Friday, May 16, 2008

The Failure of Mainstream Journalists

I generally don't find Jon Stewart very funny but here's one time when he tried to be deadly serious with two of the (thousands of) talking heads on U.S. and Canadian mainstream news programs:

Stewart's appearance directly lead to the cancellation of this show a few months later.

Jonathan Kay of the National Post reminded me of this famous episode. He referenced it while discussing the recent "controversy" involving Chris Matthews' Hardball program.

If you double-click on the video above you'll be taken right to YouTube. Read a few of the comments therein and you'll see that most of the people are clearly missing the entire point of what Stewart was trying to say.

His point was this: Most everyone involved with politics on every side is part of the problem and the reason why we don't have any real debate anymore. This includes those on the left, those on the right, and worst of all, the media that are supposed to be the ones holding the politicians accountable for their misdeeds, empty promises, and half-truths. The politicians and their handlers spin, spin, spin and the journalists just gobble it all up and then interview each other on their respective shows.

The U.S. cable news shows are the absolute worst but the lack of journalistic integrity has also become ingrained with the major networks too, both in the U.S. and in Canada. Here's a little test you can perform after watching, listening, or reading something related to news and politics. Simply ask yourself one question: "What new thing of importance did I learn from that?"

My continual answer to that question is why I gave up owning a TV over a decade ago, stopped subscribing to newspapers a few years ago, and gave up entirely on what used to be my favourite local Vancouver station, CKNW, in March. News flash: No regrets whatsoever!

Without question, members of the news media should not be socializing with anyone connected to politics. Yet politicians, the media, PR reps, and countless special interest groups are all infested together in a little elitist social group of their own. I've met some of these people personally and you'd be shocked to see the personal numbers they each have in their Blackberries!

This group of people purport to be on different sides of the political spectrum. While some with integrity are, most are essentially just wearing different jerseys in the same league called "Power, Inc." Much like highly paid athletes, they've convinced many to cheer for one team and boo another but at the end of the day, they all party together and you, who pay their salaries, are left out in the cold.

How many people, in whatever country, wouldn't love to have a "None of the Above" choice on every ballot? With rare exception, most every election I vote in (and I strongly believe in voting in all of them) I vote for the person who will do the least harm to me and my society. I have to wonder if others adopt a similar strategy.

Is there hope for the future? Maybe. The Internet provides a leveling of sorts though to date it's just an illusion in terms of a real tectonic shift. Sadly, the Internet seems to be creating more of a polarizing effect than anything. While I'll never say that too much information is a bad thing, I can't see how it's a positive thing that historical facts are now more a matter of opinion than a reflection of what actually happened.

Coming full circle to Kay's piece, it seems there are some who are now trying to reinvent Neville Chamberlain. He was probably a good-hearted man but was also one of the most naive leaders of the 20th Century. Clearly one can't blame him for World War 2 but one has to wonder if as many people would have been slaughtered if a tougher leader had been in place in England from the get go.

Fast forward to today. There's a debate of sorts about the best course of action to deal with Iran. Some are suggesting that the Americans talk with the Iranian leadership. If so, it has to be done through a position of strength, not weakness. Jimmy Carter chose the latter route and look what that did to the morale and lives of Americans until Ronald Reagan helped them restore faith in themselves. But Carter's complete denial of what was actually going on in Iran has directly lead to many of the problems we've been experiencing in this New Millennium.

I realize that many in the West have convinced themselves that the U.S. is indeed the "Great Satan" and that Israel is its little pitched-fork amigo. Whereas they reason, the leaders of Iran are just "misunderstood". Will these people have the same views if Iran lights Israel on fire with multiple nuclear warheads? Does me even suggesting this near future possibility make me an "insane right-wing fear monger"?! Or perhaps more akin to Churchill than Chamberlain?

Only the future can be the final arbiter of such truth.

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