Whores and Media Prostitutes
September 7, 2002
We hear so much whining and rationalizing from media pundits
and reporters who would do better work but can't, they say,
because the whole system is against them. Radio and TV station
owners and network chieftains want only to boost ratings and
make money, they say, and care not a twit about journalistic
standards or honest and fair reporting. They seem to think
it the nature of things that only pretty air-heads who say
outrageous things will hold an audience's attention. Would-be
journalists blame the station owners and blame the public.
Hey, why not blame Clinton? Oh, they're already are doing
And what about ratings?
I could take the easy, sassy way and tell such pretend-journalists
that TV stations could boost their ratings even more if the
pretty air-heads who say outrageous things were to do their
shows buck-naked. But I won't write that because I think the
argument deserves a better response. (But it is true!)
I understand that, nowadays, in contrast to the era of Edward
R. Murrow, the news divisions of TV and radio stations are
expected to earn huge profits; they are no longer subsidized
by comedy shows and sports programs and expected only to break
even monetarily in exchange for the prestige they add to networks
and stations. I grasp that, but even within that framework
it would be possible for reporters to tell the truth and not
lie. Stations can still hire pretty air-heads to read cue
cards and recite the nightly news or make their inane chit-chat.
The pretty faces are there to boost ratings; the lying has
not so much to do with ratings as something else.
The network and station owners have a darker agenda than
just ratings. It is deregulation. That is what we are up against.
It is clear to everyone by now that Bush and his henchmen
are all for the monopolies and conglomerates, and all for
concentrating power and money in the hands of the elite few
(preferably the few who contribute to their campaigns).
Democrats are against that principle and favor regulation
that protects small radio and TV stations and newspapers from
being gobbled up by syndicates who care nothing for the local
regions they service and, supposedly, serve -- but care only
for the "bottom line." It is this battle that most voters
are not even aware of, but it is one of the most important
battles going on in America today. If all news and most communication
is retained in the hands of a few moguls who owe their power
and wealth to the Republican Party, guess whose agenda they
will push their editors to favor.
But we have the Internet, and contrary to what some think,
it is powerful and its power is growing. Rush Limbaugh may
very well have 18 million listeners. Who cares? They would
vote right-wing anyway, so we can forget about them.
The battle for minds is a contest to see who can get the
facts to the largest number of middle-of-the-roaders -- those
folks who have decent intellects, decent hearts and want America
to be the country it is touted to be. Most of those people
are very busy working at their jobs and, when they come home
at night, flip on the TV expecting to hear the news, the facts.
They don't. They hear rants, tirades, and self-important hosts
interrupting so regularly no one ever gets to explain complicated
One by one, day by day, we are chipping away at the credibility
of that kind of mainstream media. Most reasonably intelligent
people have come to understand that while all such ranting
and interrupting may be good theater (it actually isn't, but
I'll deal with that another time), it does not encourage
Many news people underestimate the inroads the Internet has
made on the credibility of the mainstream media.
It is a truism of life that simple people prefer simple explanations
for events. The Republicans might very well be better at that
since they are also so willing to include lying in their bag
of tricks. I point to the current effort by Republicans to
claim that it was the Democrats who wanted to privatize Social
Security, not Republicans.
Explaining complex political issues does take more time than
simplistic "explanations," but what is the solution to that?
First, we have to decide what kind of a nation we want to
live in. In any dictatorship, no one has to worry about reasoning,
thinking, or analyzing complicated political issues -- people
just have to obey and follow the charismatic leader. Simple.
But I don't really think most people -- if they have it all
explained to them -- want to live that way.
So we must find ways to catch their interest and explain
issues in "straight talk" ways; it is not (despite what some
think) all that difficult. Some think the only alternative
to pretty air-heads lying about events is boring, ugly people
rambling on for hours using obscure phrases to make us all
feel inferior. I say, "Nuts," that is not the only
alternative. There have been many progressive politicians
and news people over the years who could capture and hold
the attention of their audiences with charm, wit, facts, and
It is all do-able; it is just a question of good people doing
What Is Right, and not just What Is Easy.
I have heroes and they are not those people who went for
the buck by lying, and by lying, hurting innocent people.
I have little sympathy for people who know what is right but
will not do it. Those of us who will do the right thing must
keep putting one foot in front of the other, bringing our
best talents, skills, energy, and, yes, charm into the battle.
We are in a battle for the soul of America, nothing less.
And we will triumph. And those who do not stand and
tell the truth about facts will be left behind like so much