Did I just hear Tucker Carlson call Ed Murrow a phony? The intrepid
Carlson's suggestion was that because some of Murrow's shows involved
soft profiles (which some were), management never pushed him to do them
(wrong) and Murrow was therefore a phony (huh?).
What Tucker says to his modest audience is
not worthy of comment, except that this does
represent a broader decline of standards, a
broader decline of truth in television, and a
broader pandering to the lowest elements.
Murrow does not need any defense against
Tucker's manly assault, but the truth does need
a defense in an age where truth has become
subservient to partisan interests, to political
agendas, to cheap commercialism, to shallow
sensationalism, to the cute one liner, by the
airhead talker, on third rate cable, with miniscule audience, and zero
the integrity of the matter.
Truth is truth, and there are times when truth
is non-negotiable. When Americans who landed at Normandy are murdered
crimes when taken prisoner, to say, and then
repeat, that those troops had themselves
committed war crimes is beyond shame.
This is not an issue about which reasonable
people can disagree. It is non-negotiable.
Is Fox News proud of Bill O'Reilly for this?
Is there any standard? Do truth, facts and
honor mean anything?
I will predict that there will be major news,
very soon, that will bring the words "Edward
R. Murrow" back to center stage, in old and
new media alike. And that the so-called
experts will be astonished at the huge
market among Americans for what I would
call Integrity Television, Truth Television,
Courageous Television, Fearless Television,
television with honor, context, and depth.
What the media should be, is letting a thousand
flowers bloom, and letting the audience decide.
What has happened is two alternate models,
equally corrupt, for different reasons. There
is the smear and fear model, which creates a
megaphone for even those who slander widows
of 9-11. Is there any shame to these people?
In this smear and fear model, we are treated
like a nation of cowards, driven by fear to
surrender even the Bill of Rights, and we are
treated like a nation of anger management
problems, where major papers are accused
of treason, and war heroes are attacked even
for the medals of bravery they were awarded.
Is there any honor here?
When I wrote a guest essay in Editor and
Publisher on the 4th of July defending the
First Amendment from trash talk of treason,
I was inundated with responses, most of
them beyond favorable. But I received at
least twenty to thirty that were pure, total,
unadulterated hate. Not contempt, not anger,
not disagreement, but pure hate directed to
both the New York Times and to me.
One wonders, when the President walks the
White House at night, looking at the portraits
of the giants who occupied that home, whether
he is proud that his own words, his own deeds,
directly inflame hatred. One wonders if the
programming executives who provide a
megaphone to voices of hate, are proud,
in their most private moments, that people
watch their shows and respond by threatening
the lives of Supreme Court Justices, or those
they mark on their personal enemies lists.
The other model, of course, is the corporatized,
bureaucratized, sensationalized, trivialized,
and homogenized notion that Americans are
obsessed with the corpses of the latest murder,
where democracy is treated like a freak show,
where issues worthy of treatment for hours
are squeezed into minutes or seconds, to keep
our attention between deodorant commercials.
The common denominator here, is how the
television executives view the American people
as morons and idiots. The fear and smear side
turns cable news into negative attack ads and
shameless appeals to anger and fear, and now,
at times, openly, to outright hate. While the
corporatized imitators take a bad art form with
low esteem for the customer, and repeat it,
having more in common with the street corner
vendors selling fake Movados, than the heirs
to a proud and honorable profession singled
out by our Founding Fathers as essential to
There are reasons cable audience, including
Fox, are modest and often declining. There
are reasons circulation of the daily newspapers
is falling. There are reasons for the incredible
surge to the internet, to more enlightened cable
such as Keith Olbermann, and to offbeat but
substantive alternatives such as Steve Colbert,
Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. For those who
think the future is Tucker Carlson calling Ed
Murrow a phony, perhaps we need a new
book: "Programming For Dummies".
Stay tuned. News is coming. Remember
that those the right attacks, are those they truly
fear, Tucker's assault on Murrow is a good omen indeed. I predict
Edward R. Murrow's
reputation will survive the blow of Carlson's
contempt; and news of integrity and quality
will be making a comeback. There will
more assaults on Murrow because they
attack what they fear, and they have good
reason to fear news that speaks truth to power,
and treats people with respect.
Good night, good luck, and stay tuned!