Friday, June 3, 2005

More Bad News

There is news afoot of the existence of a document which could be potentially damning for the Bush administration. Apparently, the British press has uncovered minutes of meetings from as early as July 2002 which suggest that the President and Vice President had  deemed that Iraq must be invaded, and were applying themselves to the task of "fixing" the intelligence to create the emergency. To whom does this come as a surprise? And what possible difference is it going to make?

A great deal of the 21st Century’s bad news problem can be blamed on the explosive expansion of the television medium. In the last decades of the twentieth century, we went from the Big Three, public television and a handful of large-market independents, to literally hundreds of stations available to any viewer across the country. Wouldn’t this appear to be a golden opportunity to get a previously impossible amount of good, useful news to an unprecedented number of people?

Perhaps predictably, this didn’t happen. Networks, now hotly competing for the viewers’ eyeballs (and advertising dollars), quickly wiped their hands of the old educating-the-public news model. They set their sights on going in whatever direction the now option-drunk audience dictated. Unfortunately, given the choice, the public didn’t choose to be well-informed. What child, released from the rigors of the schoolroom, would opt to go back into those dusty hallways and sit at the feet of the sages soaking up useful (read boring) knowledge? The viewers chose excitement, sensation, tear-jerking "reality," and contentious bickering. They gorged themselves on "marshmallow" news.
And, they showed a markedly short attention span when it came to important national and international stories.

That was, perhaps, the most distressing and ultimately damaging consequence of allowing news content to be dictated by the consumers’ choices. Less and less time was devoted to the hard news for which the public showed little affinity.

Pandering to the mental laziness of the typical viewer, television news reduced complex political issues to an "us vs them" dynamic. Choose a side, plug yourself into its party line, then grab the remote and click back to Jerry Springer. And should you experience the rare compulsion to wax political, you can simplytake advantage of the preponderance of near-information at your disposal, and tune to whatever station or commentator speaks to your particular comfort level. You can literally choose to hear only the news you want to hear. Only what speaks to what you already believe. Nothing that would challenge or confuse your personal prejudices.

Savvy political strategists, particularly in the Bush Administration, have learned how to play the American public’s disinterest in hard facts with the artistry of Heifetz on a violin. They have crafted the administration’s rhetoric to contain buzz-words and buzz-concepts that they know will rouse people just enough to get them to choose sides. Using kindergarten concepts like "good and evil," they consistently align Bush and his policies with all that is good, holy, patriotic, and wholesome. Intimating that anyone NOT in agreement with the current occupant of the White House comes down on the opposite side…which would be evil, sin, treason, and perversion.

The powers behind the throne have continuously pushed the right buttons to keep an adequate majority of the electorate hypnotized into thinking our president is the embodiment of all things wonderful about the United States of America.

Many times, pushing those buttons meant spinning, embellishing, or outright changing the facts. But the disinterested, uninformed American public doesn’t know the difference. Or chooses not to know the difference. So, this business about Bush and Cheney "arranging" the facts and intelligence to justify the rush to the war in Iraq? Anybody who was paying attention to what was going on at the time knew, or at least suspected, that was exactly what was happening. Anyone who didn’t know, didn’t want to know. And undoubtedly still does not want to know. People created their own reality about the need to attack Iraq. For many, it was as simple as the need to avenge 9/11…and it didn’t matter that Iraq was not guilty of those attacks. Easy enough, with the help of the President and his spin-doctors, to make Iraq guilty. Someone had to pay.

The "bad news" situation in this country has contributed immeasurably to this phenomenon of choosing reality. The American people know that there is enough contradicting information floating around out there, that some of it must be untrue. But how does one determine the truth? Without the assurance that news must be factual, and with a minimum of hard facts readily available, people have turned to their own "inner compasses" to identify truth. Anything that speaks to what I already believe must be true. Anything else must be a lie. The Bush Administration is taking that ball and running with it. Or hiding behind it. The "British memo" story will suffer a speedy demise and be forgotten in a matter of days.


  1. Excellent, excellent entry.  Some facts to back up your argument are at Media Matters...

    Just about everything anyone would want to know about the Downing Street Memo can be found at...

    They've started a blog there and have several actions you can take.  Everyone should start by signing Sen. Conyers's letter to President Bush...

  2. You've cut right to the heart of the matter.  With democracy, we get the government we demand, and the government we deserve.  That's something that saddends and scares me.

  3. Add a president who is insulated better than a Spanish Infanta of the 15th or 16th century and it gets truly scary. At least the old nobility had to look out of the carriage window once in awhile or maybe you could bribe the duenna.

    The Prez and his cronies can go from carefully controlled photo op to photo op in carefully controlled planes or fast moving motorcades and never have to lay eye or ear on anyone who doesn't agree with them. Not good, no not good.

    Great entry as usual.


  4. All too sad, and too true.  

    Add to all that "Town Hall Meetings" accessible only to true believers straight from central casting, news conferences with partisan stooges standing in for reporters, and a public so lethargic and criminally obtuse as to be suspicious of anyone with a modicum of intelligence and in command of better than a fifth grade vocabulary and, well....the problem is, we get the government *they* deserve.

  5. the longer this goes on, the less things coming out about it surprise me....what  a shame all of it


  6. Well, there goes any shred of naive hope that the American media is not just a wastful mass of douce bags.  Thank you, mlraminiak.