Sunday, December 31, 2006

MY 2006 News wrap-up

You know, I once was a news junkie, but anymore I rarely turn on that mess on the radio, and rarer still on the telly. At one time I would cook, sew or clean house and listen to CNN, occasionally stopping by the idiot box to watch the news crawl at the bottom of the screen, but I got past that about 7 or 8 years ago. These days I get most of my information from a variety of sources on the internet and even there the biases are profoundly distorting. It's rare to find just the facts, ma'am.

On Saturday afternoons, our local NPR (whose "news" these days is unlistenable) affiliate broadcasts Ira Glass' entertaining This American Life which I will turn on if I'm tooling about town at that time. It happens that I was yesterday but was surprised that at 3:13 PM NPR was broadcasting a music program. I soon learned I was listening to a 2006 news roundup by the Capital Steps, a 20-something year old musical variety group that takes popular music and re-tools it into political satire. In fact, in one song I heard Saturday, "Everything's run by Pelosi" (sung to the tune of "Everything's coming up roses" from Gypsy), one line from that is "NBC will be run by NPR." What? Like they aren't already??? Increasingly, most mainstream news sounds like it's getting marching orders from NPR, so it baffles me that astute "savvy" D.C. insiders like The Capital Steps haven't noticed this trend.

So, former president Gerald Ford died this week, and yet every broadcast of news I saw whinged on about how he was opposed to our actions in Iraq, how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and he disagreed with what was put forward as our reason for invading Iraq. Now, I defy anyone to tell me THAT is not political haymaking-- you'd have to be blind not to recognize it. It is customary for an obituary to tell the milestone events of a public figure's life in the context of how their actions shaped their time. Well, pardon me, but I think it was more significant to note that Ford pardoned Nixon (as he should have done) and pardoned the American men who fled to avoid the draft during the era of the Vietnam war - these were significant events in our nation's history-- and offhand remarks made in an interview during a time in which he was in no way involved in US policy home or abroad simply wouldn't rate in a world where the news had a more sensible overview that didn't seek to buttress its bias. To me, to focus on this (I saw it on a news program Thursday night at 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 at me mum's) at the exclusion of what the man DID that affected our nation is utterly ass-backwards.

If they are consistent in their reporting style, I expect them to eulogize Saddam Hussein (never may he wave) by saying he opposed new pencil-leg trousers from Prada and thought Madonna should be prevented from harvesting yet another baby from Malawi, and that, by the way, he was opposed to US intervention in Iraq so he could go about his business of exterminating the Kurdish race.

1:30PM addendum: 2 things I have to post here from the comments. g bro refreshed my memory that Carter and not Ford pardoned the draft dodgers. My bad, but I was, like 11 or 12, so I forgive myself for making that mistake. A brilliant observation from Myron was: The problem with folks detecting bias in the media is that no one sees bias when the article or programming agrees with their point of view.

9 comments:

Myron said...

I'm with you phlegmy. I don't watch a lot of news anymore. I do watch local stuff hoping to see a non-fatal car chase or some other entertaining event but I haven't watched network news in years. Maybe, if they offered news with no comments other than this happened here at this time, I would watch. I'm a big boy. I can make up my mind about the probable impact of an event on my life. I don't need an op-ed pretending to be a news article to tell me. The problem with folks detecting bias in the media is that no one sees bias when the article or programming agrees with their point of view. Only when it disagrees. That's why it's so funny to see the KosKids and their kin on DU, MyDD, Huffington Post, etc go off the rails when there is even the slightest hint in the old media that a Republican may have done something right.

G Bro said...

La Phlegmme,
Seems like you've got two themes here: (i) news as entertainment and (ii) news as editorial. I think they're closely linked, as you did. (I enjoyed your eulogy of Saddam.) There is no pretense, even in all-news channels, of any dividing line between journalism and entertainment. (Many's the time I've surfed across Fox and thought, "That's blonde would be pretty hot if she'd just shut up!" Yeah, okay, that says more about me than her.) I do not think that the average broadcaster is intelligent enough to know the difference in a fact and an opinion. Getting facts costs money, arranging them into recognizable patterns takes brains – why bother? Just put a talking hairdo of either gender in front of a camera and let them blather on. This may well be what Marshall McLuhan thought of when he coined the phrase “Global Village,” but most of us had higher hopes. It seems more likely that the internet is the global village, an egalitarian world where each of us has the opportunity to be the global village idiot.
I was channel-surfing when they announced Ford’s death. Usually news organizations have readily available biographies of famous people so they won’t be caught unawares if they die. Uniformly, the news outlets (major networks, CNN, Fox) had nothing intelligent to say about Gerald Ford. I think they all winged it for the 1st 15 minutes or so. Hell, even I could pull up a bio on the internet and read it into the camera. I think the only thing most of them came up with was Nixon’s pardon. But there were long (for TV) pauses, blank stares and … blather. “He was a decent, honest guy.” “He had a wife named Betty.” (I think it is criminal to drag an 88-year-old lady back and forth across the country to three funerals.) To their credit, I didn’t hear much about hitting people with golf balls or falling down airplane steps. The coverage did not improve much over the next few days, although more actual information did filter into the broadcasts. By the way, Ford did not pardon draft dodgers. Jimmy Carter gave them amnesty. Re: Ford’s views on Iraq, I won’t change course and use his words to support my opinion after all these years of decrying his role in the Warren Commission report. (“Single-assassin, single-bullet … morons … cover-up … harrumph, harrumph, harrumph”) In retrospect, maybe the best epitaph IS, “He was a decent, honest guy.”

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Fine rant there, Phlegmmy.

For all the resources the news services have available to them, some of them do seem to have disturbingly short memories, as you say, focussing primarily on the most recent occurances, rather than looking at the whole picture. Perhaps they think that is all people care about.

Anonymous said...

Technically, it's called "Selective Perception". People naturally filter out information that doesn't reinforce their preconceived ideas of things, rejecting conflicting information as wrong or biased, taking in info that reinforces their beliefs as truth. Natural human thing. Things you agree with seem obviously true. It's a lot harder to accept that you may be wrong. Helps a lot if time has passed and the issues are less emotional.

For example, many of the closet leftie media types, people who used to work for Democratic politicians as aids (too many to mention) who've been talking so respectfully in the last few days about how Fords pardon of Nixon was a good thing for the nation, back in the day, wanted to impeach him for it, saying it was a payoff to Nixon for putting Ford in office. I was in junior high and high school at the time and remember it well.

Thing is, ideally, the media is SUPPOSED to show us "just the facts", and then let us sort them out, but you can't help but allow your perceptions of things to be influenced one way or the other. Again, natural human thing. How many ideal situations exist anyway. So the MSM has always been biased. NPR is as liberal is it comes, and Fox and most talk radio are conservative, and the bloggosphere splits things down the middle. As long as you know what yer listening to, you can be an intelligent consumer of the news and not let people feed you allot of crap as "objective truth".

Anyway, that's what I teach people in my government class.

Anonymous said...

In retrospect, I don't know which is more depressing... watching the news or sitting through another friggin' Cowboy game watching them play grabbass rather than football. Sheesh.

sudiegirl said...

I'm one of those lucky government/contractor type folks that gets 1/2/07 off for the Ford funeral.

I'm not sure if I'll watch it on TV and give a running audioblog commentary on it or not.

I'll keep ya posted.

Anonymous said...

I stopped watching the news years ago. I didn't even know that Angelina Jolie was Jon Voight's daughter...

G Bro said...

Oh, stop it with the Jon Voight thing! ;-) Next you'll be saying you didn't know John Ritter was Tex' son, George is Rosemary Clooney's nephew, James MacArthur is Helen Hayes' son or that Blythe Danner is the mother of ... dare I sat it? ... Gwyneth Paltrow! (rewind the Paltrow rant)

Anonymous said...

GAAAH!! No way !! NO Way!! NO WAY!!! STOP TORTURING ME!!