As many of us may remember from our school days, one of the reasons Communism had to be defeated was that in the USSR, the government controlled the news. The people there didn’t hear or read anything that the government didn’t want them to know, because all news was filtered through TASS, the Soviet news agency. So, in addition to having hot dogs and John Wayne movies and churches of our choice, we were also superior to them in our free flow of information.
Yet even a casual glance at last week’s flow of “media” can make you wonder if Boris and Natasha weren’t better off.
It’s not tiresome or redundant to criticize the scope and volume of the Michael Jackson and Robert Blake coverage in the same week that the death toll in Iraq hits 1,500 American lives. More than 16,000 Iraqi civilians are estimated dead since the invasion. Estimated, on web sites. For some reason, those numbers aren’t compelling enough for the American media to collect, confirm and report on their own.
Information of that sort, the kind that would more clearly communicate the true nature of the Iraq invasion, doesn’t demand media resources the same way the gathering of collateral piffle about Jackson and Blake does. In the old USSR, the people would never hear about a nuclear accident in which thousands died. Here, the same thing might happen, but it would be lost in the mix if it happened the day the Jackson or OJ verdicts came down.
Okay, that’s media voluntarily looking the other way, instigating the distraction by building stories that don’t legitimately have page one value into stories that do. Then there’s Martha…
What a day it must have been, the afternoon that Martha Stewart turned to her lawyers and said, “No, wait… I do go to jail! We send me to jail! It’s brilliant!” Could they count on the idiot savant media generating untold billions in free publicity for her very commercial enterprises after incarceration? Of course they could; of course they did.
Last week 100 people were killed by one car bomb in Iraq. You don’t know the names of those victims, and you’ll probably never know the name of the suicide bomber. It will never be clear exactly who was responsible for that gruesome bloodshed, which is occurring in the post-invasion Iraq we created, although you’ll get some limp reporting about people taking credit for the bombing.
What you DO know for a stone fact is that Martha Stewart got of out jail, got on a jet, had cocoa with press reporters, returned to her home and petted her horses. That information you do have.
Imagine a news channel that made its editorial content decisions based on a template of what people actually need to know to be informed about the issues impacting their lives. Bush’s plan to raid your Social Security for the gain of his corporate friends would rate high on that need-to-know list. A murder in Modesto, California that is tragic but only directly impacts the families of those involved and the citizens of Modesto would not. A washed up TV actor killing his hillbilly wife would not. Pretty white girls disappearing would be presented in context alongside stories of young women of all races disappearing.
Last week I watched the landing of Steve Fossett’s globe-circling plane live on CNN. As the plane approached a Kansas airfield, two chowderheads anchoring in the studio speculated and babbled, sometimes allowing a ‘tech’ reporter to inject tidbits of actual information. At the airfield, the reporter covering the landing stated he couldn’t see the approaching plane because he was positioned between two buildings. You see, something was blocking his view.
This Week’s “Know Your News” Quiz
1) A transient was convicted of
(a) stalking Mel Gibson.
(b) uploading “screeners” to theInternet.
(c) fixing oil prices.
2) China will spend $29.9 billion on
(a) counterfeit IPODs
(b) its military budget.
(c) Christo’s “Wall Wrap” project.
3) The race for L.A. Mayor now includes
(a) more attack-type ads.
(b) better music.
(c) Hahn appearing in person.
1) (a) “Okay, I’ll follow Mel Brooks…”
2) (b) “It’s a grenade, it’s a cigarette lighter…”
3) (a) “My record speaks for its–wait…”