Saturday, August 26, 2006

What passes for "news"

Via Truthout we get this brief, pointed little essay explaining how media magnates peddle their wares. Excellent observations. Recommended reading.

The top story on TV news last night was not the Iraq war or tentative Lebanon peace, or major court rulings on tobacco and warrantless wiretapping, or oil prices or pension “reform” or any of a dozen stories that affect millions of citizens.

TV’s top story -- a new suspect in the decade-old murder of 6-year-old beauty princess JonBenet Ramsey -- affects very few people.

But it has the potential of grabbing millions of us, as spectators. That’s the beauty of the story to the owners and managers of TV news – my former bosses. They couldn’t be more thrilled to see new life in the tabloid story of the death of Little Miss Colorado, a story they’d grudgingly given up on years ago.

In a media system dominated by entertainment conglomerates, it’s no accident that we’re served up a steady stream of “top” stories saturated by sex, violence and celebrity: OJ, Princess Di, JonBenet, JFK Jr., Condit/Levy, child abductions (especially upper-middle class blonde girls), Laci Peterson, the runaway bride, the missing teen in Aruba, etc.

Let’s face it: The Murdochs and Disneys and Time Warners and GEs that own our media system much prefer a nation of mindless consumers and spectators over a nation of informed, active citizens. They like the fact that avid TV viewers know all the intimate details about the JonBenet or OJ murder cases – and almost nothing about how big corporations lobby against middle-class interests in Washington.

More at the links. He says well what we already knew.

This relates to why I am not comfortable with most politics. Knowing that the people around me respond in predictable ways to a media inclination to reach the lowest common denominator, I cannot believe that democratic majorities are competent to decide anything of merit. What passes for politics is a bread and circuses attitude on the part of elected officials that is the public equivalent to a tabloid mindset in the private sector.

When I see "leaders" catering to this emptiness it makes me sad and frustrated. I understand, however, that they are doing as they must to get elected. But what I cannot endure is an army of supporters who know better, perpetuating their messages with no attempt to raise that common denominator.

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