The Media Shell Game; Society’s String Warts

I recently read through some historic news stories that covered the Watergate scandal in this country and can’t stop shaking my head in disgust at how our nation has become sidetracked by fast toys and shiny objects. The infamous Nixon/Watergate scandal hit a new low in modern day politics. Some may argue that during the earlier era of our country a huge amount of corruption took place; quite true and anyone searching for evidence need go no further than the local library to look up the years of nasty politics in Chicago. Laws to prevent liquor sales on election day sprang up after years of voters being led from the bar to the voting booth. Corruption is nothing new but Watergate was the pinnacle of modern party antics from Richard Nixon, John Erlchman, H.R. Haldeman and a few more villainous white collar thugs. A plot to break into Democratic National Headquarters, followed by an attempted coverup of the crime, hit newspapers throughout the world exposing the culprits, sending some to jail and forcing a president into resignation.

One of the notable characteristics the Watergate stories have is they are in print, a fading trend of communication in today’s quick, glib coverage from 24 hour television news channels and an never-ending internet stream. When the Watergate scandal broke out to the public the main thrust of the coverage was handled by the major newspapers because television coverage of the scandal was rather boring. No real action to watch, just a lot of shirts and ties dodging questions or pleading the 5th. The written word supplied an interested public with facts, names, places and kept all readers abreast of the details. Real hush-hush characters were speaking to the press because their picture wasn’t being splashed over the airwaves. You could read the daily information from the Washington Post or the Times and AP wire stories were carried in local fish wrap throughout the nation. I think Watergate was the swan song of news reporting in the U.S. and a new era rang in when a show called Nightline hit the tube. November 8, 1979 marked the beginning of the modern daily news coverage in an effort to feed the public daily information surrounding the Iran hostage crisis. From that fateful day the news and information machine has grown like string warts on the public airwaves and now the monster can’t be stopped.

Media news shows saturate us daily with a shell game approach to informing the public. The tiny pea is under this shell, no, now it switched and it’s under this shell. Before we can focus in on the truth the networks decide to dissuade public opinion to keep a story alive. The truth doesn’t matter anymore, what counts is how long they can bleed a story before viewers tire of it and demand something fresh. The lull of Trevon Martin and George Zimmerman fade before our eyes as we await the next scandal to uncover. Few take more effort than to click ‘like’ on Facebook to show their support/opposition to any given tragedy to hit our country. The true tragedy in the Martin/Zimmerman case is that by the time it gets to trial a large percentage of people will have already forgotten the key players. Do Middle school children even recognize the name Rodney King? Do most people remember the names of the shooters at Columbine (Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris for those keeping score at home)?

If people are willing to call local stations to boycott sponsors of talk shows or demand talking head carnies who pretend to be journalists, wouldn’t we as a nation of viewers be better served by contacting those stations and demanding more solid, informative news? There are enough channels out there to supply us with celebrity gossip, huckster presentations to sell salad shooters and point/counter point debates but if you put ‘News’ in the title of your program, it should contain news. We demand that of cheese for christ sake-anything called cheese must contain cheese. MSNBC can try and sneak around it by hiding behind an acronym but if they tout a tagline saying they are a ‘news source’ I don’t want to hear a lot of presumed banter, please, just the facts. Fox News? I don’t even have enough room on this post to go into those hacks,The most honest reporting we get from news today is during sports-you can’t fudge the numbers there folks. If the Lakers win by 14, the news says ‘the Lakers lost by 14’.

We need to slow down and chew the news slowly rather than gulping it down our throats without even tasting it. Hear the news and draw your own conclusions, quit relying on some fast talking fat swine that has an AM radio show every day or the talking face who blurts out something reactionary. Don’t just hear, listen. demand more of your news providers. Read.


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