Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

07/31/2009 (12:41 pm)

Entitlement Culture Gets Its 60 Minutes of Fame

In a passionate speech before the Aspen Institute, bastion of secular humanism and favorite target of Trilateral-Commission-conspiracy-hounds, former CBS anchorman Dan Rather evoked the heart and soul of the American entitlement culture by calling for a Presidential commission to “save the press.” At stake, warned Rather, is the very survival of American democracy.

“I personally encourage the president to establish a White House commission on public media,” the legendary newsman said.

Such a commission on media reform, Rather said, ought to make recommendations on saving journalism jobs and creating new business models to keep news organizations alive.

At stake, he argued, is the very survival of American democracy.

“A truly free and independent press is the red beating heart of democracy and freedom,” Rather said in an interview yesterday afternoon. “This is not something just for journalists to be concerned about, and the loss of jobs and the loss of newspapers, and the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power. This is something every citizen should be concerned about.”

Wall. Forehead. Pound.

It apparently did not occur to the venerable Mr. Rather that the market for news is already accomplishing exactly what he’s calling for, without the White House’s help. New sources, new business models, and new media are arising every year, apparently faster than anything with which the old fossil can keep up. It also, apparently, did not occur to him that he of the falsified National Guard memo personifies one of the reasons the traditional news media are faltering.

7_29_danrather_hrI recall watching an exposé of Oral Roberts on 60 Minutes back in the 1980s. At the end of the segment, they ran a video of Oral Roberts’ brother saying simply but emphatically, “Oral Roberts never healed anyone.” From the tone of the piece and the placement of the clip, it was clear that they were supporting the notion that Roberts was a fraud. I discovered in a Christian journal about 2 weeks later that what Roberts’ brother had actually told them in the interview was, “Oral Roberts never healed anybody; God healed all those people.” They ripped a theological distinction clear out of its context and used it to slander the man. It doesn’t matter whether you think Roberts was a legitimate minister or not; there’s no way they did not know they were distorting the meaning of that interview. It was not the first time I’d noted something that sounded wrong from the 60 Minutes gang, but it was the last I would experience personally; I never watched the show again, and I never trusted a word I heard from it.

There’s a lesson for you, Dan. Pay attention. It only takes one outright lie to lose an audience.

It’s a bit of a toss-up, whether traditional news is failing because of widespread perception of bias, or because of the proliferation of new, more accessible sources of information. Both are in the mix, clearly. All media outlets are feeling the pressure to expand into new avenues; who has time to read the paper while rushing out of the house, or wants to have to sit down at precisely 5:30 PM in order to find out what’s happening in the world? Anytime I like, “drudg…” on the keyboard gets me the Drudge Report headlines — and he’s never had to retract a story, not even once. On the other hand, the rise of conservative talk radio and the dominance of somewhat-right-of-center Fox News over traditional-but-clearly-left-of-center news sources like ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC indicate that a large part of the exodus is pent-up demand for news and commentary with a different slant from the one that has dominated news media at least since the advent of television.

I guess we just got tired of the sort of thing that Rather produced just before he was hastily bundled out the revolving door of the CBS building: a “news” report, timed precisely and deliberately to counteract the post-convention “bounce” of a Republican candidate for President, purporting to prove that 30 years ago, the candidate had deliberately avoided military service with the help of his commanding officer — based on a document that was uncorroborated and turns out to have been forged. Of course, Rather produced no comparably-timed report aimed at the Democratic candidate, despite a top-of-the-best-seller-list exposé delivering the ammunition on a platter. God, I miss all that protection of democracy.

exaspbobWhat struck me as truly pathetic was that Rather, in his desperation for something, anything, to rescue the vital but beleaguered traditional press from obscure ruin, calls on… President Obama? If anything illustrates the pervasiveness of infantile thinking in the American left, this has got to be it. “Oh, woe!” cries the crusty but respected newsman. “Our industry faces disaster! Help me, Obi-wan Obama. You’re my only hope.” My first reaction was one that every son needs to hear from his father at some point: if “somebody” ought to do something, maybe that somebody should be you. Dan, if you want somebody to figure out new business models for the news industry, could it be that you ought to sit down with some of your contacts and come up with a few ideas yourself? Why the hell are you, a grown man, running to Papa? And why is that your Papa, a guy who’s never earned a dime from a productive enterprise in his entire, narcissism-driven life?

Of course, we don’t have to get philosophical or esoteric to discover flaws in Rather’s reaction. Perhaps the most telling response came from the reader of the Aspen Times who observed,

He’s looking for the government to help the press watch the government? Does this sound crazy to anyone else?

The swan song of the traditional press was the repulsive fawning over candidate Obama. He’s the last person in the world who needs to be consulted on how to resurrect the deceased news industry.

On the other hand, few things will help the news industry recover its credibility faster than for certain, untrustworthy newsmen to vanish from the scene. I would rather it be sooner than later.

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July 31, 2009 @ 10:21 pm #

I don’t think that they are nearly as in need of new business models as they are in need of returning to the old models — you know, things like integrity, actual investigative reporting, objectivity, grammatically correct English, odd things like that. There was a time when finding something documented in the newspaper was considered pretty good evidence that it had happened, unlike today where it means nothing at all.

This will not solve the problems of competition with other media such as the Internet, but it will be a step in the proper direction.

As you said, Phil, certain people need to simply vanish. Their reputations are too badly stained to ever be recovered. Perhaps they could have a behind-the-scenes role if their expertise is truly valuable, but as news presenters, nobody trusts them anymore. They are well established as shills and liars.

August 1, 2009 @ 3:21 am #

Considering who is still watching the tele, Dan “nevah did nothin’ wrong” and “it’s a good thing the gov’t keeps and eye on tv.”,
it’s just another day progressively moving them over a cliff while they watch it.

Hit Pause, quick!

August 2, 2009 @ 3:14 pm #

I think the rapid availability of news on the web will always mean that traditional news is doomed… at least the print media.

During “Big Events” (think 9/11) the need to know what is going on RIGHT NOW will always mean that people will turn to those sources that allow them instantly updated coverage- either TV news or web news.

I think the days of daily papers are dead. Which would you rather peruse a paper that now comes out once a day (not too many afternoon editions, even of local papers anymore) or a website that updates continuously when things are actually happening? The simple fact that most of us are reading and commenting on blogs probably speak volumes for our opinion.

August 4, 2009 @ 8:08 am #

I find it amazing how a verifiable liar and fool like Rather can say something as hypocritical as this, “the diminution of the American press’ traditional role of being the watchdog on power”…the death of the worthless US media will result in grat rejoicing by patriots.

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