The other night as Scott Pelley tried to lull me to sleep with yet another “kitten rescued from a tree story,” it suddenly occurred to me that watching the nightly news on the major networks is a huge waste of time. With all the destruction and deceit created by right-wing extremists in this country, it is obscene that CBS, NBC, and ABC focus such large blocks of time to celebrity gossip, cute puppy stories, heartwarming human interest (e.g., the blind person who succeeds in college), and other “news stories” meant to assuage my fears, curry my favor, or make me overlook systematic dismantling of democracy. I’ve come to the conclusion that nightly news broadcasts are nothing more than light entertainment, used by corporate sponsors and owners to sell me financial services, cars, and computer widgets. Real journalism is dead. The days of Walter Cronkite editorializing about the futility of the Vietnam War, Harry Reasoner denouncing segregation, and Howard K. Smith exposing Nixon as a criminal are long gone. And the insidiously deceptive part is that the things they will not tell you are the very things which are tearing democracy to shreds. Here are just a few of the things which go unreported by ABC, CBS and NBC.
1)The Proliferation of Guns and Gun Deaths in U.S.
In 2014, approximately 35,000 people died by gunfire in the United States. It is estimated that 2015 deaths will exceed that number. The Center For Disease Control reports that gun violence costs American Taxpayers over $500 million annually in direct hospital costs. Yet you will not hear these stats on the nightly news, because these cowardly “journalists” are fearful of NRA and right-wing backlash.
2)Scandal-Free Obama Admiunistration
Over 130 members of Ronald Reagan’s administration were either accused, indicted, or convicted of crimes. The two Bush administrations squandered our national treasure and countless lives with needless wars; billions of taxpayer dollars which funded those wars are still unaccounted for. War criminals like Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and Don Rumsfeld have been given a free pass. On the contrary, the Obama administration has been absolutely scandal-free. Yet the contrast between his administration and others goes unnoticed in print and broadcast media.
3)Illegitimacy of Extremist Right-Wing Views
If Scott Pelley were broadcasting the nightly news in Berlin in 1933, he would hide behind the veneer of fairness and present the Nazi party viewpoint alongside the democratic stance. This analogy applies today, as right-wing extremism is presented as a legitimate opposing view on all issues. Even when right-wing politicians take ridiculously hateful positions, these positions are given equal time. A dumbed-down American public construes these positions as legitimate.
4)Right-Wing Presidential Candidates’ Lies and Scandals Go Unchallenged, but Hillary Clinton Gets Incessantly Hounded About Non-Issues Like Benghazi and E-Mails.
Carly Fiorina lied about seeing a video of an aborted fetus with a beating heart lying on a clinic table somewhere. No video exists. Planned Parenthood does not harvest human brains and limbs and organs for profit. Yet these lies, and a thousand others, are not exposed by the mainstream media. Viewers who believe everything they see on TV get a warped sense of reality.
5)Where the jobs went
Outsourcing (or offshoring) is a bigger contributor to unemployment in the U.S. than laziness. Since 2000, U.S. multinationals have cut 2.9 million jobs here while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg as multinational corporations account for only about 20% of the labor force.
When was the last time you saw a front-page headline about outsourcing?
6)Upward wealth redistribution and/or inequality
In 2014, 10% of the people held approximately 88% of the net worth in the U.S. The top 1% alone held 40% of all net worth. The ultra-rich are hoarding all the wealth. Soon nothing will be left but scraps for the poor. These statistics are nonpartisan and available to all reporters. Why aren't they discussed in the mainstream media?
7)How ALEC is destroying democracy
ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council. Sounds innocuous enough, but don't be fooled. This organization, perhaps more than any other, is killing the democratic system. It is funded by the richest right-wing corporations and individuals in the country, who have bought and paid for most, if not all, right-wing politicians. ALEC drafts its own legislation and then demands that its whore-bought Republicans pass it. Need legislation drafted? No need to go through a lobbyist to reach state legislatures anymore. Just contact ALEC. Among other things, ALEC is responsible for:
• Stand Your Ground laws
• Voter ID laws
• Right to Work laws (union busting)
• Privatizing schools
• Health savings account bills which benefit health care companies
Many legislators don’t even change the proposals handed to them by ALEC. They simply take the corporate bills and bring them to the legislative floor. They're meeting in Chicago this weekend. Maybe the "liberal media" will send some reporters. But don’t hold your breath.
8) The number of bills blocked by Republicans in Congress
The filibuster has been used a record number of times since Obama was elected President. From 2008-2012, 375 bills weren’t even allowed to come to a vote in the Senate because Republicans threatened the filibuster. This is more obstruction than occurred in the Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II administrations combined. In 2013, during the first 6 months, Congress has only passed 15 bills that were signed into law. The GOP has also succeeded in holding up 79 of President Obama’s picks to the U.S. Circuit Court and Courts of Appeal. They’re blocking these appointments regardless of qualification.
Where's the coverage? Where are the reporters asking why nothing is getting done?
Where does one go for hard news and good, old-fashioned muckraking journalism in America today? You got me. Adlai Stevenson once said, "The free press is the mother of all our liberties and of our progress under liberty"; and Thomas Jefferson wrote, "The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure."
Without a watchdog media exposing corruption, hypocrisy and the dismantling of democracy, we will devolve into a totalitarian state, run by and for the powerful few. Maybe this is what it was like in 1933 Berlin; we’re closer than ever to fascism.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Friday, September 25, 2015
As a lapsed Catholic, I have mixed feelings about Pope Francis. When I listen to him speak, I think, “This is a great man. He reminds me of the Jesuits who taught me to revere the intellect, care for those who have less, and be wary of blind believers who deny reason and use the word of God for their own profit.”
Then I remember why I turned my back on the Church: my Sunday donations that were used to defend pedophiles; archbishops who raged against abortions, but did not speak out against war or the sickening culture of American gun violence; the hording of Vatican treasures while the world’s poor go hungry.
I was raised Catholic in the ‘50s and early ‘60s when mass was an obligation, and no one questioned the sanctity of the religion’s rituals. But as the ‘60s wore on, and the world as everyone knew it changed, the Church became irrelevant. The same tired, empty homilies of parish priests had no revelations or insights about war, bigotry, and inequality. I came to view the Church as meaningless at best, hopelessly outdated at worst.
The Jesuits, however, were a different matter. They did not flinch from the turmoil of the late ‘60s. They addressed the existential nature of life head-on. They were not afraid to discuss relevant matters like war, poverty, and inequality. In their classrooms I read atheist literature, discussed the lack of empirical evidence for the existence of God, and learned to respect science. They taught me how to think for myself. Faith that was unchallenged by the intellect was not a worthy faith. Thus, I lost my faith. Or I never had it in the first place.
After high school, I left Catholicism behind. I’ve never looked back until now; Francis has aroused some ancient sentiment in me. His Jesuitical message has pissed off the right wing; and anything that angers those jackals deserves my attention.
Francis is not some ivory tower papist issuing staunch, anti-human edicts. He is a man of the people and a man of his times. Like Jesus, he walks among us, defends the poor, denounces hypocrisy, and condemns war for profit. It takes courage to do that; he does not seem to give a damn what American conservatives think of him. For that alone he deserves praise. Even the idiots at FOX News recognize this. Shepard Smith, of all people, had this to say about the right’s dissatisfaction with Francis:
“I think that we are in a weird place in the world when the following things are considered political. Five things, I'm going to tick them off. These are the five things that were on [the pope] and our president's agenda. Caring for the marginalized and the poor. That's now political. Advancing economic opportunity for all. Political? Serving as good stewards of the environment. Protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom globally. Welcoming [and] integrating immigrants and refugees globally. And that's political? I mean, I don't know what we expect to hear from an organization's leader like the pope of the Catholic Church other than protect those who need help, bring in refugees who have no place because of war and violence and terrorism. These seem like universal truths that we should be good to others who have less than we do, that we should give shelter to those who don't have it. I think these were the teachings in the Bible of Jesus. They're the words of the pope, they're the feelings of the president. And people who find themselves on the other side of that message should consult a mirror, it seems like. Because I think that's what we're supposed to do as a people, whatever your religion. I mean, it seems to me — and I think to probably, as Bill O'Reilly would put it, most clear-thinking Americans — that that's how we're supposed to roll.”