Trying to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening on the culture front, periodically I check out the long range movie studio “sneaks” to see what is in the pipeline. My most recent check included the usual myriad remakes, prequels and sequels. But one novel plot line caught my attention. A guy falls asleep and when he awakens decades later, globalized culture is so dumbed down that he finds himself the only intelligent person on Earth. This is funny and offers all sort of plot gags. But it is also a grim reminder that the best comedy dings someone or in this instance, all of us.
The dumbing down of America is a slow, insidious process. On November 11, the Los Angeles Times California Section ran a article, “Times Plans New Op-Ed Lineup.” The Times’ Veterans Day bomb was that long time reporter and columnist Robert Sheer was fired. For decades Sheer has distinguished himself as a well-researched, disciplined voice from the left in one of America’s major dailies. The Times article offered no explanation for Sheer’s dismissal. Sheer offered his explanation as quoted by the Times: “I’ve been a punching bag for Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh for years and I think the paper finally collapsed.”
It has been a tumultuous time for deliverers of the news of late. Network anchor Peter Jennings died of lung cancer the same year both Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather retired. Just last week, staid TV journalist Ted Koppel, a beacon of journalistic integrity, retired from “Nightline.” To the chagrin of many listeners, including myself, even the venerable National Public Radio dumped personable “Morning Edition” host Bob Edwards in favor of an edgier male/female duo.
On the local front, some years ago, dominant KABC Talk Radio 790AM canned the articulate and challenging Michael Jackson (electronic journalist not to be confused with the gloved entertainer of the same name) in the station’s spiral to shrill right wing banter 24 hours a day. While radio journalist Michael Jackson continues to do cameo interviews for all news KNX 1070, his thoughtfully articulated liberal slant has effectively been removed from the airways. Indeed, with the dismissal of Sheer, I am hard pressed to find one articulate liberal voice with a regular major media forum in Southern California.
One wonders where the L.A. Times is headed with its new strategy born, in all probability, to boost circulation. One of the Times’ attributes has been its political rainbow of competent reporters and columnists – left, right and center. Short of degenerating into the dumb-downed dailies that feature car wrecks and rapes on the front page, it seems ro me, as a long-time reader, that the Times’ future lies taking the high road. Bring back Sheer and, if possible, add additional columnists of national impact — voices of all color and political stripe.
Robert Sheer will land on his feet be it blog, magazine, book and other media that await his gifted pen. The losers are the Los Angeles Times and its readers.I wonder if the upcoming-movie comedy about a dumbed down world describes politics in the emerging global future of Know Nothings. The cornerstone of a functioning democracy is an informed electorate. As we collectively dumb down America, is anyone taking pause to note its long term effect upon our future? Already, the voters of Minnesota – lead by a youth voting block – elected World Wrestling Federation’s Jesse Ventura governor for a four year term. It was funny for about a week.