The Hack List

Pareene's Grumpy 'Hack List'

Alex Pareene's annual "hack list" may be the longest exercise in sustained public grumpiness by any media figure under the age of 60.

There’s a reason Ed Schultz — the most Fox-like of MSNBC’s liberal hosts — has great ratings. That’s also what makes it so funny that MSNBC is supposedly planning on replacing him with Ezra Klein, which is like Fox deciding to replace Sean Hannity with Ross Douthat. Good for respectability. Bad for ratings.

Cable news as a medium is basically a nightmare, with its oversimplification, artificial theatrical performances of ideological debate, and endless mind-deadening repetition. Fox at least goes directly for the lizard brain, offering hot newsreaders sneering outrages at you during the day and fired-up true believers in the evenings. There’s no subtlety, just lots of primal tribal red meat married to a tabloid sense of newsworthiness: shocking videos, car chases, women in bikinis doing something or other somewhere. It’s a deplorable mechanism for radicalizing old people, but it’s better entertainment than Chuck Todd interviewing Blanche Lincoln.

Good God, what will Alex be like when he gets old? His list is gripping reading, though, exactly the way Fox News itself is.