Monday, February 27, 2023

An Interview Turned to a Chat

Bryan Cranston is an actor, so he has an excuse. But what is Chris Wallace's excuse?

On Sunday night's "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?" the host asked Bryan Cranston "You got into a tussle recently with Bill Maher about critical race theory and 'wokeness'. When you look at the political discourse today and the role that media plays in it, what do you think?" Cranston replied

It's difficult to try to find truly unbiased reporting, news that really is straight shooters. You know, this conversation I had with Bill, we're talking about critical race theory and I think it's imperative that it's taught, that we look at our history much the same, I think that Germany has looked at their history, involvement in the wars, one and two, and embrace it. This is where we went wrong, this is how it went wrong. 

When I see the Make America Great Again, my comment is "do you accept that could possibly be construed as a racist remark?" And most people- a lot of people- go "how could that be racist? Make America great again?"  I said "so just ask yourself, from an African American experience, "when was it ever great in America for the African American? When was it great? So if you're making it great again, it's not including them.


Wallace should have asked Cranston whether America is great- even "exceptional"- despite its brutal treatment of African-Americans or if the oppression of a large minority of American citizens precludes it from being considered exceptional. It's a fundamental question upon which proponents (think Joe Scarborough) of the first view are invariably given a pass.

More obviously is Wallace's failure to pursue clarification of the first and third statements Cranston made. The actor claimed "it's difficult to try to find truly unbiased reporting." Well, no, it's not, given that media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal (on the news side), and a few others still exist. Whether Cranston was referring to them- a hard-right trope- or to cable news networks was left unexplored. If the actor was referring to cable news, it would have been edifying to hear whether he was thinking of Fox News, which reportedly promoted election denialism while knowing it was fictitious, or CNN and MSNBC. It's important.

Still, that was not Wallace's most serious oversight. Cranston maintained 

I think it's imperative that (CRT) be taught, that we look at our history much the same, I think, that Germany has looked at their history, involvement in the wars, one and two, and embrace it. 

Beside invading the U.S.S.R.,  the Third Reich invaded and occupied Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece. The Nazi regime persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, disabled individuals, and others- including blacks, many of whom were sterilized or put into concentration camps. 

And Jews, six million or so who were exterminated because Adolph Hitler erroneously believed they constituted a separate race and unworthy (as he believed of others) to co-exist with the Aryan super race. For those who are confused by abuse of the term "genocide:" that was genocide.

Yet, our history and that of World War II-era Germany are analogous, according to Bryan Cranston, who believes that his superior understanding of American history must be taught to all Americans. Nonetheless, Cranston can be dismissed as being merely ignorant, though as an actor, it might have been an effort to impress fans with a false impression of open-mindedness.  

Chris Wallace, however, is a well-paid, long-time journalist, and Jewish, which can be expected to make him slightly more alert to comparisons with Nazi Germany.  A veteran of ABC News, Fox News, and now CNN, he has in the past proven to be a fairly skilled interviewer with the leverage of a respected veteran. 

Yet, confronted with two highly questionable remarks as well as support for the controversial Critical Race Theory, Wallace pivoted to asking Cranston about "Breaking Bad."  If Wallace freely chose to discuss entertainment rather than the nation's racial past, it was his choice. If his bosses at CNN or Warner Bros. Discovery have set that priority, it's a case of a cable news heavyweight cheating his audience.

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