OPINION - Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News and Fox TV is to the media business what Ray Kroc, McDonalds founder, was to the restaurant biz: A purveyor of mental junk food. We in the news business fail, much as the restaurant business did for years, because we chase quick profit and fail to show you the nutritious news to feed your mind and preserve our freedom.
Murdoch and his lap dog, the political pit bull Roger Ailes, president over at Fox News, win largely because we who publish in the rest of the media lose, are lost: Economically, intellectually, and socially adrift.
Pop quiz (Without Googling them):
- A) Who is Laurent Gbagbo, and why is a delegation of world leaders offering him amnesty today?
- B) Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sentenced today in Russia. What was he accused of doing, and why does his sentence have world leaders and departments of state involved?
- C) Why was Szeto Wah, who died yesterday, one of the most significant figures in modern Asian history (Before Jon Lone plays him in an inspiring movie based on a true story.)?
It would seem that the news agency of the last country to hold the Defender of the Free World title seems to take more interest in the rest of the world. The BBC even does this living in the shadow of Rupert Murdoch's Sky Television, and his domineering ownership of London newspapers.
You might hear, in passing, about the 7.1 earthquake in Chile today. It may, because of the slowness in the American propaganda cycle, get some coverage. You won't see Anderson Cooper flying out to Rockhampton, Australia, though, to cover the flood and rescue efforts there. In fact, he isn't apt to even mention it. He may still have the day off, and we don't send his stand-ins to Australia, now do we?
Even the most of the most well educated amongst us is being gorged with information, yet being intellectually starved to death. We turn bitchy housewives and Jersey losers like Snooki into cultural icons, and largely ignore people with immense talent walking amongst us like guitarist Joe Bonamassa (see below), painter Alex Katz, or the Punch Brothers (Unless Steve Martin sits in and they're on Letterman.).
Surprised Kitty on YouTube? (39,264,184 views). Bonamassa performing at the Royal Albert Hall? 203,988.
We live in a time where we are blessed with food supplies so plentiful that they have no equal in earlier human history. We have, as a planet of humans with myriad imperfections, achieved levels of education that have created vast amounts of wealth and prosperity, improved goods and services, delivery and transportation. The Internet, one of our better bits of thinking, has transformed global communication in our ability to deliver information to ever more remote outposts of the planet instantly.
In America and Europe our stomachs are full, our bodies fat, but we are intellectually starving.
We can reach out and touch information in an instant, yet we reward 60 second videos of cute kittens with millions of "hits" and ignore millions of pages of information treasures that had been lost to all but dedicated scholars prowling the dusty shelves of academic libraries.
Just as the pleasant plague of junk food has been killing Americans, the mental junk food that fills our airwaves, floods our newspapers, and gushes from the Internet into our brains from every conceivable device is killing our culture and threatens to turn the vast majority of us into legions of digital simpletons.
There are eras in this country where the news business is better and worse, both as a business, and a conduit of information. Media barons like William Randolph Hearst have tried to use the bully pulpit of their newspapers and radio stations to exert their will on the American public just as Mr. Murdoch and his minions at his multiple news outlets, Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and dozens of newspapers, television and radio stations do.
Whether it is Murdoch's American cheese-slathered Neo-Con flavored hate speech blaring out of the mouths of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, or the less veneered rants of Rwanda's RTLM with its clarion call to genocide, the media is being badly misused.
Unless we back net neutrality and internet freedom, the stranglehold on information and the funneling of more artery-clogging digital cheeseburgers into our brains is surely coming.
Editors and station managers were sitting around this holiday week complaining, as they usually do on a "slow" news week when the President and the U.S. Congress aren't engaging in the Clash of the Titans, that there is nothing to cover.
Listen to the BBC World Service. Watch the news on BBC America. In one hour it puts to shame every news organization in North America, including NPR, PBS, and even the much-vaunted last bastion of American news, the New York Times, which runs a distant second.
None of the other networks other than the BBC, and few newspapers other than the New York Times and, stretching, the Washington Post, give us anything more than a tiny snapshot of the goings-on in the world. In the rest of the world CNN International goes toe-to-toe with the BBC for coverage. In the United States we get reruns of Larry King and a disgraced former New York governor turned talking head in a news-lite show about very little.
Perhaps they think we're not interested. Perhaps the American corporations like News Corp and Clear Channel and Viacom would like our attention focused elsewhere.
Our great grandparents and grandparents fought to get an education, and put a value on freedom with millions of their lives fought in a half dozen major wars in distant lands. They put a high price on the value to access of the information on their government and their world, and the truth to which the news should speak under the First Amendment, that that guarantees that freedom.
Today truth passes by in a sea of dancing hamsters and people just like you wading through vats of cream cheese for prize money, or, these days, running for office on the Tea Party ticket. Reality politics is as scary as reality TV, but it's a symptom of our degenerating standards caused by a free-market media controlled by the side-show hucksters.
We need to educate ourselves to the world around us. We need to take more interest in global affairs, as the globe gets smaller, and we have to compete harder with all of these people around the world.
Bookmark the BBC, and demand more of CNN's international news on the American broadcast. Write them a lot. Here.
My shiny two.