Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Re: U.S. Media (NMOC)

Jim Macdonald jsmacdonaldjr@yahoo.com
Fri, 18 Oct 2002 14:26:17 -0700 (PDT)

I guess this isn't the place for this discussion, but with the NMOC in the corner
why not.

I live in Washington, DC, where the sniper has become the only news story anybody
cares about here (although to here it on the press, it's more important because it's
affecting the suburbs more than the city where most of the reporters have thier
homes)--how's that for cynicism?

I agree with much of Dan's post.  And, I don't want to repeat his points.  They are
well-considered and articulate.

What I want to say, though, is that the U.S. media is something of a joke, and I see
it firsthand all the time.  I was at the Supreme Court organizing a grassroots group
during the 2000 elections, and I was there all night before the first Supreme Court
hearing and also there the night before Bush v. Gore.  The media all sit on little
boxes right next to each other, talk into a camera, and when they are done they
immediately go back to their vans.  You never see them go amongst the people to ask
questions.  A local television station interviewed me, but the questions were
leading questions and short.  The reporter demanded that I look at her and not the
camera.  The print reporters who do go and report and take interviews are few and
far between.  I had an interesting discussion in the middle of the night with a
reporter from Palm Beach County who spent an hour talking about how print media had
become simply an extension of the Associated Press.  They don't rely on reporters;
they rely on the wire services.

So, even events that matter aren't reported.  Reporters work through press releases
and official sources.  They work by email and fax machine.  Go to the new google
news service and see just how many stories repeat over and over again for days on

Talk of liberal bias comes from talk of editorial decisions.  But, it's not liberal
bias that dominates (except in the cynicism of the editorial page that only people
with too much time on their hands pay much attention to), but money and
sensationalism.  Editors in the States know that Americans don't care about stories
unless someone can show a direct effect to them.  It's always been that way here;
we've always been an isolationist society with a pernicious missionary streak (in
more way than one).  Some official source mentions something at some press meeting
that they are all at, and that becomes the talk of the town.  And, it remains the
talk if enough blow hards write letters to the editor about it or some other
official source talks about it.  Stories that have real import are lost if they
don't have a big voice talking for them, either a rich person's parent or a Senator
or a White House spokesman or a very large nonprofit.

The U.S. media is terrible, and in some ways it is a reflection of us, and in some
ways it's not.  The truth is the media is overwhelmed by the size of the world, and
they use typically lazy channels to give off the impression that they are bringing
us the world.  Sometimes we see clear evidence of how lazy they are like with Bali
or the earthquake that hit Afghanistan last year that got virtually no coverage

Bush talks about drilling in the Arctic, and so it gets covered.  He secretly
explores for minerals and oil near Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and nobody cares.
 It's all in what a few people say and whether someone makes a big stink about it.

That's why bands like Midnight Oil are so important.  They are the fifth estate, so
to speak.  (By the way, did you see that Sean Penn put a full page ad in the
Washington Post condemning Bush's policy in Iraq today?)  It is our responsibility
as people to think for ourselves and get information and reason from a wider variety
of sources.  Thankfully, with the internet, those things are out there.  The problem
is, we don't like that so many of the sheep of our society are being influenced by a
media that is completely out of whack and is playing a lazy game.  And, there's
really little we can do about it short of a massive cultural revolution.  And, how
many of us really are willing to be part of beginning that?

I can understand why Midnight Oil is so frustrated with the U.S. and with most
Americans.  We don't dare do anything different; John Ashcroft might be watching us
(and probably the sniper, too).

Time to walk home,


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