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Posted at 03:55 PM ET, 06/19/2012

MSNBC’s Faux News — Wawa edition


Wawaweewa! (Stephen Flood - AP)
Wawaweewa.

As Abraham Lincoln so memorably said, “A house divided against itself can . . . stand.” As John F. Kennedy said, “Ask . . . what your country can do for you.” As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The . . . only thing we have to fear, is . . . hello, Eleanor.”

At least this is what Andrea Mitchell’s editor on MSNBC tells me.

Yesterday, I became excited that Mitt Romney shared my passion for Wawa, the convenience store. A quote played on MSNBC implied that we both felt the same sense of wonder when we beheld its touch-screen ordering system.

I stand by my devotion to the store. I would sooner visit a Wawa than the Eiffel Tower any time! I wish Romney had expressed more enthusiasm. But he didn’t. As usual, when you think Mitt Romney is excited about something that you can relate to, he is actually talking about the free market.

Here’s the full clip.

And here’s the one Mitchell aired today, by way of straightening the record. It’s a little better.

Andrea Mitchell today addressed the issue and said that before, they hadn’t had time to show the whole thing. I can understand that, but that doesn’t explain the — editing.

Punditry so often amounts to the close reading of oddly specific sound bites. So it is important at least to get the sound bites right.

And MSNBC has had this problem before. Remember when they edited the Zimmerman tapes to make him sound racist? That was serious. This is less serious, but still wrong.

MSNBC News needs to get its act together quickly on this editing thing if they’d like to keep News in the name.

Alternatively, they could just hold their nose and leap.

For too long, cable news has been constrained by fact. The restraint clearly chafes. Why not shake off the pretense altogether? It’s half entertainment, a ticket to the big leagues for people who would otherwise not be on television unless they could juggle, and then it would only be for a few seconds and they would be forced to wear strange suits.

So jump! Forget the facts. Keep the 24/7 format, the bright lights, the cheerful colors, the ominous music. Strip off the pretense. Become the channel of How We Wish Things Had Gone Today. Fox can come with you.

Bias sells. CNN has to force Anderson Cooper to dress up as a giant rabbit in order to attract viewers. And it does not always work.

“Today Mitt Romney should have said the following,” you could begin by saying. It wouldn’t take much more editing than you already have. Flip up two more channels, and you could see what the other side thought Mitt Romney should have said. In the middle would be footage of Anderson Cooper dressed in a bunny suit.

Yes, there would be an adjustment period for people like me, accustomed to turning on the news and believing that even if the commentary accompanying it came with a definite spin, the actual footage would not misrepresent what was said, and it was safe to riff on it. But perhaps those days are over anyway.

As cable news becomes more and more like entertainment, editors keep coming up against the brutal fact that if the news had happened just a little differently, it would be a better story. Tim O’Brien talks about story truth and truth-truth. But there’s also narrative-truth. It’s truth in the sense that Lindsay Lohan is sober — sometimes, but not always, and not really.

The emperor keeps you in business, clothed or not.

Cable news is too often the art of telling people that you didn’t see what you saw. How many instances on YouTube have there been of people in the back yelling, “That’s not how many people are at this rally” and “No, this diner is empty, not full, as you said, of irate protesters.”

Editing can turn something that did happen into something that did not happen. The careful or incautious application of scissors can make or break reputations.

But the people have cameras now, and it is easier to spot. That’s how someone noticed this one.

This was not, as mini-gaffes go, particularly harmful or even particularly noteworthy. You’re indignant now, commenters, but in a week we will have forgotten that this happened.

Until the footage surfaces in an attack ad, edited to a T.

But for now, forgive me for thinking it safe to joke about what I saw on cable news. “Next . . . time . . . will . . . be . . . different,” as Calvin Coolidge so wisely said.

By  |  03:55 PM ET, 06/19/2012

 
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