Fine, I’ll admit it.
The Black Eyed Peas are one of my guilty pleasures, particularly will.i.am, whom I find rather attractive. But that doesn’t mean I’m interested in his foreign policy “insights” simply because he’s a total fox. Rather, like other media outlets, I’m just confused.
It’s no secret that Meet the Press has been in a ratings free-fall, currently sitting in third place behind This Week and Face the Nation. One veteran producer recently jumped ship to Stephanopoulos’s show. NBC is trying to find the skeleton key that unlocks David Gregory’s heavily concealed strengths for brand research. Oh, and don’t forget when a Boston Bombing survivor walked off the set in tears when the show failed to honor her request that the bombers’ names not be mentioned.
Yet leaving all of that aside, you know things are getting desperate when you need to call in a music producer to have the following dialogue wherein his foreign policy credentials are neatly outlined in a circuitous sound bite:
Or, if you don’t want to watch a video:
GREGORY: “… All of this says something about the fact that a lot of people do not want America involved overseas.”
WILL.I.AM: “Um as a, as a world traveler, um, I have the same viewpoint. When, when you go to uh Germany, Australia, and Brazil — especially Brazil — and in India, you see these developing countries and they’re developing in one particular area: education and technology. And then when you come to America you see this, like, we grow but the citizens aren’t growing. Right? Our colleges are still the best colleges, but the people in the neighborhood that I come from aren’t trying to go to MIT. They’re not thinking of Stanford. They’re not thinking of Harvard. People from India come, come to attend these colleges. And then they get educated and they go to their country and create jobs in their developing country. So, when you travel the world you get to see, like, the country who are from how we are developing or not.”
GREGORY: “And also embroiled in these kinds of debates, as opposed to addressing those kinds of things you’re talking about.”
WILL.I.AM: “Yeah, then you look at at this industrial prison complex where half of — where actually the majority of people in prison are African-American and Latino. It’s like … it breaks my heart. Right? So, how? Why?”
And that’s where he was cut off by a fellow panelist. It’s easy to snark on celebrity political monologues, but they’re fellow citizens who happen to have large megaphones to use on their soapboxes. In spite of my crush, it was impossible for me to contain my cringe when I found out will.i.am was going to be on Gregory’s panel. Heck, he was even asked about Benghazi. Really? But hey, at least he “hooked them up” on Twitter.
What will.i.am’s meandering — frankly irrelevant — response to Gregory’s question truly shows is how far Meet the Press has fallen.
While it is easy to mock the Sunday morning shows as quaint pre-internet pre-cable-news artifacts, the Classic Politics Roundtable does hold a special cultural position that goes beyond mere nostalgia. Meet the Press is the longest-running television show ever. It was a place where those in power were directly interrogated when news lagged in 24 hour chunks. It was a place where journalists gave viewers the opportunity to peer into the methods and motivations of fellow reporters. It was a serious show with a weighty purpose. Alas, no more.
I will be the first to concede that it is admittedly naïve to imbue significance to this example of aged programming. To do so would be to operate on an assumption that these dignified qualities remain static, that former glory doesn’t fade. My own starry-eyed remembrances of the show (and of playing with Barbies while my dad watched it on the couch) are undermined by the very event that inspired them in the first place. Still, one cannot help but feel a certain sense of poignant tragedy over the passing of a once-mighty institution.
Meet the Press has been slipping. The only reason this fact was especially pronounced by will.i.am’s appearance is because it’s impossible to ignore the lunacy of bringing on a pop star to discuss embassy attacks under the pretension that his global travel grants him expertise.