Ok so here’s the deal. Maybe I’m just some over-enlightened European hippie…..from Kansas. But anyway, I pay attention every now and then. If you’ve been following the news for the past…oh say year or so, you might have noticed that we’re in a recession brought on by banks collapsing under the weight of their own greed and stupidity. So recently the government ran some hypothetical scenarios past these banks to find out if they were good to go or if they would collapse even further. So the results of the “stress test” came back yesterday and 19 banks passed!! well…kinda. At least that’s what every major news outlet in the U.S. was saying over and over and over until everyone believed it.
So this morning I get on the BBC website (Kinda like NPR and PBS except in England) and the headline for their version of the story said, “Ten US banks fail ‘stress tests'”. What the heck! Wait a minute here, how could there be such a discrepancy between the two stories? Well, back on the farm in the U.S., the content of the story under the banner “everything’s fine” was that if things get worse, 9 of the banks that were tested will be fine with the amount of capital they have now. The other 10 will need to raise massive amounts of money from 1) private investors or 2) the U.S. government in more bailout money. Gee, I wonder how that’s going to turn out 😦 . The thinking on the U.S. side is that if everyone thinks the banks are fine, they’ll put their money back into the banks and then they actually will be, which means the U.S. media is helping to try and convince the American people that everything’s cool. The Brits, on the other hand, are actually telling it like it is because the companies that own the BBC aren’t dependent on the U.S. government for all of the news they get. They don’t have to worry about the same corporations bringing the hammer down on a newscaster for reporting when those same corporations do something wrong. Granted, they’ve got different corporations to worry about, but at the very least, their perspective on us isn’t overshadowed by the same issues our news agencies are.
If you wonder why the primary source of news and commentary for people under 35 is from 2 comedians (Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert) the reason is that those two guys are the only, and I mean ONLY, people in the news world that are willing to say the Emperor has no clothes. Contrary to what Bill O’Reilly might think of my generation, we are not simply a bunch of stoned slackers. We might like a good fart joke every now and then but we’re not stupid. We know the farce that is the news media. We know that places like Fox News, MSNBC and CNN aren’t actually news organizations, they’re news entertainment organizations. Just like Wrestlemania 75 isn’t sports, it’s sports entertainment. If “news” organizations spoke half of the truth that Stewart and Colbert our country wouldn’t get into half of the trouble that we do.
If you don’t think the comedians are doing nothing but distracting people let me provide two examples. 1) during the 2004 elections Jon Stewart went onto the CNN show Crossfire. They expected him to be funny. Instead, he took them to task on the fact that they were not helping create civilized debate but rather engaging in sensationalism that was hurting the country. See the Youtube clip here. (Beware, it’s a bit heated and colorful at times.) What’s most significant about that interaction is that people started to pay attention to what crossfire was actually doing, not least of whom were the network execs who pulled the show three months later. 2) In the wake of the financial meltdown you only need to look at the “fight” between him and Jim Cramer in march. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 beware of language and truth) The reason it was a big deal was because Jon Stewart was the only person in the media that actually called the news organizations on the lies and misleadings. He was able to say what everyone else was thinking inside at a time when the machines of economy, business and government seem to be rolling over all of the normal people with absolutely no remorse. Jon Stewart said in one show more truth than anyone in the media had said in the previous year. Ironically, rather than actually causing the real news organizations to actually on the financial system in a meaningful way, they all just diverted our attention and turned their focus on the “story” about the conflict between Cramer and Stewart.
so that’s my rant…….take a deep breath Alan….life will go on….it’ll all be ok……………..you’re not king of the world……….yet!
Needless to say, I don’t watch much, if any, American TV news. I listen to NPR, read the BBC website for world news, watch The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, and occasionally will catch some Mcneal Lehrer on PBS. The rest of it just leaves me agrivated, frightened and more confused than when I first turned it on.
And, since all good evening news casts leave us with a human interest story that really has no real news value, here’s a clip of a water skiing squirrel
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