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Life Arts

The Stepford Pundits?

By       Message Bob Patterson     Permalink
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As Hawks made his movie, "His Girl Friday," the US prepared to built battleships

In Howard Hawks' 1940 film "His Girl Friday," an unscrupulous, unethical newspaper editor, Walter Burns (Cary Grant), will do anything to get things to happen his way.   In the film he uses his "anything goes" ethics to win back the love of his best reporter and former wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) who is, as the film begins, about to marry another man the next day.

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Hawks took the Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's classic journalism drama, "The Front Page," and changed the basic plot into a screwball comedy with some sensationalism and contemporary issues dialogue thrown as elements of substantiating authenticity.  

As America drew closer and closer to involvement in the war in Europe, women such as Margaret Bourke-White and Martha Gellhorn struggled to establish a woman's right to be employed as a "newsman."   Hawks focused on the romance angle of his version of the story and let incidental issues such as race and pay get only quick lines to outline the (perfunctory) attempt to establish some sympathy for mitigating circumstances in the murder of a policeman.   Hildy's marriage is scheduled on the same day as the murderer's execution.

The film, which the Pacific Film Archive had scheduled to be the final installment of a Howard Hawks retrospective, was shown on Tuesday, February 28, 2012, and brought up the question:   How relevant could a 72 year old film about a declining industry be?

Since the film was shown at the same time that newspaper/broadcasting mogul Rupert Murdoch was being portrayed as an unscrupulous, unethical newspaper publisher who is   being investigated for using "anything goes" ethics to win readers and increase his profit margin, it turned out that the movie was not a night off, but required the World's Laziest Journalist to put on his columnist hat and ask this question: What if a similar newspaper man were trying to manipulate American voters and change the Republicans' choice for their Presidential nominee rather than win back the love of a top reporter?

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Isn't there a folk axiom that proclaims that "All is fair in love, war, and journalism!"?

Supporters of Murdoch will make the assertion that citizen journalists will be the Maginot Line insuring that shoddy journalism doesn't become the norm in the USA.   However the Myth of Sisyphus task for bloggers may be showing some signs of stress fatigue.   In the current issue of the East Bay Express, Rachel Swan (on page 10 of the hard copy edition) presents a story substantiating the idea that unpaid bloggers may be as effective as the Maginot Line was.   The subhead for her story reads:   "The blogs that were "making democracy work' last year have largely fizzled out."

When the Republicans unanimously started to use morality as the basis   for assessing the Blunt bill (to permit employers the right to withhold health benefits for employees on the grounds of religious freedom), earlier this week, did any voice in the mainstream media point out that such scrupulous attention to morality seemed conspicuously absent when liberals pointed out the large number of collateral damage deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan?  

Does any unique pundit ask where is the morality when bankers, who have used faulty if not felonious paperwork for foreclosures, continue to toss American families out of their homes, are asked to hold off until the paperwork can be improved; they continue to foreclose at top speed?   Is that flagrant disregard for the sanctity of a family's home in preference to profits a true example of the American politicians' concept of family values?  

Can paid punditry's continued effort to completely ignore the incongruity of the high moral tone for the birth control aspect of health care and at the same time the callus disregard for the morality of unrelenting foreclosure efforts mean that the professional writers are either really stupid or are they just unquestioningly subservient to the one percent media owners?

Does the fact that only a lose cannon, online columnist has the freedom to ask such impertinent questions, prove conclusively that the free press is extinct?   If that is the case, will Americans wait until listening to foreign broadcasts and reading dissenting opinions are capital offenses before they realize that the free press is as extinct as the California golden bear?   Or will they cheerfully assert that the pathetic uniformity of conservative punditry is all they want or need to become well informed voters?

How did that work out in Germany in the Thirties? (Do a Google search for "VE 301")

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Is there some irony to be found in the fact that when Democrats are in the White House, the Conservatives are unanimous in their belief that criticism of the President must be unrelenting, but when George W. Bush was President, the conservatives assessed any criticism of Dubya as being unpatriotic?  

When FDR was in the White House did conservatives denigrate the Presidents constantly?   Wasn't the very wide spectrum of voices in the political arena (when "His Girl Friday" was released) a vast assortment of differing points of view?   How diverse was the political debate in Germany at that very same time?   Which style of diversity are the Republicans striving to duplicate?

In "His Girl Friday," Hildy Johnson thought that Walter Burns' extortion and bribery made him all the more lovable and by the film's end, she was back in love with Burns.

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BP graduated from college in the mid sixties (at the bottom of the class?) He told his draft board that Vietnam could be won without his participation. He is still appologizing for that mistake. He received his fist photo lesson from a future (more...)

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