Because age has crept up on me, I have found myself staying at home and inside more and more. This condition, of course, is correctable, but I have made up my mind that staying physically fit is a waste of energy. It is far more pleasant to sit in my recliner and fall asleep in front of the 60 inch TV.
Sleeping is not all I do. I watch TV, especially CNN and the MSNBC most of the day. As I look at these two channels, I wonder about their abbreviations—I suppose that’s what they are. For example, CNN stands for Cable News Network and MSNBC is a combination of Microsoft and National Broadcasting Company. The questions I have are:
- When is CNN going to get around to providing news?
- What does Microsoft have to do with the National Broadcasting Company?
Question 1 is the matter most on my mind.
What I watch is a series of commercial announcements interrupted by talking heads chatting about some event, which classified as news. After about five minutes of chatter, the watcher-listener still not informed about anything other than the speculations of the talking heads, returns to assessing the potential of commercial announcements–this applies to both networks. Further, when MSNBC is weary of the news and bringing on a list of “experts”, it has hours of programs about life in prisons. The less than noble savage the Americans have become, this sort of programming must bring on high ratings and many pairs of eyes to watch the commercial announcements.
Being old, however, does have privilege—one of complaining and wishing things ought to be as they once were. Please excuse me as I exercise that right.
As a child, as early as 1938, I recall listening to the radio and hearing news reports from around the world. The news reader would say, “Come in London,” or “Come in Cairo.” Radio network news gave us news, not headlines on the hour (usually read from an Associated Press bulletin). The foreign correspondents heard through the crackling and static of radio waves from around the world, bravely told us what we needed to know. Those men and women gave us information about the world, about war fronts in China, the Phony War in France, and riots in Latin America.
There were no news headlines on the hour. There was a detailed news report at noon and a longer news report in the evening. Of course, there were commercial announcements. In fact, the news programs were sponsored by a single commercial enterprise. The listener would hear, “The World News Tonight brought to by Camel Cigarettes.” The news reader, who had a crisp no accent voice, would read the story, call in the foreign correspondent where the hot issues were developing, and then gave the sixty-second pitch for Camel cigarettes.
Just about every adult I knew back then smoked—except my mother. So, news sponsored by a cigarette company was not an issue; in fact, we listened to a program where tons of cartons of cigarettes donated to the Army for distribution to our men fighting overseas as a charitable gift.
My complaint centers on the way the 2016 election was covered. Every time I settled in to learn what the issues were and what the candidates’ thoughts were on the issues, we get “BREAKING NEWS;” this meant everything stopped as we watched an empty podium waiting for Donald Trump to hold a rally while Christ Matthews slobbered all over the anchor desk. Finally, Trump would show up, and we get his entire speech.
Never was the news interrupted to hear what Jeb Bush had to say, or to see the crowds at a Bernie Sanders rally, or hear Hillary Clinton speak about her plans for America’s future. No, we got Trump hour after hour; this was true on CNN also.
In other words, the uninformed American populace never got enough information to be informed. It did not matter whether CNN or MSNBC or the other non-cable networks carried news about real issues; the majority stuffed with the propaganda from Fox News—or as I like to think of them, Faux Noise remained ill-informed.
The non-cable networks didn’t break away for Trump, rallies, instead, they gave us fluff. Stories about children mowing lawns with gramps. Or, stories about celebrities who are famous for being famous. Of course, they were only interruptions of commercial announcements about how the oil companies are saving the environment. Even the public broadcasters have fallen into the trap of reporting fluff. Sponsored by the Koch Industries, Exxon-Mobil, and Chevron, what right-minded executive is going to report on global warming fostered by the use of fossil fuels? What right-minded executive is going to tout Tesla’s electric car or alternative energy sources? That right-minded exec is going to go where the money is. Once might think the money is with the citizens who donate to PBS and NPR, but no it’s not. That money might keep a station on the air, but it does not buy the news programs, the documentaries, and the stories about our dying planet.
Because I am an old man, and likely to fall asleep in front of my TV set this afternoon, I will continue to watch the talking heads, occasionally shout at them, and then fall back to sleep, and worry about my grandchildren’s futures.