Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pat Robertson Spent the Entire Show Acting Like a Distracted Child (March 12, 2014)

Just yesterday morning I wrote how Pat Robertson forgot that he himself performed the exorcism he said he had "heard about" someone else performing. Then I dismissed the possibility of Alzheimer's Disease because you'd imagine that sort of occasional mind-wipe would be obvious on live-to-tape television.*

But after yesterday's broadcast, I'm not so sure. Okay, it might not be Alzheimer's, but clearly there's something not right with Pat's brain—I mean beyond the usual things not right with his brain (like his worldview and his ideology and his extremism)—because Pat was losing focus more often than a non-union film projectionist.

Here's the rundown:
  • Did Someone Use a Satellite to Take Control of the Missing Malaysian Airliner Like a Bond Villain? Eh, Let's Talk About Something Else.
  • The Republicans Won a Special-Election That Was a Referendum on Obamacare! Oh Wait, No It Wasn't.
  • And Now for No Immediate Reason, Here's Some Chocolate
  • Yea, Christian Movies! Awww, I Miss Mel Gibson, Can't We Get Him Back?
  • People Just Don't Want to Believe Because Evolution and the Scientific Method

Did Someone Use a Satellite to Take Control of the Missing Malaysian Airliner Like a Bond Villain? Eh, Let's Talk About Something Else.

This is how Pat opened the show:

“Welcome to The 700 Club. Was there a mysterious force that took control of the airplane of Malaysian Air, and took it way off course into the Straits of Malacca? We're still looking at that, but it's a possibility: could somebody in space—a satellite or something of that nature—take control of an airplane, their controls, and direct it where it was intended to go? That's something out of science fiction, but it's possible.”
So first of all, Pat took the early reports of an ambiguous new wrinkle about Malaysian Airlines 370's possibly veering off-course and turned it into that stunt Jonathan Pryce pulled in Tomorrow Never Dies when he creates a international incident by making a British warship enter Chinese waters by manipulating their GPS. At least it's a little less ludicrous to believe than thinking The Ring was a documentary.

But that's exactly where Pat, and the whole show, left it. No follow-up, no further explanation of what he was talking about, no actual news story covering the latest developments surrounding Flight 370. He opens the show with some sinister James Bond plot, then just drops it on the ground and walks away.

(I'll bet that, for a split second, you thought that "somebody in space" comment meant he might be blaming the downed airline on aliens. Turns out that's doubly hilarious once you know that he actually does talk about aliens later on in the show.)

The Republicans Won a Special-Election That Was a Referendum on Obamacare! Oh Wait, No It Wasn't.

On Tuesday, Republican David Jolly won a special election for the Florida Congressional seat that was vacated by the death of Rep. Bill Young (R) last year. Everyone's been treating it as the first electoral referendum on Obamacare since the botched rollout, so I can't really fault Pat Robertson and CBN for doing likewise. Provided Pat sticks to the script:
“In what may be a sign of things to come, the Republicans have won a major victory in a closely watched and very expensive special election in Florida. And the key issue in that race—guess what? Obamacare.”
So far, so good. This led into a CBN News segment that weaved together the special-election story with the latest round of negative Obamacare stories that CBN loves to cherry-pick, all wrapped up in a package designed to make viewers think the Republicans won yesterday because everyone hates Obamacare!

And then Pat took a dump on that whole enterprise, including his very own intro just three minutes earlier:
“I don't think we ought to read too much into that Florida election. That particular district has a majority of people who are registered Republicans… There wasn't a great turnout… I think it's very unwise to read too much into one election. And it's not clear whether or not it was on Obamacare, because the Democrat in that particular race was not around to vote for it one way or the other.”
Oh, never mind.

(By the way, Jolly beat his Democratic challenger, Alex Sink, by fewer than 2 percentage points: 48.5% to 46.7%. (There was a third-party candidate, too.) The Florida 13th Congressional District went for Obama over Romney, but only 50.1% to 48.6%. That's just a 3.3-point swing between the two elections. In a borderline midterm election where Republican turnout is supposed to be disproportionately motivated by Obamacare's unpopularity. Not exactly great news for the GOP here.)

And Now for No Immediate Reason, Here's Some Chocolate

Later in the news block, a short segment on the potential vulnerability of the electrical grid to sabotage sent Pat on yet another monologue, except he didn't really add anything to the story other than to keep saying We're all so utterly dependent on power. (The news segment cited the Washington Free Beacon as its source, so I'm already suspicious. I looked into it a little and it seems overblown, but let's leave it alone for now.)

And when he was done, he looked down and got all excited because someone put a chocolate bar there for him!

If you want to avoid the power-grid portion, skip to 1:35 into the video.
“We've got something coming up, I just asked for this. [Turns to his co-host.] Wendy, you're going to do something [later in the show] about chocolate.”
And suddenly we're getting 90 seconds of happy talk on chocolate. Yes, on its own, this is hardly unusual: a TV morning show teasing a segment coming up later in the broadcast. But the thing is, The 700 Club's news block wasn't over yet. They still had a good five more minutes of news to come. And stopping in the middle of the news block for absolutely no reason to promote some softer-than-soft-news diet segment that's running at the end of the show? This never happens on The 700 Club. Never. Happens. If there's still more news once Pat's done with his rant, he tosses it back to the news anchor.. But oh look! I have chocolate! Let's talk about this chocolate! Mmmm!

And of course they saw cacao and said "cocoa." Of course they did.

Yea, Christian Movies! Awww, I Miss Mel Gibson, Can't We Get Him Back?

The 700 Club finally completed its long strange trip through the news with an unduly lengthy piece on the summer Christian movie Persecuted, which looks about as awful as all the other Christian movies you hear about but haven't actually seen because they're so awful. And the undue length of the piece probably has something to do with the fact that CBN News anchor and sometime 700 Club co-host Wendy Griffith apparently has a blink-and-you'll miss it cameo in the movie. This of course gets Pat and Wendy making even more happy talk now about her acting role, because Wheee! One of our own is in a movie! And then they talk about how that Son of God movie is doing. And then out of nowhere, literally free-associating on the air…
“I read an article that they say it's time to get Mel Gibson back in the good graces of Hollywood. His Passion of the Christ grossed over $600 million. It was an extraordinary effort. Mel is so creative. So, we hope that those outbursts that came about, and he's got a problem with alcohol, I guess, but he's basically a good guy… He's been shunned by Hollywood…”
Oh, if only Mel hadn't made those outbursts. Those unfortunate, unfortunate outbursts. Just because Mel said the Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world, he can't make another movie? Just because Mel yelled at his girlfriend that he hoped she got raped by a pack of n-words? Just because Mel terrorized screenwriter Joe Ezsterhas with his Holocaust-denying anti-Semitism when Hollywood was actually giving him a chance to make another movie? Ohhh. So unfortunate that these petty little things are keeping Hollywood from letting him make a movie again. So, so unfortunate. If you look past his hateful rants, he's really a good guy!

People Just Don't Want to Believe Because Evolution and the Scientific Method

We're coming up to the end now, but you just know the ride has to include a stop at the viewer-question segment, because that's the bread-and-butter of the Pat Robertson Said This! industry.

This time, a viewer writes in to ask Pat to tell his critics that The 700 Club is not in fact the scam they say it is. (In baseball, I think they call this a fat pitch.) And Pat says ask the naysayers if they know any other outfit that's given over $1.2 billion to the poor over the years, witnessed over 700 million conversions to Christ, runs a major university, a public-interest law group, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And he could have stopped there and I would have left this alone. Sure, there have been a few scammy incidents surrounding CBN's Operation Blessing charity: the sharp increase in aid to struggling Iowa farmers in 1987 while Robertson was running for president (Iowa having the first caucus elections), the "humanitarian" aid sent to the Nicaraguan contra rebels in the 1980s, the entire Mission Congo exposé (in which The Guardian has poked a few holes, possibly calling that documentary's credibility into question**). But three incidents over the 35-year history of Operation Blessing does not make the whole enterprise one giant, ongoing scam. I'm not defending "OB" (yeah, like the tampon) by any stretch of the imagination—I can criticize it on other fronts—but I'd need more to go on before I'd slap a "complete scam" label on it.

Anyway, after Pat laid out all the things CBN does with its viewers' money, co-host Wendy Griffith added, "There's always going to be people who just don't believe." And she meant, who just don't believe it's not a scam. But Pat heard "believe" and he was off to the races about faith in God:
“Well, of course. They don't want to believe. I mean, the truth is, people don't want to believe in God. And so they'll find any reason—that's the whole concept of evolution, the whole concept of the scientific method, the whole concept of anything that they can do to prove that there's no God. Including whole programs that claim that the wisdom we have came from aliens!”

Aliens! Evil villains! Chocolate! Movies! Self-contradiction! Free-association! Can someone make Pat a cup of calming tea?

*They don't air The 700 Club live, but from what I gather, they don't edit the show before it's first broadcast. I think they tape at 8 AM, and the initial broadcasts on local stations are at 9 AM—which would be just as soon as taping ends if my surmise is correct.

**I've seen Mission Congo, and even if some aspects of the central charge against Robertson are wrong or at least overblown, many more aspects of the documentary's accusation thesis still stand up regardless. I've been waiting for the movie's commercial release to write something about all this, but it's still on the festival circuit. It's exhibiting next month at the Florida Film Festival Orlando, and if that screening reignites the controversy, perhaps I'll visit the issue then.

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