What the NFL Draft, presidential speeches, and cable news have in common

I was drafted as a Buffalo Bills fan the day I was born, possibly before. My father helped found the Buffalo Bills Booster Club and was later its president in the mid-1960s. He enlisted my mother to make phone calls promoting the team during their first few seasons.

He took me to my first game at War Memorial Stadium (aka “The Rockpile”) in the late sixties. He bought season tickets for the whole family during the first two seasons the Bills played at the “new” stadium in Orchard Park. I watched Bills games with him for 50 years until his death in 2019.

Hopefully, that establishes my football fan credibility.

Nevertheless, I’ve never watched the NFL Draft. I tried a few times early on, but it quickly occurred to me that spending an entire day obtaining information I could glean from the newspaper in 10 minutes the next day was an enormous waste of time. I was vitally interested in the 1983 draft and – believe it or not – my dad and I both hoped the Bills would draft Jim Kelly, despite both Dan Marino and John Elway also being in that graduating class.

But I wasn’t going to sit there for 12 hours splitting my attention between watching the paint dry, the late April snow melt, and the NFL Draft.

I didn’t become interested in politics until the turn of the 21st century, when I discovered I was a libertarian. Previously, I believed I was the only person on the planet who shared my views and wasn’t interested enough in politics to even know there was a Libertarian Party. I was delighted to find there was and support its outstanding 2004 presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik.

However, what really got me actively interested in politics was the presidency of George W. Bush and the god-awful “War on Terror.” Not only were Bush’s policies terrifying (the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, Bush’s illegal spying on American citizens), but the man himself appeared to be the dumbest person elected president in my lifetime.

Whether that was partly an act to come off “folksy” to a large part of his electoral base or not, Bush was almost impossible to watch or listen to. But especially after I discovered Ron Paul in 2007 and began writing regularly about politics, I was forced to listen to “W” to be able to write commentary.

That’s when the internet came to the rescue. I don’t know how long it had been so, but I discovered that transcripts of W’s speeches were available almost immediately after he finished speaking.

What a godsend. Immediately, my NFL Draft reasoning kicked in. Never again would I suffer through another hour of visual and auditory torture to gather information I could obtain in 5-10 minutes reading. To this day I’ve never again watched a presidential speech live. If there are any “memorable” moments that can’t be gleaned from the transcript, my social media friends are certain to provide clips.

I may not be able to escape the government’s larcenous taxation, spying, or regulating, but I can dodge quasi-religious rituals like the State of the Union and other presidential speeches. And that’s a win.

It took me a little longer to apply the NFL Draft lesson to cable news. Certainly, I was aware the news wasn’t honest for a very long time. But once I started paying closer attention, it became increasingly clear the various networks were largely propaganda arms for their affiliate political parties. Most were affiliated with the Democratic Party with the exception of Fox News, for the GOP.

I went through a period of believing I might reap some value by flipping back and forth between a few of the liberal channels (MSNBC, CNN, etc.) and Fox News. Perhaps, I thought, I could determine which facts all agreed upon, which they didn’t, and which one or the other chose not to cover at all.

I had my filter set to 11, of course. Even unanimous agreement didn’t necessarily mean the reporting was true. On the contrary, that is often when one should be most suspicious, especially on a foreign policy topic.

I finally came to my senses in 2020. It took that complete departure from even heavily spun reality to allow my NFL Draft instinct to finally kick in for cable. As with George W.’s grammar-challenged ramblings, I still needed to know what cable news was telling people in order to do my job. But getting this information through the medium of television was certainly no longer (and probably never was) worth my time – or money.

I canceled cable in June 2020. It was particularly satisfying since it allowed me to both no longer subsidize organizations that are actively destroying society and cut my funding to the only cable provider available where I live, thanks to the fascist, New Deal regulatory environment that squelches all potential competition.

Now, a quick sweep of the headlines on CNN, NBC, Fox, ABC, etc. websites gives me a solid grounding in the day’s propaganda. The “news” organizations have made it easy by loading even their headlines with opinion, tipping off the reader to the often fact-free copy that follows. I can spot check now and again to ensure I’m not missing some nuance or substantive reporting. And of course, I can read the entire articles on any issues I plan on writing about myself in far less time than it would take to obtain the same information from television.

Cable news already had a ratings crisis before Donald Trump temporarily revived it during his tumultuous four years in office, when demand suddenly skyrocketed for what may have been the most dishonest “journalism” in U.S. history. Considering the late 18th/early 19th century when openly partisan newspapers weren’t saddled with the pretense of objectivity and frequently just made stuff up about their political opponents and printed it, that’s saying something.

Now, even with ratings plummeting once again, CNN and other misinformation hubs are able to continue leading by the nose the minority who watch them – and who often decide elections – thanks to the revenue streams guaranteed to them via cable subscriptions.

That’s where you can make a difference. Cut them off. I can personally attest there is life after cable and it’s a much better life. There is more accurate reporting widely available from alternative media. Superior non-news content is available through subscription services or the internet. You won’t be giving up a thing.

For example, I was a fan of TCM’s “Noir Alley” with Eddie Muller. I thought for a moment I might have to give that up when canceling cable, but I didn’t. All Muller’s intros and outros are available on You Tube, as well as many of the movies themselves. Those not available on You Tube or another video platform are usually available on Amazon Prime or another subscription service for free or very low prices (Detour is free on Amazon Prime; He Walked by Night rents for $1.99).

You can even watch the NFL Draft without cable; but I recommend you don’t.

If everyone who has a problem with the disservice cable news does to society canceled their cable subscriptions, its reign of terror would quickly end. Even if you believe a political solution is possible and morally justified, the market solution is infinitely more satisfying.

I’m not alone in defunding cable. I’ve heard from many friends who did the same years before me. I hope someday (soon) you’ll join us. Strike a blow for truth and freedom. Cancel cable.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

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