There were two stories yesterday, with yesterday being April 2, that I felt were of national import.
One was the senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday that featured three generals, all testifying how, whether this administration or John McCain cares (or dares) to acknowledge the US role in Iraq is not only now a futile exercise, one the generals insist we have no alternative but to leave at our earliest orderly opportunity, and one where we have actually become irrelevant to the evolving political circumstances there. The country that has become the dominant political influence is Iran. Yeah . . . that Iran, the one John McCain wants to bomb, bomb, bomb; that when he’s not staying the course in Iraq. That three retired generals, all Republicans, excoriated past and current Bush plans in Iraq, but also those of Senator John McCain, seemed newsworthy to me. I must have been wrong. NOT!
The other story was the just released beyond all reasonable doubt evidence that the Bush administration had no respect for the US Constitution, the Geneva Conventions that prohibited torture, either or both houses of the federal legislature, or any of the laws that were or would come to be on the books. What was released were the full text of two John Yoo legal memos that sought to provide cover for the administration to do anything whatsoever it wanted to do, and everything else be damned. (Prior to joining the Bush administration in its Office of Legal Counsel, professor Yoo taught law at UC-Berkeley. Mr. Yoo has since returned to his old post at the Boalt Hall School of Law.) The documents lay waste as the most cynical of lies any and all administration claims “the United States does not torture,” or that permission to do so, as well as the active intention to do was, did not emanate from the very apex of the federal government. This wasn’t he-said/she-said hearsay. This was clear evidence of the most outrageous attempt to breach the most basic of US laws, all to seize as much authoritarian power possible. I thought this was newsworthy. I must have been wrong. NOT!
Did you know that you can go on line to the sites of the major networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC. (I intentionally dismissed Fox; that’s a network that plays almost exclusively to the most outrageous of neocon prejudices and fears.) On their sites you can see the “news” stories they are following, and that will be highlighted on their evening “news” programs; “news” highlighted because the truth of the matter is, there’s tragically little that’s useful to what is likely the non-poverty ravaged world’s most ill informed populace.
While neither of the above stories obtained the first syllable of reportage, we did learn about smokers’ genes, and that Jerry Seinfeld had rolled his car in Long Island. While, according to the “news” rooms of the majors, none of what I considered stories the American had an absolute right to be told about, clearly none of them agreed.
In fairness, ABC, CBS, and NBC are owned by corporate giants whose only interest is income, income that is driven by advertising revenue. These corporations are businesses, not non-profit or not-for-profit enterprises. They have shareholders to placate. As advertisers either do not advertise on networks that are not attracting just the right demographics, or they pay less for the ad space, it is incumbent on the networks to provide the kind of programming that will attract the greatest number of viewers fitting the most advantageous demographic profiles.
The programming decisions are not restricted to the shows that air between 8:00 in the evening until 11:00, or that which airs late night. It’s also which types of news stories capture the game. And repeatedly Americans seek news that titillates, that is entertaining, that doesn’t challenge either the intellect or set assumptions about politics or religion, or science. “Do not give me what I cannot, or do not want to try to handle. Don’t go into any real depth about a candidate’s positions, don’t critique their feasibility. Tell me about hairstyle, or how what they said was delivered, or what their ex-preacher screamed six years ago. Tell me about a fire that claimed 10 lives in a city I can’t even locate on a map. Feed me more desiccating stuff, stuff I don’t have to care about. And be sure to give me touchey-feely/cuddly-fuzzy, at least at the end of each broadcast.”
I truly fear for my country. I’d lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis; the one that White House (astoundingly really dumb-blond) Press Secretary Dana Perino guessed must have had “something to do with Cuba and missiles.” Not at noon, PDST, September 11 or any time thereafter have I spent a moment’s thought concerning whatever diabolical intrigues bin Laden might be conjuring. But I did worry a lot about how George Bush and his GOP supporters might ravage my country; all much graver threats to the United States than any six-foot-six inch Saudi on dialysis who was holed up in a cave somewhere. I also worry about my country because, by every fair test, the United States has the most poorly informed and educated citizenry of any country in the modern world.
Tonight? Nope, not a single word concerning either of the highlighted stories. But I did learn some transgendered fellow was pregnant. No, I wasn’t watching tv. It was running in the background while I was wrapping this up.
Want to know what I think of as icons of obscenity and profanity and blasphemy? Folks who regard any of this trash, or spending ten minutes watching it as okay. Could have been born a simian, or lower. But they weren’t. They were born with the most incredible gift of all, and they just do not care. I just checked television listings for this evening. Programs called “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” and “Eli Stone” and “Sex in the City” are on tonight. Can anyone tell me why anyone with at least a few functioning brain cells would watch them?— Ed Tubbs