On television, skilled oratory is no sale…

Other more important matters drowned out the news that MSNBC canceled “Alan Keyes is Making Sense.” There’s been little talk of it. And why should there be? If you can’t post the ratings numbers you don’t get to play.

In today’s column, Howard Kurtz says: “Alan Keyes may be the most eloquent man on the planet, but since when has that counted for anything on television?” Without saying so specifically, Kurtz understands that television is about ratings, so television is about entertainment. That Alan Keyes can’t draw the numbers is a cultural shame. Not that I agree with Keyes on much of anything. Rather, I am enamored of his talent and his intellect. Both belong prominently displayed in the public sphere.

I enjoyed the first weeks of the show. Keyes made an effort to bring complexity to the discussion of troubling issues. But, as I told my sophomore rhetoric class: “It can’t last; he’ll be forced into entertainment.” And for a political show, that means less discussion and more verbal fire-bombing. Kurtz said today that Keyes’ “always-intense orations were hard to watch.” Not at first they weren’t. Not before the show changed.

Our culture ignored Alan Keyes because we can no longer think past our eyes. Skilled and cogent oratory no longer registers with us. So MSNBC made Keyes entertaining and, in my opinion, helped him shed his dignity.