As a sometime talking head on CNN, I’m arguing against interest here – but Friday was a day that fully drove home the uselessness of cable news.
All day long, cable breathlessly reported the Tiger Woods story, while managing totally to ignore what had actually occurred. It asked viewers to believe that a non-drunk Tiger Woods had taken his car for a 2 AM drive on the winding streets of a gated community – that he had crashed into a fire hydrant with enough impact not only to injure himself, but to entrap himself in the car – and that his wife, a woman who weighs less than 120 pounds, had used a golf club to smash open the car windshield and drag him to safety. Obviously untrue in every detail, right?
And yet this absurd cover story was repeated over and over again for hours. People who wanted to know what was really going on crashed the servers of the celebrity website TMZ, which had the real story.
But at least that story was unimportant.
Much worse was the coverage of the Dubai default.
Dubai, a hedge fund masquerading as an emirate, owes its creditors $80 billion. Even in these trillion-dollar days, that’s a lot of money. Now it cannot pay.
All day long, the cable networks trotted out “experts” to insist that this default was no big deal, a purely local matter. Not one of them seemed to consider: Hey what happens when Dubai’s creditors begin dumping properties all at the same time, in the midst of the worst commercial real estate slump in a generation or maybe two? What does it mean that the emirate’s landholdings inside Dubai – which helped to secure its huge borrowings – have tumbled to worthlessness? What if Dubai drags its main creditor, HSBC, down to ruin with it?
No, it was all pooh-poohing happy talk.
Only today, with the Thanksgiving holiday behind us, are the major media reporting the anxieties that have gripped market players for the past 72 hours and more.
So much for the 24-hour news cycle.