Saturday, March 1, 2008

So that's what the 'T. S.' stands for....

I watch the talking heads on those weekend morning 'public service TV programs', a vestigial remnant like an appendix hearkening back to an era when the FCC required those who purchased licenses for the airwaves to provide the equivalent of a soup kitchen for the flocks of unwashed who watched their prime-time shows. These shows feature ('star' is not quite the word) folks who REPORT on news, and who offer insights into what they think it may mean and who quiz one another on foreign and domestic policy issues.

I'm surprised in a country where a previous Health and Human Services Secretary considered ketchup to be a vegetable that the FCC doesn't count infomercials as the equivalent of public service announcements. Billy Mays as the successor to Edward R. Murrow.

The premise of the talking heads TV is that George Will or Gwen Ifill or Portia Whatever (I can only remember two and a half names after THOUSANDS of hours of viewing; how sad is that?) has a clue about how to soft land an economy in a recession (or more exactly, any more of a clue than I do) as an example.

Instead of interviewing General Petraeus, which would require research, analysis and coordination, tonight on "The McLaughlin Group" we could have four or more well-dressed folks shouting at one another very loudly--two of whom may have once covered the Pentagon, perhaps for Sports Illustrated Magazine. But all cats look the same in the dark.

And here in cyberspace, it is very dark. In the 'good old days' of controlled media, as opposed to the 'free media' of The Internet (caps deliberate), people were trained as observers and reporters. Now in the wild, wild West of the World wide Web, you can be a blurter and it doesn't help that most of us regard all of what we read on the Web as real and/or true, regardless of the site and its history. Maybe because I'm old (and humor me if that's the case), there may be a difference in the quality of the information in the Detroit Free Press or Boston Globe website in comparison to Drudge or The Huffington Post or Ann Coulter.

Today, your opinion, expressed strongly enough will, magically and almost alchemically become fact when stated in dogmatic terms. Many readers don't see the little box on a page of the paper, or in a corner of the screen, that may (or not) say 'analysis', which is a more oblique word than 'opinion'.....

I know people, as do you, who don't understand the difference between the front page and the editorial page, and some days I well understand their dilemma. We have more information and less knowledge now, and poorly developed faculties and underdeveloped powers of reasoning to sort all of this out, than our parents did. All I ever think of is the closing lines of Dylan's Desolation Row, except I can't find many fishermen throwing flowers.
-bill kenny

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