Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Interpretation of the “News”


This was written in the spring of March 2004.  I submitted it for an op-ed in the local paper, but it was not published.

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“I've been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headline
and the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to her people
And a country is drifting to war.” – J. Browne, 1985

I feel the above words by Jackson Browne are pertinent today, with the exception that our country did not ‘drift’ into this war… our leaders pursued it wholeheartedly.  The case was presented to the American people again and again by every TV and radio station across the nation:  We needed to urgently attack Iraq and take out Saddam, because his regime had weapons of mass destruction and connections to al Qaeda.  We could not wait for UN inspections, and never mind the fact that most of the rest of the world was opposed to this war.  But today, there are no WMDs found in Iraq and no known connections to bin Laden.  Instead, we have tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, hundreds of Americans dead, and a country that is in an economic and humanitarian crisis.  How, as a nation, did we succumb to this extraordinary level of misinformation?

“On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?” – J. Browne, 1955

Our big TV news shows have reported every single American causality in Iraq, which they should.  They have reported again and again on the evil ways of Saddam Hussein, which is not new information.  They fail to mention the American policies, and statements that contributed to the genocide that Saddam and his government committed.  They fail to mention how UN inspections did disarm Saddam.  Further, our TV media barely covers the Iraqi civilians that died or were injured, or the lives or homes or businesses that have been ruined in THIS WAR.  I have heard little mention of the estimate of the number of Iraqi civilian deaths.  I am convinced that Americans do need this information presented to them, so that we can fully realize what we have done.  There are reports of Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence, but little mention or in-depth reporting on American-on-Iraqi violence.

“They sell us the President the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us everything from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars.” – J. Browne, 1985

I do believe that we were sold this war.  The TV media presented, over and over, time and again, what our administration had to say, with little analysis of incongruent information, or presentation of alternative viewpoints.  The TV news channels sometimes engaged (and are still engaging) in ridicule of anyone who opposed the war, including heads of foreign countries.  They give us infotainment on subjects that have little or no national or international relevance.  They give us “rally-round-the-flag” videos.


“I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die.” – J. Browne, 1985

No one is asking the people in charge “WHY?” on our TV news media.  As always, the ones who determined that we needed a war were not the ones to fight it.  I have the deepest of respect for the men and women who make the decision to serve this country.  It is a noble sacrifice they make, and sometimes it is a final sacrifice.  The costs that troops sometimes face should be foremost in our elected officials minds at all times.

On September 11th, our intelligence agencies did not protect us.  As good as our Air Force was, they could not scramble in time to take down any of the four hijacked planes.  Yet one airplane came down in Shankville, PA.  That plane came down when ordinary American citizens got complete and correct information… and then made the decision to take back the plane.  All of this was dependent on INFORMATION.

We desperately need complete and correct information from our TV news today.  We do not need entertainment, we do not need ridicule of opposing ideas, and we do not need news media that constantly hawk us the “company line” of our hawkish US administration.  We need to know what information is being presented in the media of foreign countries.  We need TV news that can tell the difference between a family tragedy and national news, and they need to skip the family tragedies.  They need to skip the celebrity crime stories.  We need TV news that will present what is happening, and what has happened, no matter how unpleasant this may be for Americans to watch.  Because, in the words of Jackson Browne:

“And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire.” – J. Browne, 1985

Media reform/watch organizations include:  FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) whose website is www.fair.org.  Media Channel is another one, at www.mediachannel.org.

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In the years since I wrote this piece, things have only gotten worse on our TV “news”.  They are still intent on misinforming Americans, by omission and distortion and outright lies.  Today, I think it is pretty hopeless to think that any media reform organization will ever work.  The only hope we have is the internet, and for news shows like Democracy Now (www.democracynow.org)  to keep us informed.  Today, Americans are more uninformed and misinformed than ever.  And this is very dangerous.


1 comment:

Belle said...

This is a good and timely post. Thanks for all you said. The worst thing about these politicians who want war is that they don't care about the death and destruction they cause. They have no basic humanity. I believe it is all about money in the end.

Whenever someone says you are not being patriotic if you disagree with them, that is the time to pay attention. That is the language of tyrants.