Tag Archives: outrage

Is Journalism Dead?

When I was young, the TV news was very important. First, there was a half-hour of local news and then a half-hour of national news. The local news had all the news that happened in my viewing area and it left the national news for the networks. Local interest stories, local sports and the weather. I lived in Washington, DC so a lot of what passed for local news was also, to an extent, national news. But the bulk of the real news was handled by the networks and in my house, it was Walter Cronkite.

Walter Cronkite (November 4, 1916 – July 17, 2009) was there when America went to war in Europe. He was a part of the “Writing 69th“, a group of 8 journalists who were allowed to go on bombing missions over Germany. He landed in a glider to cover Operation Market Garden and he reported on the Ardennes Offensive more commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge. He was often called the Most Trusted Man in America and was a solid, solemn voice during troubled times including the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I was a strong proponent of NASA and the American race to space. To this day, I can remember his barely contained glee as Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  He reported from Viet Nam and he was always there.

Even as a child, I knew that Walter Cronkite was a very special man. He was serious and he was, obviously, important. I vaguely remember my parents making time to watch the CBS Evening News and I remember that Mr. Cronkite held my attention, even at a very young age. And as I look back, I have to wonder what he would think now about the sorry state of journalism in this country.

“Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.”  ~Walter Cronkite

In Cronkite’s day, there were very few places to get your news. You could watch TV, listen to the radio or buy a newspaper. The TV news cycle was longer than it is today. There was a morning show and an early evening newscast. It gave the networks around eight hours to fill the upcoming news cast so stories were weighed against each other and only the stories that were deemed important enough to report made it to air. Of course that means that some of the “lesser” stories were passed by and left to the newspapers to report. It was a system that worked but that was not without some flaws. There was no way to report everything to everyone and make everybody happy. On the other hand, it also meant that network news time was not taken up with stories of drugged out celebrities who missed a court date.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. Now our news cycles never end. MSNBC, CNN, Fox, CNBC, CSPAN have all filled a void that might not have needed filling. Now, instead of filtering the news based on national impact, anything goes. In order to fill a 24 hour newscast the networks have to add a lot of fluff, celebrity news, talking-head “experts”, analysts and opinion. The problem comes when opinion masquerades as news.

Editorials have always been a part of the news cycle. A certain amount of opinion is necessary to get the pulse of a nation. But the editorial has evolved from a single page in the Sunday paper to iconic commentators who have managed to eclipse the issues they speak on. Rush Limbaugh was one of the first superstar radio talk show hosts. His strong conservative opinions reach millions and he is seen, by many of his listeners, as the final word on all things political. But his opinions are not news, they are not mainstream and, some, are not even based on fact. Remember, he is the one who played the song, “Barack the Magic Negro” on his program.

Fox news is another outlet that masks opinion as news. Never in my lifetime has there been a news network that has worked so successfully to be the propaganda wing of a political party. They show unflinching support of the conservative way of life to the point of attacking the Muppets for their stand on corporate America. Fox Business Channel host, Eric Bolling, said on air, “It’s amazing how far the left will go just to manipulate your kids, to convince them, give the anti-corporate message. Hollywood, the left, the media, they hate the oil industry. They hate corporate America.” The attack on the Muppets may have made prime time but it made little sense. Claiming that Hollywood hates corporate America is a lot like saying General Electric hates corporate America. Only an editorialist with an agenda would conveniently forget that film studios are a part of corporate America. When a movie like Toy Story 3 makes over a $1,000,000,000 worldwide, it should be hard to claim Disney is anti-capitalism. But Bolling did just that and no one called him on it. In spite of the fact that The Muppets (2011) was a Disney release, Fox claimed that “Hollywood” was indoctrinating our children in their left-wing agenda. Disney owns 10 TV stations, a dozen or so networks if you count ESPN as one network instead of 13.  They own movie studios, restaurants, radio stations, merchandising companies and, if my memory serves, they have a couple of  popular theme parks. And yet, somehow, Disney is anti-capitalism. News and opinion collide in a cloud of false outrage.

“Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened.” ~Walter Cronkite

Newsman Alfred S. Ochs took over the New York Times in 1896. He was facing stiff competition from the sensationalist papers of the time but wanted to build a newspaper based on reporting “the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved.” I have to think that there are still journalists who know that they are not the story, that what they are reporting matters and that their own agendas, thoughts, preconceived notions and opinions are meaningless when telling the facts. But in a world where opinion counts as news, where bloggers are seen as journalists and where journalists want to be stars, I have to worry. Being a journalist should be a sacred trust. It should be an honor to report the news “without fear or favor.” It should be but it isn’t. There are no more Walter Cronkites to look up to. When Jon Stewart can become the most trusted newsman in America for anchoring what he calls a fake news show, it just might be too late.

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And Now This Word From Ronald Reagan

I believe a case can be made that the decline in the quality of public school eduction began when Federal aid to education became Federal interference in education.

~Ronald Reagan


Journalism? Conservative Cannibalism Keeps Fake Scandals Alive

Yes. The country has been taken back. Back to a time when gentility and civility did not exist. Back to a time when divisiveness was de rigueur. Back to a time when disrespect was common, racism was fun and facts never got in the way of a good story. The so-called Tea Party Movement was able to shift this country even further towards the right with a simple grass-roots movement which, in turn, was backed by a simple corporate news conglomerate and some billionaires who want to keep the conservative agenda alive. The best way to do that is, of course, to keep the huddled masses huddling.

Facts?

Facts just get in the way of a good story. Why bother with finding out of a story is true when it plays so well on the radio and TV? Point in case? The President’s trip to India. Earlier in the week, an unnamed source from an unnamed agency stated that President Obama was on his way to India and that the trip was going to cost $200 million dollars a day and that there were to be 34 warships and an aircraft carrier going as well. Once the story hit the Internet it was picked up by the conservative news services. Suddenly Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Sean Hannity even the freshly elected Michele Bachmann were all harping on the President’s big, extravagant, luxury ridden trip to India. Never mind the fact that the Pentagon laughed at the notion of committing 10% of the US Navy on a peacetime visit. Never mind the fact that Factcheck.org did the math and pointed out that $200 million a day is more than the Iraq war cost. Never mind the fact that no one in the White House ever said anything. That the Secret Service doesn’t release this sort of information to anyone. Ever. And why shouldn’t we mind the facts? Because they just get in the way of a good story.

When pressed by Anderson Cooper for some additional information about the numbers, Michele Bachmann stated, “Well these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press…” Well of course they are. And that leads us back to Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and Fox News and every other member of the corporate conservative news machine. They have stopped reporting the facts and started reporting what each other reports about the facts. To say, “It’s in the press” is tantamount to saying “Fox News is reporting that Fox News has said (insert fake scandal here)…” Fox News is now a self-perpetuating, fake-scandal reporting, fact-ignoring juggernaut. It exists by feeding off of itself to the extent of hiring the very same people they pretend to report on.

It’s On The Internet

Eric Bolling from Fox Business News might actually deserve the credit for getting this ball rolling on his Fox program, “Follow the Money.” He ran a package with numbers quoted from an Indian website. Numbers that were not substantiated, verified or accredited. But hey, it’s just the news…right? And to absolutely prove he was right, Bolling added this little gem:

“I will tell you unequivocably, I am not making this up, this has been reported, go to the Internet, go take a look.”

Go to the Internet and take a look. Does that mean that if it’s on the Internet it’s true? Good. What else is true then? Let’s start with one I found on Drudge. “REPORT: US Military to build kilometer-long bomb-proof tunnel – so Obama can go to the Ghandi Museum…” Really? I thought that I should read the article before commenting on it. Or linking to it on my blog. Drudge should try that once in a while. The article starts out by condemning the American mind-set. The author, Pandurang Mhaske, writes, “It could give a sense of superior American organization, or be an indicator of a deep-set persecution complex. It could also be a manifestation of Uncle Sam’s penchant for a show of strength.” Deeper into the article, Mhaske describes the tunnel. “The tunnel would be a kilometer long and measure 12ft by 12ft — enough to let Obama’s cavalcade pass through. The tunnel would be centrally air-conditioned, fitted with close-circuit television cameras, and will be heavily guarded at every point, including, of course, its entry and exit.” Sweet. But wait! There’s more!

Mhaske wrote, just before describing the tunnel that it would be built by American military engineers IN JUST ONE HOUR! “They came up with a quick solution which left the Indians accompanying them amazed: A bomb-proof over-ground tunnel — to be installed by US military engineers in just an hour.” Amazed indeed. The only amazing part will be if any of this is even remotely true.

Other “True” reports on the internet include:

  • The Pentagon was not hit by a jet liner on September 11, 2001. BUT…
  • The Pentagon was built on occult symbols that can only be seen from the air but that are hidden and “barely discernible albeit almost complete.” It was done for undisclosed reasons by undisclosed people.
  • The moon landings were hoaxed.
  • UFOs have been visiting earth for centuries and much of what we are, we owe to our alien pals.
  • Atlantis existed.
  • George W. Bush was a Mass Murderer.

All on the Internet so, according to Fox News, all true.


And Now This Important Message…

Spencer Tracy recited these lines in the 1960 movie Inherit The Wind.

Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding. And soon, your Honor, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward, BACKWARD, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind!

Of course he was talking about evolution in a movie loosely based on the so called Scopes Monkey Trial but he could have been talking about the current state of politics in America. The favored hark and cry of the Tea Party supporters is some variation on “We want to take America back.”

Back To Where?

“We want to take America back.” Back to where? Or is it back from where? Who has it that shouldn’t? Or is it the whole progress thing? Listening to the candidates, it seems that the new conservative movement wants to take us back to a time where women and minorities knew their place. Back to a time where only land owners could vote. Back to a time where the poor were left to die and only the wealthy had health care. Back to a time “when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind.”

VOTE!

The madness has to stop. Where are we in this country when followers of a candidate are wearing uniforms? When private security guards are arresting reporters? Where political candidates are discussing revolution as a viable option. Armed insurrection against the government of the United States of America as a political option? And why? Because they lost an election two years ago?

Please get out and vote. I really don’t care if you vote Democrat or Republican. Just don’t vote for the lunatic fringe. And don’t vote for anyone these people represent.


You Are Ruining My Country. Stop It.

This might actually count as a “Part One” but who knows? It’s an open letter to Terry Jones.

To: Terry Jones
FR: Teaching TV
RE: Please Stop Ruining America

Dear Mr. Jones,

The whole world is atwitter over your little publicity stunt concerning the Koran and some matches. Congratulations. You have finally made it to the big leagues and the entire world knows who you are. A backwoods, hick pastor who preaches intolerance and hatred. A sad, desperate, little man who is seeking attention no matter the cost. Again sir, my congratulations.

And what about those costs? As if the job isn’t dangerous enough, you have managed to put the lives of American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines in the Middle East at an even greater risk. You managed to make American Christians look like a bunch of xenophobic buffoons. You have managed to turn a day of remembrance into a pathetic publicity grab for yourself. And you have managed to turn the nation’s attention away from real issues and got it to focus on your personality disorder and your Chester A. Arthur mustache.

Sir, you profess to be a Man Of God. I am sorry but I have to question that. But as you read your bible, look for the words of Jesus and read what he had to say about our enemies. Here’s one of my favorites:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…

Just a suggestion, I am sure. But a suggestion from God should probably carry more weight with a Pastor, don’t you think?

You see, I love everything that America is supposed to stand for. It is why I served in the Navy and it is why you have made me so angry. How dare you deal with intolerance by preaching intolerance. How dare you deal with with hatred by preaching hatred. How dare you do that in MY country. What gives Terry Jones the right to remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and the final sacrifice of thousands of fine young Americans by holding an old-fashioned book burning? Have you EVER read the Constitution? Have you ever been a student of history?

And when the entire weight of world opinion has turned against you, you come up with a proposal that involves the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” Some things might have slipped your mind, sir.

  • There is no Ground Zero Mosque. It is a Muslim Community Center.
  • We have a thing called the Constitution. Read it.
  • Extortion is illegal.
  • Threatening an entire group of people with a violent act unless your demands are met is called terrorism.

I don’t like the fact that we have to live in fear because some religious fanatics get their feelings hurt. But if we “hurt the feelings” of Islamic fanatics, it had best be for a good reason and we had best be prepared for a long, bloody war with many, many dead people on both sides. But to stir up the anger of a million or more primitive nutcases for some hick’s 15 minutes of fame is beyond insane. If one extra American, if one extra human being has to die because of your little stunt, then I hope you go to jail forever.

Sincerely,

Teaching TV

Final Thoughts

The real tragedy here is that on some level, Terry Jones is correct. There should be no reason that America should cower in fear when it comes to dealing with these fanatics. Isn’t anyone left who has what it takes to say “Bring it on”? And all that talk about shock and awe? We can really do that you know. But instead, we look at the grizzly bear sleeping in the corner and tell people to tip toe past instead of shooting it in the head.

Someone has to be the grown-up here. I get that. But that doesn’t mean kowtowing to terrorists. 50 people say they want to burn a Koran and entire countries ignite? No sense of perspective, no sense of humanity and no sense of humor. All the hallmarks of a primitive society. But do we have to lower ourselves to their level every single time? “They did it first” is no argument for an adult. I didn’t let my 5 year old get away with it so why should Terry Jones and his ilk?

That one hate-filled person with a tiny following can disrupt the world is a testament to the fragility of the American Spirit, the power of stupid people in groups and the ability of the Internet to lend credence where it is neither due nor welcome.

Terry Jones? You are ruining my country. Stop it.


Bread and Circuses

A pretty young hiker is killed in Georgia just because she wanted to take a walk in the same woods as a madman. Children are growing up in this country unable to read or do basic algebra. Sub-prime mortgages are an economic minefield. We have outsourced so many services and goods that we don’t even notice that our toys have lead in them and when Mattel protests they eventually have to backtrack and apologize to Chinese manufacturers in order to keep the flow of cheap goods into the hands and, in some cases, mouths of our children. We are still at war in Iraq after being told that it wouldn’t last long, it wouldn’t cost over $8 billion and that Saddam was working with the same people who attacked New York and Washington, DC on September 11th. No wait…He had weapons of mass destruction…Or was he a vicious dictator who had to be taught a lesson? Anyway, if you wanted to protest anything during the last presidential election, you were politely moved to a “Free Speech Zone.”

Where is the outrage?

There won’t be any outrage because we have become a nation obsessed with “bread and circuses.” Feed us and entertain us and nothing else matters. The Constitution shredding notion of free speech zones or Britney’s nervous breakdown? Well it’s easy. Give us Britney, sprinkle in some Dr. Phil and, who cares about the repression of free speech? Oh, and don’t forget the sandwiches. We want those too.

But while we sit obsessed with the trials of celebrities and our iPod playlists, we forget that the world is still turning. We forget that there are more gifted students in China than we have students. We forget that, just because a child doesn’t go to college, he or she isn’t a “child left behind.” We forget that what America does in the world matters and that we can do so very much as a nation and as individuals. But the first step is to just turn off the TV once in a while.


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