectives can actually take control of
their lives. We can feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, educate ourselves
and house ourselves without the intervention of overlords. We can
organize work to have time to engage in politics, education, culture,
recreation and generally to lift ourselves up as human beings and a
society and take control of our lives, economy, and politics.
The problem is not the magic wall and the
jabbering fools but the economic and political
forms that constrain us within an era long gone,
before we had AI and magic walls. The concrete
conditions of the productive forces are before our
eyes and offer the people a great future but the
outmoded relations of production must be changed
to bring them into conformity with those advanced
What is the ensemble of human relations in the
present telling us, in particular about political
power? What do the human relations say about how
we should organize and harmonize our relations
with one another, our collectives, our work and
the modern productive forces and nature?
People have to continue their fight for what
belongs to them by right. They must seize the
moment and organize themselves in a powerful
contingent of individuals and collectives to
design what the New will be. Humans have always
been able to come up with the political and social
forms necessary, commensurate with the condition
of the productive forces and what the ensemble of all relations between humans and humans and
humans and nature reveal.
This time in history, the people have the chance
to do so consciously, to make history with a plan
and foresight to bring our relations of production
into conformity with the fantastic productive
forces that we have developed, to harmonize our
human relations with one another and our
collectives and with nature.
The U.S. election coverage clearly showed that
reference points and anchors from the past are
flailing about, unable to find their bearings. It
is not a pretty sight.
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 44 - November 14, 2020
CNN and Others' Magic Wall