May 6, 2006

TV With The Sound Off


I was thinking about my good friend Digby’s citation that “politics is TV with the sound turned off.”

With that in mind, I was wondering if CNN and Paula Zahn thought they drew blood in Zahn’s attempted harassment of CIA analyst Ray McGovern.  If you missed it, McGovern is the man who froze Rummy in the headlights this week after confronting him for lying about the existence of Iraqi WMD. (Transcript/video.)

Reading with the sound off, there were at least three things that stood out to me in this face-off.


First, I was amused by the titling.

In two separate passes, McGovern is identified by the (only appropriate) title of “Former CIA analyst,” then immediately reframed in the identity of “Rumsfeld Critic.”  Sure, it’s subtle, but it subliminally effects a shift in stature and context.  One thing it implies, for example, is that McGovern is the prosecutor when, in fact, that agenda belongs almost purely to Zahn.  (If not a perfect example, just imagine a title popping up under Paula — in the middle of a cheap swipe — labeled “McGovern Critic.”)


Given the cheap currency of “talking head” rhetoric, McGovern executed a very nice kinesthetic move.  Seemingly quite familiar with the Defense Secretary, he recounted Rummy’s behavior by mimicking him. (This frame is where McGovern says: “I get upset when Donald Rumsfeld shakes his head and says: ‘Lies. Gosh, lies.  I hate it when some say our President would tell lies’.”)  The way McGovern dips his head and does that teeth gritting, sneering thing, it reminds me of Rummy shaking off questions at a DOD briefing.

Last, but certainly not least, I was amused by the CNN heading in the still at the top of this post.  I find it completely ironic — although I doubt think the network had any clue.  In their zeal to paint McGovern as a Rumsfeld stalker, what’s funny-sad is that the “rough crowd” turns out to be Zahn and her production posse — in combination with a dignified guest who wasn’t going to stoop to it.

View Zahn-McGovern video here.


(Postscript:  Thanks to Patrick for the original attribution to Rove.  Sort of rich how this visual analyst/Administration agonist missed that connection!)

(screen shots: CNN via

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Michael Shaw
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