All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day
Back when he was funny, before he became a paid Republican shill, Dennis Miller commented that the news was nothing more than a litany of catastrophes, natural disasters, and crime events. He called the news the "thank God that shit didn't happen to me" show. Mostly, he's right. The news tells us nothing useful about the state of the nation or the world. We don't learn what's going on in our communities or home states. After an hour of network news, we won't have learned anything new about the world or the economy or science. We'll have been entertained by crimes that are solved or unsolved, big winds that have blown down other people's homes, and a car crash or two. Today's news programs are more like reality TV than information sources. Because of that, fewer and fewer Americans are turning to television or newspapers for information.
In a last minute bum's rush, the media is pretending to have suddenly realized there is stuff to report about the Presidential race this year. Don't let that fool you into believing that the news is becoming more relevant. It's just a marketing tactic.
Bush has been given a free ride for four years, plus. Long before he ran his first race for public office, Bush was a drunk and a doper with a criminal record. He was a spoiled rich kid draft dodger who went AWOL from a safe and pointless rich kids' National Guard job. He failed at every job he'd had and, because of his stupidity and incompetence, Republican power brokers picked him for their puppet candidate for Texas governor and, later, President. His one and only claim to competence came when he was given a token position for a baseball team whose new stadium was built on seized private land and paid for with public financing. This is a dedicated capitalist? Sounds more like a corporate commie, to me.
Bush's handlers ran vicious, amoral, lying campaigns for every office he won and the media let them get away with it. Why? Because the media expected corporate and ruling class tax breaks from a Bush Administration. And they got what they expected and a whole lot more. Bush has handed over the environment, ownership of public airwaves, national natural resources, and the federal reserves to his corporate criminal buddies.
All of this went on without a whisper from the national media, who are the same folks who received many of the benefits of Bush's corrupt administration. These people are so counterfeit that they have absolutely no difficulty taking advantage of the awful catastrophe of September 2001 for their own financial gain. As long as they were raking in bushels of cash from the ineptitude and corruption of the Bush Administration, they were happy to avoid doing the job they pretended to be doing.
Suddenly, the golden goose appears to be dying. Publishers are amazed to find that they had been losing money for the last several years because the only way they can attract readers is to offer their newspapers at a loss. Because so few of their subscribers actually read anything more than the sports page, advertisers found the effectiveness of their ads had declined to near-uselessness. Television networks are experiencing the same problems. Their "hard hitting" bobble-head reporters and their grinning talking head anchors weren't attracting viewers. For the first time in modern history, the major media had become the minor source of information for the majority of citizens.
Young people and literate older folks get their news from a variety of internet sources and public television and radio. The illiterate youth and old folks get what little they know from Oprah and Letterman and the Late Show. The really stupid get their misinformation from talk radio or, worse, Fox News. Hardly anyone looking for information reads their local papers or watches network news. This has left a major corporate force looking at vanishing income and influence.
Their cure for this loss of credibility is to pretend that they have relevance in the final moments of the 2004 election. Suddenly, the major media is lightly reporting on a few of the many defects in Bush's "character" and an equally small number of the administration's failures of competence. They've waited long enough that they won't have a significant effect on the election, but they've done just enough actual news reporting to have created a little spin for themselves. They have enough fingers in other pies that they don't want to mess up the good thing Bush has provided them, but they need to hang on to their core, media business. Hoping to eat their cake and eat it too, the media is trying to walk a fine line between actually reporting the facts and only reporting enough of the bad stuff that they can pretend to be "fair and impartial" without pissing off the Bushies or throwing the election to Kerry.
Will it work? For the short term, probably. For the long term, not a chance.
The characters fronting the media have earned a national reputation slightly below used car salesmen and politicians. Nobody with half a brain believes anything they hear on the tube and damn few people take the time to read "news" that isn't sports related. We might be entertained by their minimal attempt to shed some light on Iraq, the President's lies, or some other insignificant bit of actual news, but I can't imagine how the media can ever win back the trust of the American public. Now that it's obvious to even the dumbest of Joe Public that the media doesn't make an effort to be "fair and impartial," we're all looking for media sources that reflect our own take on the world. Big media can't provide something for everyone because there isn't anything that we all want.
The country has been split into dozens of special citizen interests and we are never again going to be able to say, "united we stand." We stand as individuals in a Babylon of a country with only our friends and neighbors (at best) to share a small speck of culture. We can thank corporate media for their part in disintegrating America into such an insignificant and disorganized mess. We are thanking them by ignoring their newscasts and by hanging up on their telephone solicitors.