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Friday, July 10, 2009

The wheels on the media bus go round and round.

We can only hope our leaders are not a reflection of ourselves.

If they are, we are all of us corrupt, petty, ineffectual, insulting, thoughtless and ignorant. We are all together, riding the happy party bus, on a trip to nowhere, leaving any place; just empty skin suits, OK with living in our coma-like state, and uncaring of what tomorrow really will bring.

But I often wonder as a former reporter, news editor and public relations guy, how much of what we see in the news, is just flash and babble.

Certainly each major political party is constantly seeking to turn the media, the people’s eyes and ears, into their own mouthpieces. Also certain is that traditional fringe groups have found efficient ways to organize, network and insert themselves and their views into politics, industry, banking and of course the news sources we are exposed to every day.

Perhaps the greatest recent example of this is the harm done to Governor Sarah Palin, of Alaska, who will soon leave office. Her reason? Continual interference by fringe opposition groups and individuals who were using petty legal actions to tie her up and wear her down, ever since she was tapped to run for the Vice Presidential position with John McCain.

So, what about this?

If we look at it from the perspective of an actual old-time daily news reporter, what is really going on here? Folks on the far left will parse it, and wave it away because her departure seems to serve their agenda. Speculation may abound as to the Governor’s “real reasons,” and whether she is planning some kind of great, involved strategy leading to other, bigger things, but it is all just speculation, and her choices and reasons and motives are her own business.

However, we can certainly look at the bias involved, the true source of many problems in the media, and the place it is taking us to.

From the perspective of a media “insider,” first I should remind readers of that old phrase “don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.” This mantra applies to television news, and certainly to the “new media,” inside the Internet.

First you have to look at the most irrelevant of these sources – the bloggers, of which I admittedly, am one. But my writings differ from many of these, because of training and experience in a real newsroom, with a real publisher and managing editor screaming at me over one thing or another, every day, for years. I have had the fortune, or misfortune of daily deadlines, responsibility for every story and headline, layout and design element in a city-desk role. I have ordered the start-up of a massive offset press, countless times, while secretly praying I had not missed anything important.

Like good steel, I have been fired and quenched so many times, I know where the boundaries are, and if I choose to step over them, I do it, knowing the result is going to be bad. I accept the consequences of my words.

However, in the case of most of these bloggers, they are little better than the kids you would find on a high-school yearbook committee. They just blather away, committing libel at every turn, and generally being a pack of boobs. Following their unsubstantiated rants, they sign their little missives as if they are real journalists. I would wager many of them have never even seen the inside of a newsroom on a grade school tour. Judging from some of the material I have seen, a fair portion of these folks have never even graduated from High School.

So, that is the first group of folks, whose material might not be the stuff you should base life decisions on.

Next, we come to a great favorite of mine, the entertainment industry. First, you have to realize that the straight entertainers are in some cases, school dropouts or long-term substance abusers with the bank account of small countries. In some cases, they don’t care about you or I – nor have they thought out their positions on various subjects... it just doesn’t even come up on their radar. Their radar is set for butterflies, not aircraft. Idiotic catch-phrases stream from their gaping mouths and the light of flashbulbs reflects off their empty gazes.

There are exceptions, of course, and I do have friends who are big entertainers and do not view things from a political standpoint which would agree with any of the conservatives, of any stripe, who are out there. These folks have carefully considered many of these issues we are faced with today, and their beliefs are firmly held, carefully backed-up by personal research, and eyes which are looking around them. They are just seeing a different view than myself. I respect them and in some cases work with them and laugh with them, and can see past the right-left-independent dogma, which to me is more like dog shit.

Then there are the entertainers who are cloaked as news reporters. These folks work for big media concerns backed by big business and big money. They’re not all bad, but those who are, are amazingly bad. These rotten apples are influenced directly by what the organization wants to pay for. So, if a story about caged chimpanzees in deplorable conditions comes across the desk of one of these reporters, but the big business behind the media concern has a policy of cooperation with the company that is housing those chimps, you simply are not going to see a critical piece about the issue. The executives for that media concern may be out golfing and lunching with those company owners, and they are going to take a dim view of any story, which might put their buddies in a bad light. I know. I have been there – in exactly that situation

So, in many ways our government is similar to the chimps (sometimes I think the chimps are smarter, though). They are operating in a deplorable manner, albeit in posh conditions, but they are spending their time basically the same way - throwing feces at the members of the public who pass by them, or in the case of Governor Palin, facilitating conditions to heave more poop her way, than she can handle. Meanwhile, the basement blogger chimps are screeching and shaking their cages, and just generally making a lot of incomprehensible noise. Then there are the Capuchin monkeys of the “new media,” the real, idiot entertainers, who believe they can step into the political world and teach everyone else a thing or two. If you don’t know what a Capuchin monkey is, ask Al Franken.

So where does this party bus leave us, and where are we all going?

Media bias is nothing new. Big wigs have influenced the views of the peasants for a very long time... basically since newspapers had their start, and probably long before that in other countless ways. We still live in a world of spin and propaganda. It’s just that here in America we have been brought up to believe that everyone is free and there’s always a chance to reach for and grasp the waking edge of the dream.

But this is often not the case. People have influenced what we see and hear and think, ever since this country was founded, all in small ways and all for individual self-interest. What we face today, however, are groups, which have learned from the past, and have used networks and financial, legal and political engines to drive the party bus into territory best charted by dictators of the past. If you do not believe this, don’t worry. I have a feeling we are going to be experiencing the full weight of a totalitarian government in the near future. You won’t have to imagine it, because you will wake up to it every morning.

So, the bus with us all inside, is merrily rolling toward some kind of destination, which even the writers of Pravda find frightening. And we sit here, nearly motionless; perfect mirrors for the politicians we are electing to office. We are being paid back for our own short-sightedness, our own merry indifference to the scenery flying by just beyond the dirty glass of the bus window. The media may be biased, but many of us are simply not even paying attention.

It doesn’t take much to guide the uninformed: an uneducated blogger, a corrupt politician, a paparazzi-driven, silly or mean-spirited entertainer or a big-business influenced, trained journalist under orders to “slant” the story one way or the other.

In the end, however, it is our own personal choice to get on that party bus, and of course it is our responsibility to choose or not choose, to listen to the inane babble and believe it all.

We need to stand up and get the bus to stop. Maybe if we’re lucky, when we disembark, we won’t be on the Planet of the Apes.

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