In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Monday, June 22, 2009

Media Credibility: Beyond the Outer Limits

You've probably heard of ABC Television's plan to devote its prime-time programming, on Wednesday, June 24, to coverage of the Obama administration's proposals for publicly-funded, government-run health care. ABC News anchor Charles Gibson will deliver WORLD NEWS from the Blue Room of the White House; the network will air a primetime health care reform “town hall” at the White House with President Barack Obama; while the programs GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS, NIGHTLINE and ABC’s web news will all feature special programming on the president’s health care agenda. This does not include the promotion, over the the past and coming week, that the president’s health care agenda has had and will receive on ABC News programming.

ABC is refusing to make room in their White House health care programming for the presentation of alternative views, or even to accept paid advertising for that purpose. However, ABC insists that the program will not, as the Republican Party has charged, amount to little more than an infomercial for the administration's health care plan, as the audience and questions for the special will be selected "by ABC and only ABC."

It should be noted that the Director of Communications at the White House Office of Health Reform is Linda Douglass, who worked as a reporter for ABC News from 1998-2006. This fact has led to speculation whether ABC News had the upper hand in obtaining a White House venue for the primetime health care special, as well as an interview with the President on Good Morning America and permission to air two ABC News broadcasts from the White House this week. The media watchdog web site Newsbusters reports:
Douglass gave up her ABC News career in May 2008 to take a post with the Obama campaign. She claimed to see no conflict at all between being a "journalist" and a partisan campaign operative. In fact, she was thrilled not to be "sitting on the sidelines" in the era of Obama.

. . . I see this as a moment of transformational change in the country and I have spent my lifetime sitting on the sidelines watching people attempt to make change. I just decided that I can't sit on the sidelines anymore.

And now, amazingly, ABC nails down all sorts of exclusive interviews with Obama and is playing host to a single sided presentation of what will be Obama's healthcare advertisement.
It's also been reported that Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC's in-house medical expert, has a long history of promoting government-managed universal health care. Moreover, it has been documented that that since the Presidential Inauguration on January 20, ABC World News and Good Morning America stories on health care featured Obama or supporters of his policies 55 times compared to 18 times for critics of those policies, a 3-to-1 margin.

Apparently, the mass media's love affair with Barack Obama--which began with his address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and swept him through the Presidential primaries and then the general election in 2008--continues as torrid as ever. If you were disturbed (as I was) during the election campaign by his supporters' fervent idolatry, the Nuremberg-like quality of his rallies, and the shamelessly deferential, laudatory attitude shown by "news" correspondents in his interviews, remember that the media largely created Mr. Obama as a national figure; he was nothing but an obscure state senator/law professor/"community organizer" before DNC 2004. Well aware of this, Obama has repaid the support of all three major networks (not Fox News, of course) by granting unprecedented access to the White House, the First Family, and senior officials so they could produce extended "inside-looks" programs, in an almost uniformly fawning style (remember visiting the White House garden and swing set with NBC's Brian Williams?). This helps the networks and their news departments, whose ratings have recently sagged to unprecedented lows.

Of all aspects of last year's Presidential election, the most ominous to me was the complete sellout of the major media organizations and their personnel to Barack Obama. For the principal conduits of public information to become partisan servants of one party or candidate (and I've never heard anything as lame as their half-hearted, hand-in-the-cookie-jar denials of it) is all but a garrote on the throat of democracy. With the media in this posture, no other party or candidate, and no policy disapproved by "their man," has a chance. Coverage is managed so that one side is deified and the other demonized. Alternative views, to the extent they are allowed public airing at all, are subtly cast as insane or disloyal. Elections become little more than empty rituals to delude the masses into thinking that they actually had a choice and exercised it. I didn't live through the Nazis' gradual, democratically-sanctioned takeover of German government and society in the 1920s and 30s, but I've read about it, and the tenor of the present times is chillingly reminiscent of it.

Do you know how the Nazis, the Communists, the Mafia, and other criminal gangs get control of people and enterprises? It's usually a gradual process--they pay you compliments, do you some favor, maybe get you a little job in their organization and invite you to their functions. Before you know it you're talking them up with your friends so they'll trust and join them too. Then they ask you for a little favor. And another. Then they warn you to look the other way and keep your mouth shut while they do something they don't want others to know about. Then they might ask you to help them do it, or to cover it up--or else. Before you know it, your hands are as dirty as theirs. You're hopelessly compromised. You hang on by your fingernails with them because you need their patronage, and fear reprisals if those they've hurt get their hands on you.

This is what is happening to our once-"free" press. They're selling their souls to--the Devil? The important thing is that they're selling their souls, and selling out our right to see and hear the whole truth, a right millions of Americans have perished to preserve. For prestige, power, and ultimately money, they're compromising themselves and getting into bed with those they must hold at arm's length if they're to maintain any objectivity. They're being played and used, and turned into a partisan propaganda machine. And many, if not most, of them are enthusiastic about it! They WANT to control events and our minds, not just influence them. If you liked having a little power, wouldn't you like even more having the much greater power that's being offered you? All you have to do is exchange the title "journalist" for "spokesperson." Doing so under the table, so no one will notice, is just fine--even better. We want the masses to go to sleep peacefully. Who needs objectivity or credibility, or even the appearance of them, when the people can't tell the difference between one thing and another, and couldn't care less?

If ABC wanted to do a thorough exploration of health care issues and various proposals for their solution, including the administration's plan, it didn't have to do the program (and the entire nightly news segment) from inside the White House. What purpose would that serve, except to present the administration's plan in the most august, "official"-looking atmosphere possible? And what purpose is served by monopolizing the presentation of views on the subject, cherry-picking the "town hall" audience and questions in advance, and refusing any independent voice in the proceedings? Why else, but to guarantee a glowing outcome for the President's plan? It seems that George Orwell was about 25 years early in his prognostications. Better late than never for the mass media empire.

When I was about eight years old, a new program was introduced on, ironically, ABC. It was called "The Outer Limits." The show was terrifying. No other program on network television has as effectively explored and exploited the recesses of mind where fear lurks. My siblings and I weren't allowed to watch it, but sometimes--if we dared--we snuck peeks. Snatches of a few episodes linger in my memory, but most vivid is the monologue that introduced the show. It's all about control of your television set, and of your mind:

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set . . .
This is where we're headed. Will anyone but a few of us old fogies notice? And if we ever regain our collective consciousness, who will future historians blame for the extinction of a free press? I fear it will be the Press itself, sinking into a mire of love, lust, and plain old prostitution.

1 comment:

It's A Wonderful said...

Excellent! Wow! I fear the same, who will stand against this trend? I fear that religion is not too far on the administration's list of factions to "eliminate." And when it's all too late, the same media will be pointing fingers at the Republican Party, accusing them of not doing enough to stop the aggregious behavior of the GOP's opposition. It's all so frustrating!