My Christmas Manifesto

“…deep down in every man, woman, and child, is the fundamental idea of God. It may be obscured by calamity, by pomp, by worship of other things, but in some form or other it is there.” Bill W.

AA’s founder wrote the above for the Chapter To The Agnostics of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s one of the most controversial assumptions in the book, and it’s led to criticisms that the program of AA is a religious cult and unscientific. Therefore, the thinking goes, AA doesn’t work and should be avoided by those seeking sobriety.

I always laugh at such thinking, because AA is a program for people who want it, not those who may need it. The 12-Steps are supposed to be brutal to the ego, the part of the human experience that often resists any authority outside themselves.

Frankly, I believe the statement, because my view of God/Life demands it. In for a penny, in for a pound. And so, we’ve come to the time in my life where I feel a need to state with specificity exactly what I believe, as opposed to essays about what I don’t.

I have a fear, however, that others will read this and immediately revolt. They’ll point to the long list of historical theologies and say, “Of course, He’s just one of those, wink-wink, and we know how they ended with their heresy. Same thing here!” You’re not allowed to pigeonhole what you don’t understand just to make it understandable to you. That’s missing the whole point. The compartmentalization of religion destroys the freedom that comes with faith, so I don’t really care all that much.

So here we go: my operating creed circa 2021 A.D.

  1. I believe in God, the One God, the Creator, the home and resting place of my soul.
  2. I believe in God, the perpetual and eternal force known as Life.
  3. I believe that God is Life. Therefore, the eternal home and resting place of my soul.
  4. Therefore, God is not an exterior force that I must seek out, rather one that is within and always with me.
  5. I believe that all things were created by and for Life, including the Earth, its Atmosphere, and beyond, and every living thing, including the species known as human.
  6. I believe that humans are infinite spiritual beings on a human journey, not the other way around.
  7. I believe there is no way any human can make themselves more spiritual than they already are, for the quest is to become more human.
  8. I believe that God speaks to humankind via the arts, and that Life’s prophets have always been found among the sensitive and creative humans, the meek.
  9. I believe that such Life is universal, for time and space are only temporal ideas in the mind of Life.
  10. Therefore, there is no “afterlife” per se, only a continuation of our current state. Many people live in hell today with no hope of ever changing.
  11. I believe the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit/Life, as are all writings of those who worship the One God. Life is always trying to communicate with us, and we alone can and do block the Source.
  12. I believe in the Disappointing Fall and subsequent Redemption of Human Kind.
  13. I believe that the sacrifice of Jesus is best understood through his final words, “It is finished.”
  14. I believe that the redemption of human kind occurred at once, providing the human race with the ability to live at peace in the here and now first, and under the sun second.
  15. I believe that Jesus was the final High Priest of God, because humanity is now able to connect with Life absent an advocate or sacred “Holy” priest-like people. We’re on our own and need to each figure it out on our own.
  16. I believe that religion has bastardized the truth in the name of selfishness, because the truth benefits no institution or no “special” group of people.
  17. I believe that Life is conscious and is the best teacher of well-being for the human race.
  18. I believe that Life is everything and that humans are no better than any of the other animals under the sun, except that we are in charge. We have animal needs to be met, and we should not avoid them for appearances’ sake, and this is a direct response to the restraint demanded by a controlling church. There is simply nothing “wrong” or “bad” with being human,
  19. I believe that Life is always evolving as humanity progresses, because Life is not separate from the evolution of Its creation.
  20. I believe that Life and humanity are co-authors of history, but that Life must deal with the consequences.
  21. I believe that life under the sun is deceptive and dominated by the animal that is humankind, but that, like amphibians, humans are capable of living in two worlds simultaneously, the world under the sun and the world beyond.
  22. I believe that the only time these worlds meet is now and the only place is here.
  23. I believe that humans can accomplish anything united as one force under God.
  24. I believe that destroying the earth will not destroy Life, only the humans who dwell on the planet.
  25. I believe that without the releases in 7 and 49-year intervals, Capitalism is evil at core, because it promotes a self-centered view of Life’s blessings.
  26. I believe there is none righteous under the sun, no not one.
  27. I believe that support of the arts is the obligation of every human under the sun, for in this way, we are encouraging our own contact with the Source.

And so, this Christmas time during the pandemic, let’s each spend just a little time thinking about what it is that each of us believes. Take my advice and don’t commit yourself to beliefs based entirely on what others tell you. Everybody is shilling for something, and that includes people of religion. What do YOU believe?

Finally, I believe God is judging the church today for being way off point in their thinking and actions. This business with Trump has shined a bright light on the Gospel of Self. It has literally destroyed the witness provided by the Jesus they claim to follow. They have played the harlot with power, and now they face the judgment of Life itself. I’d not be surprised at anything.

You can believe whatever you wish, but you cannot believe your way into Heaven after living your life contrary to the love of God, yourself, and your neighbor.

It just doesn’t work that way.

I Told You So

Terry at NAB
Trying to teach what broadcasters didn’t know

Dear Mass Media News Industry,

I told you so. I outlined exactly what was happening to you over 15 years ago, devised a way for you to overcome it, and was publicly mocked for being a naysayer and an outlier who dared to challenge your business model. You cannot imagine the profound sadness I feel on a day like today.

My New York Times Tuesday morning newsletter spelled it out. Here’s David Leonhardt’s lament over the loss of local media:

A cornerstone of democracy, collapsing
In the internet’s early days, it seemed to have the potential to crush traditional print media. But its impact has turned out to be more nuanced.

The internet has instead been a boon for some publications with a national audience. The New York Times has never had as many subscribers or readers — or employed as many journalists — as it does today. The Atlantic, The Washington Post and some others are also thriving.

It’s at the local level that the digital revolution has been as destructive as feared.

Hundreds of local news organizations have folded, as their advertising revenue disappears, and the pandemic is exacerbating the crisis. At least 60 local newsrooms have closed since March, according to Poynter. Some of them were more than a century old, like The Eureka Sentinel, in Nevada; The Mineral Wells Index, in Texas; and The Morehead News, in Kentucky.

This isn’t a story of creative destruction, in which nimble new entrants replace older companies. Often, nothing replaces a shuttered newsroom, leaving communities without any independent information about local government, schools and businesses. (A recent Times investigation found that some partisan groups have begun posing as local publishers, trying to pass off political propaganda as news.)

There are consequences for society. When a community’s newspaper closes, voter turnout and cross-party voting tend to decline, while political corruption and government waste rise, academic research has found. A democracy struggles to function when its citizens can’t stay informed.

What can be done? Eventually, savvy entrepreneurs may figure out how to make local news profitable. But several have tried in recent years, without success. For the foreseeable future, the only reliable answer seems to involve philanthropy. Americans have long accepted that the arts, higher education and organized religion all depend on charitable giving. Local journalism is now in the same category.

“We need philanthropists across the country to embrace robust local journalism,” Sarabeth Berman, the chief executive of the American Journalism Project, which funds local news sites, told me. “If you care about education, you need to worry if school boards and charter boards are covered. And if you care about the environment, you should make sure reporters like Ken Ward Jr. are covering coal country in West Virginia.”

There are many other shining examples of the new nonprofit journalism. But even more communities receive little to no high-quality coverage.

I decided to write about this topic this morning, because today is Giving Tuesday, when people take a break from online shopping to focus on charitable giving. If you are worried about the state of local news, you can donate through NewsMatch, which matches donations to local publications, or to your local public-radio affiliate.

So, it’s come down to begging for handouts from a stiff-necked industry that thinks so highly of itself that it dares to make the remarkable claim of being a “cornerstone of democracy.” Upon this foundation, the industry has the temerity to hallow its business to one that serves democracy. This, my friends, is absurd, and let me tell you why. It’s always, always about money, for local media isn’t locally-owned; it’s run by big corporations and their attorneys.

There is no such thing as the news “business” anymore. There used to be, because people will pay for knowledge of what’s going on around them and the world. However, this revenue model is called “subscriptions,” and it can cover expenses for individuals and start-ups, but traditional newsrooms require more, a whole lot more. Subscriptions alone won’t cover the costs.

Ever since Walter Lippmann’s “professional” journalism of the early 20th Century, the industry moved to an advertising model, for the only real reason to pursue objectivity was to create a sterile environment within which to sell advertising. In less than a hundred years, advertising became the main value proposition of news organizations and their largest budget line, by far.

It isn’t a stretch, therefore, to make the statement that the real business of news organizations is advertising, not news. While these media giants looked at technology as providing new means of distribution, the advertising industry was undergoing a major restructuring that went completely unnoticed by these corporate executives, at least until I came along and told them about it.

In his remarkable book about disruptive innovations (The Innovator’s Dilemma), Clay Christensen wrote of how the railroad industry blew it when the airline industry came along, because they saw themselves in the railroad business, not the transportation business. Had they rightly seen the disruption, they could have and should have owned and operated the airlines.

In the same way, media companies could have and should have owned and operated a form of local Google, because advertising online is VERY different, vastly more effective, and much cheaper than via mass marketing. The only way for a corporate media company to address the disruption was to join it. As Steve Jobs once famously said, “If anybody is going to cannibalize us, I want it to be us. I don’t want it to be a competitor.” Would that media companies could’ve been so visionary.

The essence of what I taught them was that the web not only serves the ad to eyeballs, but the browser being used by those eyeballs talks back to the server. In this way, the web was building a data advertising juggernaut that would blow apart all those money-making wonders of mass marketing. I said they needed to build a local version of Google (ad network, ad exchange, etc.), that it would take them less than a year and a $500,000 software purchase to build it. I told them the revenue gains they’d see would more than offset losses from their mass media business model.

Their response? Show me who’s doing that. Media companies could copy but not innovate. My heart bleeds for them today.

Nobody would go near it, even though they were amazed at what I was saying. Remember, these are investor-owned corporations whose purpose is to make money for shareholders, not spend it on something that “might” happen. I was even summoned to a hastily-called gathering of doom-destined newspaper executives from around the country to explain all of this. Despite the reality that they could’ve pooled their resources, not a single company pursued what they’d been given.

Finally, I was interviewing a sales guy from Alexa several years ago about partnership with clients. He told me, “We don’t need to partner with anybody, Terry, because we already have access to 100% of the browsers in any market anyway.” Think about that. This is where advertising went, taking with it all those dollars that media companies used to rely on to support their journalism. That is all gone now. It’s just gone, and to continue to play the mass marketing game is to pick at the bones of the dead carcass once known as local news.

Local media doesn’t mean local ownership, and this is the rabbit hole that continues to consume large swaths of democracy along with it.

And, for all the damage we potentially face for it, I say “good riddance!” We’ll handle this without you.

Oh, and, I told you so.

The Saints Who Vote For the Likes of Donald Trump

There’ve been many reasons cited over the last few years as to why a certain large, right-wing political sect of the Christian religion voted for an undeniable reprobate in 2016. Permit me to deconstruct what I feel is the most causal of all the issues they claim to face, one that forces their hand to vote Republican as faithful Christians.

Most observers look at the Christian political right today, self included, and conclude that the only logical reason for their vote is that they’re being deceived and manipulated. Why else, the thinking goes, would people who worship Jesus Christ align themselves with those who reject the poor, the outcast, the sojourner, or the immigrant. Surely, according to Scripture, these suffering people are close to the Lord’s heart, so it’s hard to understand why any Christians would reject such people.

Why would, how could they turn their backs on the poor the way they have with Trump? It’s not that they’re anti-poor as much as they are anti-government involvement in poverty. They didn’t require a hand-out, they believe, because they were following the Biblical mandate to care for themselves and their own. In their view, the community and the church are responsible for the job of helping the poor, not the government, and that there’s a proper response and an improper response.

The white working poor especially feel themselves better than those who don’t or, as they see it, won’t work to better themselves. To feel otherwise would completely invalidate their own experiences, and that is intolerable to those who’ve bet their lives — and the lives of their families — on the opposite.

In the same way, their beliefs about the importance of family in such matters as taking care of our own are likewise validated by such an extreme position, and to support the opposite would be spiritual suicide. Add this to the statistical reality that black people are disproportionately represented among the poor, and racism is all that’s left. The fear that poverty will rub off on them unless they internally fight against it is a powerful motivator for this Christian sect.

So, their Bible looks past all the admonitions to care for the poor in the name of protecting themselves from what they view as a threat of the devil in their daily comings and goings. And, remarkably, they dismiss social programs designed to do the job as being “anti-family,” because social programs weaken the family unit by taking away their need to strive against lazy self-interest like they themselves once did. They want the pride they feel in this accomplishment to be made available to the poor who wish to work. Poverty, in this sense, is acceptable if a man is trying to take care of his own. These, the church will support.

And so, they’ve taken up war against their own potential poverty by taking the position that God is their provider, not a political system, and that the church is their most significant ally in the conflict. It’s quite ironic therefore that, in railing against such governmental poverty efforts, they find themselves also in the unseemly position of piling on efforts to “make” the poor do some sort of work.

Meanwhile, the extreme wealthy look on and smile.

Unfortunately for them — and fortunately for us — God judges His people on how well they treat these other ones. They can rail against this or that, but God judges those who are supposed to know Him, not those who don’t, so when we look around and find chaos, we must conclude that we’re doing something wrong. The responsibility falls on us. We don’t think so, because God helps those who help themselves, right?

This is the road to perdition, not the path to Heaven, whether that’s in this life or beyond.

It’s on display fully in the response of White Evangelical leaders to the election of Joe Biden, a man they’re convinced will use Federal programs to support the poor, because in that way, the poor will always vote for left-wing (read: socialist) candidates. This is the view of those “pro-family” Christians who will do anything to push their tax money away from such use. After all, they cannot allow themselves to be party to such anti-family, anti-Republican affairs.

Witness the reaction of Megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. He’s been one of Trump’s most ardent Christian supporters, a regular visitor to the White House, and a key member of Trump’s evangelical advisory group. In an opinion piece for Fox News last week, he called Joe Biden’s win a “bitter pill to swallow” but went on to tell his followers to “pray fervently’ for the President-Elect.”

But here’s his most important remark: “President Trump’s strong policies on life and religious liberty would have seemed, from our vantage point, to be a better path for our country’s future.”

That’s right. Jeffress said this with a straight face, completely ignoring the truth of the past four years in his dreams for a more Christian nation downstream. He can wait, as other leaders of the Christian Nationalism movement appear ready to do, too. They have all the necessary tax-deductible machinery in place; it’s just a matter of finding another candidate for 2024, even if that candidate is Donald Trump again.

Here “religious liberty” means “religious license” to discriminate based on this fear that the life of the flesh is corrupt and best kept at a distance from God’s people. Almost everything we consider “progressive” is judged to be the opposite, which means anti-faith, and this is then elevated to a level of importance just below God in their lives.

What good is knowing God, the reasoning goes, if there’s not a reward for so doing? To these Christians, that reward equals blessings in this life and beyond. They believe theirs is a righteous calling, and they’re taught that holding on to such beliefs is cause for ridicule, misunderstanding, and persecution from the world.

And so, they feel they are fighting against the devil himself, one who is trying to lure them away from the safe harbor they’ve found with their faith, each other, and the church overall.

To me, this is how the extreme wealthy are able to manipulate their mass into a voting block that actually works against their own real interests in favor of a pathological fantasy that they dare not let go of, one that represents their passionate belief that tax monies collected should not be spent on social problems, only those that support their idea of faith and family. Sometimes, it’s actually against their best interests, but they vote so anyway, because it’s their sacred duty to present their view of reality as THE cultural solution we all seek.

We cannot justify it, but we can understand it. And, we need to understand it, so that we can talk to them from the right perspective.

We’ve got four years to figure it out.

The 2020 Election: Reality Meets the Shared Pathological Fantasies of the Right

Removing God From Hallin’s Sphere of Deviance

Illustration of  a theory of media objectivity posited by journalism historian Daniel C. Hallin in his book The Uncensored War. (Wikipedia)

A new piece of the puzzle I’ve been writing about since before the 2016 election came to me last night as I watched CNN’s Dana Bash and Abby Phillip try to explain the pathetic speech of Donald Trump on Thursday. Ms. Bash and other news commentators failed to make an effective argument — other than to state that he was lying — because they don’t believe anybody could sincerely believe the way Trump does.

And that’s a coverage problem, because the entire MAGA camp is living their own pathological fantasies. They sincerely believe that they are God’s messengers, that Trump is a key player in their end times theology, and that THEIR heretical gospel (The Gospel of Self, The Prosperity Gospel) is the “real” reality. The press tends to see only Elmer Gantry when it views the Christian Right, and there’s certainly elements of that in play. However, that perspective can only present followers as deceived idiots — can you say “deplorables?” I know these people, some of them extremely well, and I can honestly report that this observation completely misses the mark.

This is why my book wasn’t always reviewed favorably, because I stated my view that Pat Robertson was sincere in his beliefs. When he told us in 1985 that God had called him to run for President and that he would win, we had no reason to doubt him. We were all living within this shared pathological faith fantasy that we had been chosen by God for the task of restoring the country to its rightful place under God. A competent argument to the contrary was never presented, because the press simply has been ignorant and therefore unable to accurately describe the events of the past five years.

This is a shared pathological fantasy, and any observation to the contrary simply doesn’t reflect the reality of what’s occurring around us. Arguments presented from outside this fantasy will be automatically blocked by the people from within, and therein lies both the absence of trust to influence them and the big divide that we now see in the U.S. It’s not nearly as much about politics as it is about faith, and I guarantee you the American press doesn’t speak of such matters, because they “belong” in what Daniel C. Hallin called the “sphere of deviance” in his book about the Vietnam War and what influences the press. I promise these people do not believe they are deviant thinkers, and ANY attempt to put them there is automatically rejected.

What difference does that coverage make? To not acknowledge the pathological nature of this shared fantasy, the press has consistently instead tried to make sense of it, and there is no making sense of it outside the fantasy. We’re talking about people’s faith, and that requires a level of understanding not found in the contemporary press. Fox News doesn’t really acknowledge it either, but their conservative political point-of-view doesn’t have to; all that’s necessary is for them to visibly parrot their fallacies. Fox News is much more the Elmer Gantry role than those Christians who are very happy to have some media outlet reflect their own words and deeds. Another point it highlights is that their back room strategies and tactics flow from this pathological fantasy. Blend that with the wants and needs of the wealthy white hierarchy in the country, and you have The Council for National Policy (CNP), a real world governor within the shared fantasy. In this context, the CNP’s efforts can clearly be viewed as a serious attempt to overthrow the government of the United States in 2020.

The question is where do we go from here? The serious Democratic Party weakness revealed by this election is the failure of local and statewide candidates — despite massive investments in advertising — to transform a Biden victory into local victories. Pollsters will be agonizing over this for years, but as a former executive in local news, the answer is pretty simple. It’s a fool’s errand for local media units to disrespect the people making up its audience, and the more hyperlocal this becomes, the greater the difficulty in challenging those local beliefs. After all, local advertisers wouldn’t stand for it, because it would be THEIR customers being snubbed. The symbiotic relationship between local news organizations — especially today — and their advertisers cannot be overlooked, and it’s going to take a serious reformation in the way Democrats speak to this group.

Their messaging is all wrong. Local candidates especially need to feel competent in arguing within the shared fantasy, not outside of it. There IS a way to speak to this group, but it’s going to take a ton of education if the Democratic Party truly wants to reach everybody.

As I’ve said a hundred times, the shared fantasy will throw Trump (and his pathological fantasy) under the bus as being a man with deep personal flaws, because he doesn’t really accept their God. This will allow them to explain what happened in their terms and thereby still judge Trump the President as a God-appointed leader. It was his weaknesses that kept him from reelection, the thinking will go, and that God knew it was time to let him go. In this way, the CNP and its base, the Christian Right, will continue to plague elections until the IRS steps in and punishes them severely for violating tax exemption laws, even removing tax exemptions entirely from some of the CNP’s most important base.

Press attempts to explain all this as a cult does a disservice to the truth, for Donald Trump simply doesn’t have the intelligence to actually run such a group. That his pathological fantasy blended so well with the Christian Right’s ought to be the foundation of subsequent studies of what happened in America in the first quarter of the 21st Century.

We’ve no choice but to talk truthfully about God and religion in the years ahead.

After Tuesday

So, here we are on the eve of what’s been billed as the most important Presidential election of our lifetimes. Anybody who claims to “know” how tomorrow is going to end is a fool, but I must say that it sure feels like a walloping is at hand. Of course, your view likely is based on your sources of information, but an electorate that feels it made a mistake four years ago, is not about to perpetuate that error.

I not only believe that Joe Biden will win in a landslide, but also the Senate will be flipped, for to run locally as a Trump sycophant makes for really crappy and creepy local advertising, as witnessed here in Alabama with Tommy Tuberville’s attempts to paint Doug Jones as a liberal, anti-gun, pro-abortion monster. It just doesn’t work anymore, because the electorate has become hip to such manipulation and wants to see and hear about new and creative thinking in the midst of a pandemic that doesn’t care about our artificial government made up of big corporate interests and nothing else. Hardcore liberalism isn’t going to do the trick either, so what comes next is going to be very interesting for an old observer like me.

Democrats must think carefully about their next moves, because the machine that created “President” Trump in the first place (The Council for National Policy-CNP) will simply reload with a more mainstream-approved candidate next time. Unless, that is, we do something about it.

Therefore, I’m going to take advantage of this “day before” status to do a little forward thinking. Assuming a Biden victory, here are things I see ahead.

  • There will be a significant sigh of relief, which will likely result in a season of inertia at a time when significant action will be required. America is worn and weary, and we just want to rest. We must guard against this, because the real work of redefining America is going to take a Herculean effort.
  • The struggle to reclaim the brand “Christianity” will be ongoing, because Trump’s right-wing church leaders will blame Trump the person for losing. They will continue to press their causes, which are mostly found in the bedrooms of the country.
  • Biden and the Democrats must resist trying to resolve all of the problems created by the previous right wing government and work instead on efforts to prevent it from ever happening again. This America will support.
  • Biden’s first year will his most fertile in terms of getting anything serious done, and the danger will be in attempts to force putting everything back together in order to satisfy his coalition.
  • American business will be painted as the victim of an anti-capitalist plot by the left.
  • Regardless of any perceived mandate from the election, the right will deploy whatever weapons they have to create a stand still government until they can groom their candidate for 2024. It won’t be Mike Pence.
  • The wealthy will throw everything they have at maintaining their grip on the culture, including damage to our economy that they will blame on the socialist left.
  • The media will still be unable to stay away from Trump.
  • The National Debt MUST be attributed to the right and Trump’s corporate welfare. Somebody has to pay for all that greed, and that will likely be us. After all, that debt is ours.
  • The most important agenda item for Biden would be reformation of the tax exemption laws that will prevent the kind of right wing mischief of the CNP and the religious right. Politics should not be a tax exempt enterprise.
  • We will need to produce an effort that keeps Trump’s damage front and center. I promise the right is working on media strategies that will frame a narrative that Trump was the problem, not the ideology of the right. We must reframe that to marry Trump and the GOP, that without each other, they couldn’t have done the damage that they did.
  • I maintain my belief that the scent of victory supplied by the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is enough to pause the pro-life movement’s energy.
  • The silk stockings need to be seen as a curse on freedom, not the blessing thereof. In 1646, John Milton wrote his Sonnet 12 as a part of his writings on divorce. It very well frames the big issue with the haves, and I’d like to see us find a way to use it. The most famous line from this poem is “License they mean when they cry liberty” — referring to the absolutism of the church and those elites who benefit from it. They want a form of licentiousness (freedom from all restrictions) instead of democratic freedom, which includes responsibility. Straightening out this difference contemporarily must be given our attention.
  • We should also not be afraid to acknowledge America’s anger with corporations.
  • News organizations must continue to investigate everything that’s happened over the last four years, for, as NYU professor Mark Crispin Miller wrote in the introduction of the new edition of Edward Bernays book Propaganda, “…the investigative journalist is the propagandist’s natural enemy, as the former serves the public interest, while the latter tends to work against it.”

This is a very incomplete list, but I hope you can see where I think the focus should be — on preventing another Trump from ever getting near the White House.

Winning tomorrow is just the beginning.

DWTS: A Producer’s Review

ABC’s Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) underwent a major remake this year, and it doesn’t seem to be very well-received so far by loyal followers of the show. The biggest, most visible change was at hosting, where producers substituted Tyra Banks for Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews. However, there have been many other changes, too, and that’s what I want to talk about today.

Last night’s massive blunder was more about those other changes than the inability of Tyra Banks to handle the situation, and I think fans are being too hard on her. Granted, it didn’t help that she was made to look like a total fool during the mishap, but trust me — as a former TV producer and news consultant — when I say she was set up to fail.

One disclaimer first: I’m going to make assumptions here, and all I can say in my defense is that they’re at least based on general practices in the TV industry. I could, however, be totally wrong.

There’s an old adage about the industry that when audience erosion begins, very often the talent is blamed, especially when research shows that the existing talent can no longer recruit new viewers. Even if the talent is beloved, there’s a point at which that belovedness becomes the show’s greatest weakness in terms of audience growth. And what self-respecting producer doesn’t want/need audience growth. The industry axiom is that your greatest strength becomes your greatest weakness.

Let me share a paragraph from the show’s Executive Producer Andrew Llinares from a forum wherein he was trying to explain the changes. Remember, he’s speaking from a producer’s perspective, not the audience.

“I think it’s working brilliantly with the one host. I think it’s really refreshed the pace of the show, actually,” said the exec. “I think it’s taken it to a new pace, in terms of moving faster and just feeling different. I think there’s a real danger when a show’s been on for a long time that the audience almost gets bored of the rhythm. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. It just sort of gets a little boring — the rhythm of it. So, I think it’s changed the rhythm of the show in a really exciting way.”

Let’s interpret what he’s saying. The issue for him is one host versus two, so it’s not really about the who of the change; it’s about his ability to control the pace of the show, and producers love control. I’ve sat in many a session with consultants who were pressing a need to boost the pace of the show as a way to freshen its perception among viewers. So, pace is his issue, and there’s no question that a one host program quickens the pace of DWTS.

The chemistry of the show has been dramatically altered in the process. The father figure (Bergeron) has been removed, his duties moved to the control room. Erin’s mother figure has been replaced by Tyra, a role she simply isn’t suited to play. She’s on there as a celebrity persona who does what she’s told. It’s all for the pace, folks.

Bergeron and Andrews ran the show from the stage, because they could. Mr. Llinares simply found this to be untenable, because it messed with timings and the sacred pace of the show. However, and this is the biggie, it was these unscripted moments that produced such lovable chemistry between the hosts and the contestants. It was also where we learned little things about the contestants that production couldn’t possibly provide, because they were spontaneous. And, for some producers, spontaneity is a 5‑syllable word for chaos.

Moreover, a talent-driven program, which DWTS used to be, brings other problems for a producer, because they often make unwanted demands of production, efforts designed to help them or favor them during a live broadcast. This is something I know just a little about, for I was Pat Robertson’s Executive Producer and know well what’s necessary for a man to produce a show in real time from the anchor chair. It can be done, but it takes serious flexibility throughout the constant stress to pull it off.

Mr. Llinares’s “pace” was likely a constant battle in year’s past, because both Bergeron and Andrews had a good feel for time and the timing necessary to do their jobs. In a producer’s world, however, that which destroys pace is sin and must be eliminated. What DWTS has become with these changes is a faster-paced dancing/variety entertainment program with interactive chemistry taking a back seat.

And here’s another observation: it’s also LOUD! DWTS is the loudest, noisiest program on television, which is amazing when you consider there is no audience this year due to the virus. Mr. Llinares has taken advantage of that to improve his beloved “pace” according to age-old wisdom garnered from young people by Robert Pittman in guiding the development of MTV long ago. Pittman’s groundbreaking research revealed what young people want:

A Frenetic Pace
Lots of Disjointed Thoughts
In-depth Info About Music

Llinares can hardly be blamed for (unknowingly?) referencing these guidelines in trying to make a show that better appeals to a younger audience. Personally, I believe that horse left the barn years ago and isn’t ever coming back to broadcasting.

Program ratings have been a mixed bag and can be spun to say just about anything. But one look at the actual rating — 1.1 in the 18–49 age category — reveals the real nature of the problem for the networks. A rating is the percentage of TV households in the measuring universe that are watching the program. A 1.1 rating means that 98.9% of the TV household universe 18–49 year old category were NOT watching. It amazes me today that sales people can actually sell such low numbers and still make a profit.

To summarize, Andrew Llinares rolled the dice with remaking DWTS and now must live with the consequences. Last night’s mishap raises the stakes, because it wasn’t pretty. Some commentators this morning are comparing it with Steve Harvey’s infamous 2015 Miss Universe pageant error when he read the name of the wrong winner.

And so, blame assessment is today’s lead on the story, but I think it’s pretty simple. When you inject artificial “pace” into a live program, it’s easy to stuff too much into the mix, and Llinares can’t blame a looser, personality-driven program this time. After all, “more, more, more” is the cry of those who think story count is more important than the people reading the stories.

Even with perfect production, DWTS is but a shell of what it used to be. It feels like a TV show pretending to be DWTS, and even terrific dancing can’t save it.

DWTS has jumped the shark.