Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 11, 2009


Sam Smith

Let's put aside the issue of what's happening to the printed news media for a moment to deal with a more important question: where has the news gone?

Years ago, before the arrival of the Internet, I noticed a phenomenon around the middle of each June: the pile of mail arriving in our office suddenly declined.

The cause was fairly obvious: a drop off in news releases as public relations adjusted its efforts to the thermological nature of our culture. Which is to say, the warmer the weather, the less interested we are in what somebody else is trying to sell.

Then, of course, there's Thanksgiving and Christmas when many sorts of news disappear entirely. A foreigner arriving on such a day and watching TV could logically assume that we were a society with naught but violence and tragedy as the only visible hard news are accidents, murders and fires.

To a journalist, however, such occasions are reminders of how artificial and manipulated much news is. Over the past few months, I have begun to get that same holiday feeling about the news. Ever since Obama was inaugurated, hard news seems to have faded and we find ourselves in deep discussion over his daily activities, his wife's bare arms, other inanities and an amazing assortment of vagaries about what he is planning to do, appoint, go to, or talk about.

It is becoming ever harder to realize that we have recently added a new country to our Muslim war hit list, that job losses are increasing, that the budget is more out of balance than ever, that we will soon have as many troops in Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam in 1965, that banks are getting record subsidies while ordinary folk facing foreclosure or job loss are getting minimal aid, and that "health reform" is turning into a TARP program for insurance companies.

Since the media treated Obama as the Second Coming from the beginning, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised about echoes of Christmas coverage, but all holidays have to come to end sometime. It would seem to be a good time for the media to go back to work.

While the media gave Bush a full pass on post 9/11 horrors like the Patriot Act, Gitmo and Iraq, the indifference to real news in the Obama administration extends far beyond matters of falsely purported national security. The lack of interest in Arne Duncan's planned interference in public school systems, the billions for first class high speed rail with little for coach class, rail freight or bus riders, and the highly dangerous medical records act have been left to a few eccentric journals like the Review to even mention. If the print media wants us to cry over its current problems, at least give us some real reporting to be sad at the thought of losing.

Instead, we have a media that falls without fail for various manipulations contrived by the White House, including covering each stage of an Obama decision as though it was new news, i.e.

"Obama is talking about. . . "
"Obama is consulting with. . ."
"Obama is reaching out to various groups. . . "
"Obama is planning to. . . "
"Obama is expected to announce on Monday that. . . "

And, finally, yet another repetitive front page story beginning, "Obama has announced. . . "

Not bad. A half dozen stories that lead you to an announcement that you can't quite figure out what it means anyway.

Which, of course, is intentional. Which is why we look forward to 3.5 million jobs created or "saved" by Obama, as the media treats the preservation of the status quo as news and a great achievement.

Or take the promised two trillion dollars saved by the health insurance industry over a ten year period. This in a media that doesn't even care who won the last American Idol.

As a general rule, political predictions of greater than two years should be banned entirely by the media. That might free up a little space to help people understand how we ended up in a war in Pakistan without any debate or congressional vote or when the subsidies of the Wall Street welfare fathers is going to end. After all, these were the guys who told us - with unquestioning support of the mainstream media - that free markets would take care of it all.

But as long as the media sees its role as Obama's Ryan Seacrest, it won't happen. It will just remain on a perpetual holiday.


Blogger JayV said...

Excellent essay, thanks.

May 11, 2009 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get the feeling I'm supposed to know who Ryan Seacrest is, but I don't. Somebody enlighten me?

May 12, 2009 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "News"? The "News" is the OLDS anyway. Economic inequality is superextreme and growing exponentially, and it's all just the sorry his-story of humanity on repeat.

Awesome Shirley Bassey and PropellerHeads History on Repeat

May 12, 2009 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ryan Seacrest
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Ryan Seacrest

Born Ryan John Seacrest
December 24, 1974 (1974-12-24) (age 34)
Dunwoody, Georgia, U.S.
Occupation Reality and game show host, television and radio personality
Years active 1990 — present
Ryan John Seacrest (born December 24, 1974) is an Emmy Award-nominated American television and radio host, television producer, and entrepreneur. A longtime broadcaster, Seacrest gained fame as host of the FOX reality show American Idol. While he continues to host that show, Seacrest also co-hosts the entertainment-news show E! News and hosts the annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcast on ABC. In addition to television, Seacrest hosts several radio shows: On Air with Ryan Seacrest, which is based on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles and is syndicated throughout the United States on Premiere Radio Networks, and American Top 40, which is also syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks

May 12, 2009 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media has been transformed into a self-appointed ministry of mediocre propaganda with its obsequious fawning on Comrade Obama. "Economic equality" is a slogan created by demagogues to justify theft at the government level. Democracy is finished. Marx wrote, " it (democracy) will only survive until its citizens discover they can vote themselves money from the treasury, then they will bankrupt it." Well, America is already bankrupt and Obama is doing nothing for democracy. "I won!" said he.

May 12, 2009 11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the 'who is Ryan Seacrest' info, 8:47. now i get Sam's reference.

James Madison: "The purpose of government is justice." I believe that means equal justice for all.

Poster 11:53, do you think it is a legitimate purpose of government to provide the governed with justice? and do you think justice includes fairpay justice - equal pay for equal sacrifice of individuals' time and energies to doing what creates wealth, to working?

Money is power, and fortunes above a certain amount take on a character different from small amounts...and the power (to have influence and control) that comes with superfortunes takes on a character all its own, too. So, how can you have both democracy (people with the power to rule themselves) and have economic inequality?

Do you truly believe government has no business providing the governed with the justice of getting out of the pool of wealth an amount equal to what they put into the pool of wealth?

To be clear, this egalitarian thinks that a system that puts the working person's earnings in the hands of government is as irrational/bad/unjust as one functioning to funnel it into the hands of private wealthpower giants - the money belongs in the hands of those who sacrificed their time and energies to earning/creating it.

people don't yet know all the legal thefts, don't yet know that market forces automatically shift the work one direction and the wealth the other direction - the people haven't paid attention but they've been lied to anyway - wealth ceaselessly drifts from earners to nonearners even without human agency helping it along...

but people are learning and teaching the principles of pay justice now

and the dawn will break on this long night

even the status-quo propaganda ministry called the mainstream/corporate press will hear of the news someday

maybe Ryan Seacrest will announce it when enough people are campaigning for fairpay justice capitalism...

May 12, 2009 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We must work out which thing is doing the most damage to our happiness.

Justice is a virtue and that means that justice produces happiness. (Virtue is not its own reward - Happiness is the reward of virtue.) We have hyper-extreme injustice. After thousands of years of uncontrolled, unlimited 'rich get richer', ie, rich get paid more and more and more per unit of work, pay now ranges from $1 to $1,000,000,000 a fortnight's work. Instead of equal pay for equal work, we have from $1 to $1,000,000,000 for equal work.

Obviously, if you have a community all working, all equally well-off, and some imp takes all the property off everyone and gives it to one person, that will very greatly destroy happiness - of everyone - including the person who gets others' property, because that person now has, if he doesn't immediately yield up the property, committed himself to a great injury on everyone else, thus polluting his environment with enemies who could be friends, giving himself a giant security headache, which he cannot win, because the security danger will go on forever, eating up the property, until the property or life is gone. Even if he keeps the rest at bay till he dies, he has had to spend the whole of his life isolated, in terror, in excruciating hard labour of survival, when he could be sitting outside the community pub drinking and laughing and dancing and loving every evening, fellow amid fellows.

The virtues produce happiness - and this justice will contain them all, for justice in fortune is moderation in fortune, and justice in fortune is wisdom in fortune, and justice in fortune is selflove in fortune - and courage will be for things like winning the fair maid, not for keeping the community from breaking down the door 24/7.

It is the obvious which is hardest to see, the easiest to forget. Only the person 100% committed to selfloving selfcaring will see it and see its essential vital importance. And there is no goodness without it - without it, we are all members of a conspiracy of selfdestruction, of evil.

May 12, 2009 2:21 PM  
Blogger Gwaihir said...

Poster May 12, 2009 1:40 PM, Nicely put! Very nicely put! I think there is a great deal of truth in the comment posted by the person quoting Marx, but I find hope in the thinking you profess, and in the fact that there are still people such as you out there with the erudition to express themselves and their thinking so effectively.

May 18, 2009 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boycott the corporate media! Give not a thin dime to cable companies or newspapers that disseminate the commercial and political propaganda that maintains the "consensus trance" that grips our public life. This might be the first in a series of boycotts that could possibly bring fruitful pressure on our corrupted power structure.
Tony Vodvarka

May 19, 2009 7:29 AM  

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