Tuesday, February 13, 2007

To The News Media Bordello: Show Us the Coffins

By Paul

I'm mad as hell. Raging. Incoherent. Off my meds. And I'm not gonna take it anymore.


The News Media, of which I was once a part, is a giant bordello. The madams no longer have names like "Second Avenue Sally." Now, it's more like Viacom, News Corp., Disney, and General Electric. Advertisers are the pimps, news directors and reporters are the whores of our digital age.

Do I exaggerate? Have you been watching the ghoulish freak show that is television "news?"

We are in the midst of a war in which young men and women are being ripped to shreds, our national treasury looted. Yet, television networks and cable outlets search for the lowest common denominator to reach the greatest number of slack-jawed viewers. Last week, barely having gotten over the deranged female astronaut in diapers, they found their Story of the Year.

Anna Nicole Smith. Surely, a tragic life, but one hardly deserving multiple two-hour retrospectives. Remind me, now, just what made Anna Nicole Simpson famous? Oh, wait, Geraldo Rivera has something to say. Did he just accuse Anna's boyfriend and/or husband of possible murder? I don't know; I can't follow this.

Newspapers, or what's left of them, are just as bad. (I pause a moment to praise The New York Times, which reported Anna Nicole's death on page 12. This does not absolve the Times of the reporting of Judith Miller and others, beating the drums for war against Iraq, but the Times' recent restraint deserves mention here).

In one time span last week, CNN had made reference to Ms. Smith 141 times versus 27 references to Iraq. The MSNBC scoreboard was Anna 170, Iraq 24 and Fox News 112 to 33.

Yes, hookers of the News Media. We're your Johns. You have our number. We're shallow and superficial. We're suckers for celebrity. We grow giddy at the scent of sex. We bask in the sweet Schadenfreude of the rich and famous. If we get the government we deserve, doesn't it follow that we get the "Access Hollywood" we deserve?

You bet. We thirst for Donald Trump and Rosie O'Donnell and Simon Cowell. More Americans can name the winner of "American Idol" than can name their Congressman. C'mon, Rupert Murdoch, feed us all the garbage we can swallow. For we are a people who care more about Lindsay and Brittany and Paris than about grunts on patrol in Anwar Province or about helicopter crews who are cannon fodder in a Civil War not our own.

But then, war news is such a downer.

Did you see the perky Katie Couric do her Super Bowl spot promising uplifting reports on the CBS Nightly News? Well, blow it out your ear, Katie.

The news ain't good. The polar ice caps are melting; forty per cent of Americans have no health insurance; former friends around the world hate our guts; and we're in a war whose cost clock clicks off thousands of dollars a second. (If you hit that link, the cost will show about $366 billion. However, the REAL COST of George and Dick's Excellent Mis-Adventure including massive interest, replacement of equipment, lifetime medical care for the grievously wounded and the like, is expected to approach $2 trillion. As for the cost in blood, only God knows.

Oh, get off it, Paul. Public discourse on the issues of our day is so-o-o-o boring. So old school. It won't sell in the 21st Century. You gotta tart it up.

Let's show endless clips of a blonde, stoned Playmate tumbling out of her slinky dress. Tits and ass still sell, even when stumpy limbs don't.

So, what to do?

Let's start by turning off the damn box. Yeah, let's go all Howard Beale on the bastards. Tell NBC, and CBS, and Fox, and ABC and all the other bordellos that we're mad as hell and we won't take it any more. Tell them to show us the world we live in, the mess we've made, the lives we've ruined. Show us the face of Jesus Martinez.

Show us the legs of Robert Jackson.

Show us bodies torn to pieces, and show us the coffins, you spineless, corporate lackeys.

And maybe the next time a simple-minded, sloganeering, delusional, bullying President proposes a shameful, immoral attack on another country, we'll say, Hell No. You Go.



  1. If you live in a country with a consumer driven economy, you will always be subjected to news and information that will maximise viewership or readership. Newspapers are driven by circulation and charge advertisers accordingly. TV stations are driven by ratings and charge advertisers accordingly. Don't blame the media, they are only showing the stuff that the shallow public want to se.

  2. I'm as angry as you are about the Bush/Blair War, but I think most people would probably like to see LESS of the war on their news programmes, not more. I'm not saying its right, but I think there's a process of desensitisation, whereby one more bomb in one more marketplace just stops being news anymore.

    Does that mean the death of a blousy freeloader IS news? Not for me, but then I'm not The Public!

  3. I'm with you. The supposed reporters are more interested in access to sources and invitations to parties than they are covering the poor bastards getting blown up in Iraq.

    With the exception of Christiane Amanpour and a few dozen other brave people.

  4. Paul, I am with you all the way, all the way on this one. I only watch the BBC news, not because it's British, but aside from the occasional "light" story, you've got reporting on issues that matter. Frankly, I didn't know Anna-Nicole Smith was dead until a day ago, then wondered why there was so much ink being spilled on the subject.

    Interesting thing, last week saw the show's woman anchor interviewing a senior government official from the Sudan, about Darfur, and this guy was trying to ooze past every pointed question, but she was driving him into a corner. Then he said, for the world to hear, "No one is clean, in Africa." My husband and I looked at each other, and John said to me, "Did he just say what I thought he said?" Try to get that sort of admission on Fox. Mind you, doesn't change things, but it means journalists somewhere are pushing the buttons, trying to get the news.

    And that's where the madams have blood on their hands again - there are journos and photographers out there being killed so that the world may know more of the truth, but they just aren't getting the air time, or page time, in the wake of the daily dose of good-news specials. No wonder there's a malaise regarding the truth about war, for example. If we knew how truly ugly it was, it would be harder to drag us into it and keep us there - and forgive me for using the word "ugly" - it is a very light word with which to describe the all-embracing terror of humans killing humans.

    Thank you, Paul, for your fury, we need it, lest we never know what happens in a world with the madams in control of information. And we need it, lest we forget what has been done.

  5. Don't blame the media? Don't blame the media??? Of course I blame the media, they were complicit in this debacle of a war. They are always saying, oh we reported on this because the public has the right to know. Well, didn't the public have the right to know that George and Dick were full of shit when they oh so cleverly began to link Sadam to 911 when there was no evidence of this? Where was the media when I was standing (yes, standing) in front of my TV for it seems like weeks, yelling, what the hell is he talking about?!! What does Sadam have to do with this? No one in that freaking room said, Mr President what the hell are you talking about? Oh, that's right, it was because they'd revoke your press pass if you were so rude as to ask the wrong question. The Administration manipulated the press and the press manipulated the fearful public. It's their job NOT to be used that way, but they failed, just like the Democrats failed to speak up, so here we are. Ask the tough questions,no, but man we are all over Anna Nicole. I'll stop now, cuz I can feel that vein in my head pulsating.

    I just saw Jacquelaine's post (done while I was ranting) and wanted to say thanks to you and Paul for saying in a much more articulate way what I have been feeling. Love this blog.

  6. Just to get in a little NY Times bashing of my own: online they had Anna Nicole's death above the fold, center, with a "blog" that quickly racked up 222 comments--most of them "why do I care about this woman's death? Sad, but for God's sake NOT news..."

  7. Thanks, Paul and Jacqueline.

    What makes me sad, and angry, is that we also are complicit in all of this because we (as a nation) don't vote, and we don't think. Barely 50% of those eligible to vote typically cast ballots in our Presidential elections (55% in '92, and 50% in 2000). And then we sit, slack-jawed in our Barcaloungers, waiting for Bill O'Reilly to tell us what to think.

    And, your photo from Network is so appropriate. I recently watched it again - it's come true.

    All of which is causing me to need some medicinal chocolate ;-)

  8. And yet, an anti-war rally was recently held in downtown Los Angeles and only 3,000 people showed up. Where were the rest of us?

  9. And yet, an anti-war rally was recently held in downtown Los Angeles and only 3,000 people showed up. Where were the rest of us?

    My wife and I have talked about going into the street, and we're tempted.

    But I'm tired. I know I'm supposed to go into the breach once more, but after being politically active, both in and out of uniform, since 1968, I'm worn out. I know some will read that as an excuse to stay home and wallow in sloth, but I don't care. It's time for younger people to pick up the banner.

    I've reached the age when my protests are limited to angry letters to the Times.

  10. David, I agree with you. I've waited for the next generation to step up to the plate, but they aren't doing it. Too busy reading about Anna Nicole, I guess. It may be up to us to lead the way once again.

  11. Yesterday, James shared with us his favourite W. C. Fields joke;"we're haggling over the price." Well, why don't we apply that to today's topic. I have to say, Paul, this is one of your better posts.....but I think the problem as stated is that TV Networks are whores, only they are not your/our whores. Think about it; if the network[s] were touting your latest novel and urging everyone to go out and buy it, how mad as hell would you be with that? "Advertisers are the pimps, news directors and reporters are the whores of our digital age." When was it ever any different? The relationship between those parties are like a petrie dish for incubating all kinds of harlots.

    Network came out in 1976, people were obviously mad as Hell back then----- and it was a fantastic idea that we could get so mad that we wouldn't take it anymore....all those TVs getting tossed out windows. Ah, but that was back in the day before 60" TVs and Plasma TVs that cost a fortune, not to mention weigh a ton.

    Jacqueline seems to have a great approach by watching a newscast which still remains newsworthy: BBC. But all media is subject to that same petrie dish effect The networks are just a reflection of the people they "serve," the society in which we live[like Ken points out]. I can guarantee you that the people in Darfur or the Sudan aren't concerned with Anna Nicole, Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears....the list goes on. AS ALWAYS, Jacqueline comments are par excellance!

    A BIG THUMBS UP to Pam and Rae who both hit the nail on the head....we who stand by and do nothing more than rant, like on this blog, are complicit.....


  12. The veins are throbbing in heads, we're saying our pieces here, jumping up and down, and asking, "Why doesn't anyone hear us?"

    I confess, I have not hit the streets, I have not added my shoe leather to the crusade, and for that I am ashamed, as I read this post and the comments. I am ashamed because, as we all know from the disaster of November 2000, every single voice counts. Those who might have carried the torch, who might have continued for the ones who are, understandably, battle-fatigued after all these years, are languishing in a mire of cellphone-happytalk. With some exceptions, it's all, like, wow, dude.

    And in our walking and our ranting, and in the raising of our voices, which we must do, and I am taking note of myself here and holding myself to account, we must offer support to those others who have yet to take the streets at all. With all the peacable Muslims out there, who have spoken out against war, against terror, why have they not taken to the streets? Where is the fury across the whole of humankind? And how can we help each other to raise our voices?

    I remember, when I was about eleven, my mother helping me with a poem I was writing, only she became so involved, that she wrote the whole thing herself, why I nibbled the end of my pen and watched. I don't know where that poem got to, but it was called, "To The Armaments Maker." And thereby hangs a tale. Go to the money, and I'm talking the big money, the money that most of us don't even know about, and you will find the spring from which the madams are fed. Go back and read Arhtur Kent's book, which was not only about his break from NBC, but more about the controlling organizations. It's an old book now - I think he wrote it more than ten years ago - but when "news" became part of "entertainment" and therefore subject to ratings, it was all over. The press was rolling over and dying.

    And just to go on a bit more, a couple of weeks after Katrina hit New Orleans, I was on a 'plane to Houston when most people were leaving that city because a hurricane was on its way. Few passengers were on that 'plane, but I ended up sitting next to a guy who was a senior photojournalist for AP. He specialized in natural disasters and, having just got back from Louisiana, he was on his way to the eye of the storm again, to Galveston. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, I said, "Now that I've got one of you guys cornered, I want to know - why are you all on your backs playing dead with this administration?" To his credit, he replied, "You're right, and there are two words to answer that one: Karl Rove." And he went on to explain that KR had "something on anyone" important in the media, and from there was able to castrate the news. Sorry guys, couldn't think of a better word there. That's why they are, as Paul says, "Madams."

  13. Wow, Jacqueline, that little snippet about KR is scary. Not surprising, but scary. And once again, sad-making; that someone we didn't elect is holding the media hostage to his own idealogy (assuming the guy on the plane was accurate)is, well, a total bummer, dude.

    BTW, did anyone read the Vanity Fair profile of KR? Again, scary is the only word that comes to mind to describe him.

    2008 can't come quickly enough, to my mind.

  14. I know. This is one of many reasons why we don't have TV at my house.

    I work (freelance) for my local newspaper and as inadvertantly part of last week's debate over where to place Smith's death story. I argued that we are a local newspaper and that, unless she had a local connection, her death should not be front page news. Others disagreed, citing the "it's what the people want to read" line of illogic. My side won, and the story went inside the front section, but was referred from the sky box. Sigh.

  15. Oops, typo. I WAS inadvertantly...

  16. Turn OFF the BOX!
    It is making us all crazy and/or more stupid than imaginable.
    We are so easily manipulated - the Pelosi "Queen of the Jetway" "story" got more play and outrage than the evident preparation to invade IRAN and further inflame the world. Sigh.