Friday, February 28, 2014

The Unquiet Englishman

G.B. Shaw said that England and America were "two nations divided by a common language." CNN proved the truth of Shaw's quip by announcing that its talk show host, Piers Morgan, will be leaving at the end of his current contract, after just three years as the successor to Larry King. 

I was surprised that he lasted this long. Unlike King, whose territory was strictly Celebrity, and who cultivated a scrupulously noncommittal, almost faceless image, Morgan is unashamedly partisan. (To be a successful interviewer, you have to be a tool.) If he interviews a celebrity who is evidently crazy, Morgan will say so. If you are a wingnut, like the representatives of the NRA, making outrageous and/or ridiculous statements with a straight face, he will skewer you with language that transcended every language barrier. 

Unfortunately, he made the mistake - disastrous for a journalist and celebrity reporter, of baring his opinions on the air (and on Twitter). I think he is vastly more entertaining because of it, but that's because I am on his side in most of the fights he picks - the side of outraged common human decency. An Englishman, Morgan simply cannot understand Americans' love for their guns, especially after the many mass shootings he's covered. Nor can he comprehend our resistance to the simple concept of universal healthcare that Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act tries, albeit imperfectly, to address. 

I suspect that many of his viewers were simply put off by his superior-sounding British accent. He stepped on some toes by presuming to instruct Americans in matters of common decency. He had the effrontery to engage in our private debates over race and sexual orientation (I hate that term - it turns people into weather cocks pointing this way or that). But the Vox Populi - the Nielson ratings - has spoken. I will miss him.

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