Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams, the Noose Media
and the Stupidification of America

Never mind that Congress went off to campaign after cutting off aid to the poorest Americans and leaving the unemployed in limbo. Since last night, Washington is abuzz with the lynch mob firing of Juan Williams from National Public Radio, or the (drunken?) calls of Ginni Thomas, wife of the laziest justice on the Supreme Court, to sexual-harrassment whistleblower Anita Hill, or the latest nonsense by candidates for Congress who have not read the Constitution.

I have a brief memo, drawing on my 35 years in journalism, as a reporter, editor and publisher, for NPR Chief Executive Officer Vivian Schiller, who claims that "it is the ideal of journalism that we strive for objectivity":
Re: Juan Williams
There's no such thing as objectivity in journalism. We should try, however, to be fair.
Fox presents the world as seen from a right-wing prism, NPR does so with the lens of liberalish cultural sensitivity and MSNBC offers what passes for a "leftist" view in these United States.

The Washington Post lobbied hard for the construction of bridges that meant an economic boon to its parent company; its editorial staff preens as journalists, instead of gossipmongers and cheerleaders for whoever has power (in its majority black city), if white. The Washington Times lives in a Moonie world all its own (I double-dare you: juxtapose their front page with that of any two or three other newspapers for a week).

The question goes beyond political freedom of the press. There is a variety of opinions within the permissible range disseminated in this country.

Ever hear that the Soviet Union had no inflation in prices for basic necessities from 1927 to 1991? Or that Israel gets more U.S. foreign aid than all of Africa? Or that General Motors purposely destroyed once viable non-polluting mass transit systems in the United States?

No? Well, think about it: who owns the mass media? Even "free" blogs, like this one, exist at the pleasure of Mr. Google. Never mind the broadcast and cable networks, the newspapers, the wire services, held by a few neo-feudal newspaper families or by gigantic corporations or by modern-day robber barons.

This is why, when Congress left town at the end of September with a continuing resolution to fund the government -- except for a few billion in the TANF Emergency Fund and except for a permanent extension of unemployment insurance for the throngs that have been out of work for more than 99 weeks -- no one said anything.

The owners of the media don't give a damn about the depredation of our society, the fruits of which they partake of generously, if it doesn't sell advertising or air time. And the uneducated don't read and don't watch news.

I have waited and waited for someone to lift up their cry to the empty heavens. How can we sit by as the poverty rate rises, welfare is cut, and people are abandoned to live in cardboard "homes" without saying a word?

I kept my counsel precisely because I cover these things professionally in journalism. I'm not supposed to vent opinions. Or as one grizzled editor used to say (in my cleaned up version): if you cover the circus, don't make love to the elephants.

Enough! The words of Allen Ginsburg come to mind: "America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?"
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