Our Vacation Cottage On Wheels

Our Vacation Cottage On Wheels
2002 Mazda SUV ES-V6 & 2008 Cruiser Travel Trailer - Fun Finder X - 189FBR

Friday, March 26, 2010

IMHO: The Price Of Freedom Includes Checking Your Sources...

It used to be that the news was presented by "talking heads;" good-looking people with nice smiles and the ability to read from a script or teleprompter. They might smile when presenting a humorous or touching story and look sad when the story warranted it, but one thing that they never did was to take sides. No matter what their personal feelings might be, they were expected to remain stoic and unopinionated.

One of the best at this was Walter Cronkite. He was many peoples' idea of the ideal father, grandfather, or kindly, wise and respected uncle. Or even a national leader. As one of the most famous and respected american newsmen of the 20th century, Walter was so highly regarded that many people wished that he would run for the Presidency. To his credit, he never did.

Every night and during special events, families would crowd around their radios and televisions, listening as Walter described some of the most important moments in this country's history, whether it was the Cuban Missile Crisis or man's first landing on the moon. Throughout the decades that Walter presented the news, he remained stately and neutral to what he was announcing. The only time that I know he showed much emotion was the day he reported the assasination of President John F. Kennedy. Walter became choked up, removed his glasses and through obviously teary eyes, looked directly into the camera and told us about the murder of who many believed was one of our most beloved Presidents.

After the news was presented, we, the viewing or listening public, were on our own in interpreting what we had been told. Whatever your social position, education, party affiliation, or religion, it was up to you to take what you had been told and fit it into your belief system. You were free to decide whether what you had been told was true or not and whether it was important to your life or could be safely ignored.

During the last few decades of the 20th century, someone (probably one of the mysterious "they" that we're always hearing about; as in, they said this or that, or they decided that we should all do this or that...) determined that we, the listening public, having become much more stupid than usual and therefore not trusted to make up our own minds about what we had just learned from the news media, needed our news massaged by them in order to make it easier to understand (or manipulate their audience to meet the needs of some special interest group).

Therefore, as a public service, the news media decided to do our thinking for us. Talking heads became conveyors not only of what had happened, but also whether it was a good or bad thing from the narrow perspective that they had decided to represent. News stations have become competing; if not outright, enemy camps. You can now get your news already digested and neatly packaged to fit your particular view of reality. Stations can now not only be classified as "Blue" or "Red," reflecting the Democratic or Republican Party's positions on various issues, but can be as liberal dark blue or conservative fiery red as you want them.

Today the news might even be one station reporting on another station's activities. "Spinning" the news to better match a station's assumed demographic viewership is the norm now. The talking heads have become the stars of the news industry, with hyperbole and sensationalism encouraged by their management and expected by their avid viewers. Stations and their star reporters are denigrated by the other stations' stars as being too liberal, or too conservative, or too much of whatever other weakness their writers have decided might be newsworthy or, as often seems to be the case, more controversial.

I, for one, like to consume news that is unadulterated. And, while I do have my own biases, I try not to let them rule my life. The first question I often ask myself after hearing a questionable news report is, "What does the other side have to say about this?" or even "How is the foreign press reporting this?" With the internet, none of us has any excuse for not checking our sources before we decide to condemn or praise a news story or the personality that it reports on.

Internet sites like "snopes.com" and the like analyze news reports and present the facts about what actually happened. Foreign news web sites also provide another view of things and often provide information not deemed "newsworthy" by American news agencies. It often amazes me to learn just how twisted some of our news is. Today's virtuous heroes are next week's jackasses and the next month's esteemed insiders who are asked to tell the viewing public (for a large pile of money) the "truth" about that month's controversial news story or personality. It can make your head spin.

The  bottom line is that none of us has the need for someone else to do our thinking for us. Don't be lazy. Question everything. Trust no one...

To give yourself some more to think about and learn how fear is used to control us, try:

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More, by Barry Glassner, available at Amazon.com. In the age of 9/11, the Iraq War, financial collapse, and Amber Alerts, our society is defined by fear. So it’s not surprising that three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today then they did twenty years ago. But are we living in exceptionally dangerous times? In The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. Glassner exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears, including advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases and politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime, drug use, and terrorism. In this new edition of a classic book—more relevant now than when it was first published—Glassner exposes the price we pay for social panic. (taken from Editorial Reviews, Amazon.com)

Till next time

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