Don Lemon’s whole career is a cautionary tale on too many levels to list. Once a promising broadcast journalist blessed with screen charisma and valuable tribal connections (as a black, gay man), he could have evolved into a major positive figure in his industry. Unfortunately for him, Lemon was indulged, and pampered, and allowed to fall back on cheap emotionalism, flawed critical thinking and demagoguery, because, essentially, his ratings were good. His performance as a CNN anchor has now deteriorated to the level of a petulant child whose parents no longer have the sense or the power to rein in his outrageous behavior.
Last night Lemon reached his professional nadir, indeed a professional nadir for all of broadcast news. The closest analogy I can think of is the fictional Howard Beale’s famous rant in Paddy Chayefsky’s masterpiece “Network,” and that was satire. One of Don Lemon’s tragedies is that he takes himself so seriously, and yet his utterances are so utterly banal and devoid of wisdom or enlightenment.
I wish I could start with Lemon’s projectile logorrhea and give it the thorough deconstruction it deserves, but I doubt many readers will be able to last until the end of his unhinged gibberish and have the energy to do anything but take a nap, or maybe an overdose of strychnine. A competent, professional news organization would suspend or fire a host who threw self-restraint to the winds and unloaded such offal on its audience, but then, this is CNN, which has abandoned journalism standards, particularly involving Lemon.
I think the other comparison I see with Lemon’s astounding outburst is the famous dying speech of gangster Dutch Schultz. It was stream of consciousness gibberish too, but Schultz had an excuse: he had been shot, and The Dutchman was none too stable anyway.
All in all, I’d rather listen to Dutch.
Lemon’s rant is signature significance for an individual of untrained cognition and inadequate education who thinks he has wisdom to convey but doesn’t. For anyone to regard it as anything else is also signature significance, for a weak and biased mind. Here are just a few of the features worth noting…Lemon’s masterpiece will be right along.
1. Wouldn’t you expect the host of a major network’s news show to have some knowledge of history? Lemon refers to the riots as “unprecedented.” Of course, they aren’t. The civil rights riots of 1967 and 1968 were equally destructive. The Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. The riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. These riots may be even less justifiable than some of those, but the forces at work are similar. One of the primary tools of fearmongers and demagogues is to scream, “It’s never been this bad before!” It is a naked appeal to ignorance, from the ignorant.
Later, Lemon contradicts himself and references the Rodney King riots, which tells us that he has no idea what he’s trying to say. What a pro!
2. Lemon: “Perhaps this is some sort of mechanism for a restructure in our country or for some sort of change in our country for us to deal with whatever we need to deal with in this country.” Rioting and looting is a mechanism? “Some sort”? “Whatever we need to deal with in this country”?
If you can’t add anything more trenchant than that, a) what are you doing on a news desk?, and b) shut the hell up.
3. Lemon: “I actually don’t know — I am at a loss for words as a person sitting here guiding you through this. I really don’t know what to say at this moment except for this is America. This is where our country — this is what it has come to right now.”
What is, you babbling fool? What? If you don’t know what to say, then get off the air and let someone with the wit God gave a tortoise and the professionalism of, oh, Jerry Springer take over. This is the equivalence of a fire fighter standing by a burning building and crying, “Oh, it’s all so terrible!” “Oh, the humanity!” would be an upgrade. “Guiding” us through this? How is this pitiful blather guidance?
4. Lemon: “This is actually quite sad to watch and it is an indication and it’s indicative of the pain and sadness in this country of people who feel they have no other alternative but to exhibit this behavior in our country. No other option. When you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to lose.” They have no other alternative but to burn down businesses and loot? Lemon is actually saying that! More facile and indefensible logic would be difficult to imagine.
5. Lemon: “We all need to come together because if we can’t live together as Americans, then what do we have? Do we even have a country anymore? This is unbelievable what is happening here. Unbelievable.”
Oh, why don’t you just start screaming and tearing at your garments, you silly, petty, impotent man?
6. Lemon: “When did this country get out of control? When did we lose control of this country? When did we cease to be a country — a group of people who wanted to at least live together in spite of the differences? Because of our differences. Isn’t that the whole reason for the thing? That we are here because we want — because we are different. That we’re supposed to try this grand experiment and let’s not forget, if anyone judging this, I’m not judging this. I’m just wondering what is going on because we were supposed to figure out this experiment a long time ago. Our country was started because — this is how — the Boston Tea Party. Rioting.”
- It’s not “out of control,” you hysteric. You are.
- You, your network and your industry have been working around the clock to divide the country since the 2016 election. How dare you ask that question?
- The Boston Tea Party was not a riot. It was a clear-cut example of civil disobedience with a specific point of protest. . About a hundred colonists destroyed about 45 tons of tea over three hours. No buildings were burned, and no establishment was looted. I am aware of no source, contemporary or recent, that refers to the protest as a “riot.” This is the level of historical perspective CNN feeds its viewers
7. Then, of course, we get the partisan fake news. Lemon actually says that no Republicans have called for calm, despite the sentiments expressed here, here, here, here, here, and here, among many others.
Well, that’s enough for me: the thing is self-indicting, a res ipsa loquitur for the ages. Journalism just doesn’t get any more useless, incompetent, self-indulgent or unprofessional than this.
DON LEMON: This is a country that is in chaos right now and no one knows what is going to happen. This is unfolding right in front of our very eyes. We are getting these pictures in live. You are seeing the pictures for the first time as I am seeing them for the first time and so I am talking you through this as I am seeing it. This is an unusual and unprecedented time for our country. As I came on air tonight with you at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, there are 40 million Americans tonight who are out of work. There are more than 100,000 Americans who have lost their lives to COVID-19. There are people who are upset about the death — millions of Americans and people around the world seeing the death of a man at the hands of a police officer on videotape and we don’t know what is happening in this country right now. Perhaps this is some sort of mechanism for a restructure in our country or for some sort of change in our country for us to deal with whatever we need to deal with in this country. As we look at pictures on the right of burning and pictures on the left of looting in Los Angeles. I actually don’t know — I am at a loss for words as a person sitting here guiding you through this. I really don’t know what to say at this moment except for this is America. This is where our country — this is what it has come to right now.
And I am wondering who is going to step into the void and call for some calm and try to pull us altogether instead of dividing us. This is a deep division that is in our country and how apropos that it is as I am watching this from east to west — or west to east on our TV screen, it spans the entire country, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., from the from the entertainment — entertainment capital of the world to the seat of political power in the world and you’re looking at all different demographics on the left hand of your screen going into that store and taking things out. I haven’t seen this since — since Rodney King, to frank with you and no one condones what’s happening in — in these — in this video, or in these live pictures that are coming into us from Los Angeles. This is actually quite sad to watch and it is an indication and it’s indicative of the pain and sadness in this country of people who feel they have no other alternative but to exhibit this behavior in our country. No other option. When you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to lose and then on the right of our — side of our screen in the seat of political power, not far from the White House, a fire raging. Firefighters on the scene and we have since this all I should say — and I want to make sure that is clear. Since all of this chaos broke out this evening, no call for calm, Americans coming together, we are all one. Not that I have heard of I sure would like to hear that. I sure would like to hear that we are all Americans and we all need to stick together. We all need to come together because if we can’t live together as Americans, then what do we have? Do we even have a country anymore? This is unbelievable what is happening here. Unbelievable.
From west to east. East to west. I have shown you pictures of just about every major city in this country, from Los Angeles to New York to Washington to Seattle to Philadelphia to Chicago, to Minneapolis, Miami. All over. When did this country get out of control? When did we lose control of this country? When did we cease to be a country — a group of people who wanted to at least live together in spite of the differences? Because of our differences. Isn’t that the whole reason for the thing? That we are here because we want — because we are different. That we’re supposed to try this grand experiment and let’s not forget, if anyone judging this, I’m not judging this. I’m just wondering what is going on because we were supposed to figure out this experiment a long time ago. Our country was started because — this is how — the Boston Tea Party. Rioting.
So, don’t — do not get it twisted and think that oh, this is some — something that has not — never happened before and this is so terrible and where are we and these savages and all of that. This is how this country was started, but we thought that we had at least figured it out and gotten beyond that, where we could live together in some sort of democracy, but this is not democracy. This is, quite frankly, anarchy and so far, silence. I’ve heard from the great John Lewis tonight. I’ve heard from some of the leaders who’ve called in. Hey, listen. I’ve heard from Senator Kamala Harris. I’ve heard from Ilhan Omar. I’ve heard from some Democratic leaders. I would love to hear from some Republican leaders. Please call in and talk me. I really do. I want to hear what you have to say about this. I really do. I want to hear what the president has to say. I really do. I want to hear from everyone, but so far, I have heard nothing. And you know who I also want to hear from? I want to hear from — this is who I want to hear from and I’m going to call people out because a lot of these young people, not all young people are out there looting and rioting. We heard from young people who were out there because they were upset about what’s happening in their country and they are taking the lead, stepping into the void, and fighting for what’s right. They’re sick and tired, but yet, the people who have made it, many of them who are of color, and white folks as well, they are — these people who — these young people have put themselves on the line. They have nothing. They’re not wealthy. They’re poor kids, a lot of them who are out there, but a lot of people I asked to come on the show to talk about this, wealthy celebrities, wealthy political people, “I can’t do it,” “I’m mad,” “I don’t want people to see me mad, it might hurt my business” or “I’m so upset that I have to go to my country house and I just can’t do it.” Where are you? Why aren’t you fighting for these young people? If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it?
If you are a millionaire or a zillionaire or a movie star or a politician and you don’t step up now, when the hell are you going to do it? Stop making excuses. What are you worried about if you have made gazillions of dollars and you are rich and you have established — why are you afraid of what someone else is going to think about you and your anger? That it’s going to hurt your business or your reputation or your — I hate this word, this drives me crazy — your brand, quote unquote. I hate that. You are your brand. Step up, people. Step up, black Hollywood. Come on. Get out there. Come on CNN or wherever. I don’t care where you go. You can go on Fox News. You can go on MSNBC. You can go on ABC, CBS. I don’t care where you go, but get out there and talk about this. Get on social media. Beyonce released a message. You can’t? You can’t step up and talk about the injustices? You can’t step up for these young people who are out there who are mad?
If you don’t do it now, when are you going to do it? Where’s the black leadership? I want to hear from everyone. I want to hear from the former President. I want to hear from the former First Lady. and I already said I want to hear from the current President. I want to hear from the current President. I want to hear a message of hope. [POUNDS TABLE] What do we do? I am a cable news anchor and I am trying to figure out what we do. I cannot be the only person, the only voice who are calling for people to come together and to — who’s calling for peace. Look at this. Are you watching, America? Are you watching? Do you see this? Can you please help me? Can you? The time is now.